Texas Rangers Positional Preview: The Bullpen Is…
The Closer is a source of stability, or just a mess at times. Relief pitchers are an inconsistent bunch; they will likely be stable and messy at some point in their career. They operate in small sample sizes, rely on gimmicks, and they are usually one-trick ponies. Relief pitchers are failed starting pitchers. Relief pitchers make far less money over the course of their careers. Relief pitchers are also invaluable in the playoffs.
2011 ALDS and ALCS
24.1 IP, 4 ER, 22 K
2011 World Series
8.1 IP, 6 ER, 11 K
The Rangers leaned heavily on those three to get through the Rays and Tigers in the ALDS and ALCS. The Rangers won the first two series because of the bullpen, and they lost the World Series because they were unable to finish games with that same bullpen.
To remedy this bullpen breakdown, General Manager Jon Daniels bought a grizzled-ol’, veteran closer to replace his precocious, young stud. JD signed Joe Nathan first thing this offseason, so Neftali Feliz could be moved to the rotation. Additionally, the Rangers now have no reason to yank Feliz back to the bullpen, when the bullpen falters, as it has in Spring Training this year.
Joe Nathan is the man at the back of the bullpen. But as all parties involved know, closers are never permanently assigned. Closers are always treated with the ‘What have you done for me lately’ mantra, as they should; closers hold the game in their hand. The knee-jerk reactions are an occupational hazard.
In 1997, the Rangers signed a veteran closer to stabilize their bullpen amidst their playoff run. John Wetteland signed for four years and $22.2 million. Wetteland proceeded to give the Rangers a sub-1.00 WHIP. Sub-1.00 WHIPs are Joe Nathan’s specialty; he’s done it five times in his career.
Last year, the Rangers addressed their bullpen woes in July, acquiring Uehara and Adams. This year the Rangers addressed their bullpen in November, with Joe Nathan.
There is no perfect formula for bullpen success. Relievers are fickle, so it would seem that the best approach would be to accumulate as many accomplished relievers as possible in hopes that most will be upright come October. Bullpens are key in October, and the bullpen configuration on Opening Day is rarely the one spittin’ seeds in the brisk autumn air.
Either way, out of the chute, the Rangers are absolutely stacked in the late-innings. With the Utopian-Bullpen-Configuration, Ogando and Adams will dominate the 7th and 8th innings and Nathan will control the 9th. Uehara and Feldman will clean up the 6th inning or earlier, and Rangers’ starting pitchers will only have to go 5-6 innings.
Obviously this is tongue-in-cheek, yet also a reality in some situations. The Utopian-Bullpen-Configuration is what the Rangers rode through the ALDS and ALCS. There’s no telling if this model will make it to October, but JD & Co. have certainly made the bullpen a priority and strength.
Some other guys who could factor in the bullpen are right handers Mark Hamburger, Mark Lowe, Yoshi Tateyama, Greg Reynolds and Tanner Scheppers. And lefties Michael Kirkman, Neal Cotts, Miguel De Los Santos, Robbie Ross, Ben Snyder and Martin Perez.
The Rangers were incredibly healthy and effective last year. Lightning may strike twice, but the Rangers aren’t counting on it. Most of these ‘other guys’ would be featured in most other team’s bullpens. The Rangers have heavily stocked up on late-inning options.
The Rangers will ride a tsunami of Shutdown Innings through the first half of the season, then add another high leverage arm or two to further bolster the best ‘pen in baseball. Then the Rangers will correct their postseason wrongs and spray ginger ale on each other, and stuff.
Nathan 32 saves, 42IP, 50Ks, 1.15 WHIP
Adams 4 saves, 65IP, 70Ks, 0.85 WHIP
Ogando 2 saves, 90IP, 85Ks, 1.06 WHIP
Uehara 0 saves, 50IP, 44Ks, 1.16 WHIP
Feldman 1 save, 105IP, 60Ks, 1.29 WHIP
Bonus Wild Projection:
Martin Perez will be the Rangers’ lefty-specialist out of the ‘pen come October, and he will be very good at it.