Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pitching Does the Rangers In

Just eighteen days ago, this space featured a post on the dominant bullpen of the Texas Rangers. That sure seems like a long time ago now. Eighteen days ago, the story about the Rangers was built on their pitching. Yes, they could bang on offense with the best of teams. But they have always been able to do that. What separated this year's Rangers (and last year's for that matter) was the pitching. But the pitching that got them to the World Series could not get them the rings they so desperately wanted. You can talk about the fielding. You can talk about clutch hitting by the Cardinals and both story lines are valid. But the Rangers lost because--outside of Derek Holland--the Rangers could not shut down the Cardinals.

It seemed all series long that every Cardinal batter got into a hitter's count. Either a Ranger pitcher would start each Cardinal at bat with a ball or two and then have to find a way back for an out, or they couldn't put away a Cardinal hitter when they did get ahead in the count.

Let's look at some numbers. The Lord knows that this writer absolutely adores But that site's one Achilles Heel is that it won't update its stats until about noon today or after. So the Fan did his own figuring and came up with these numbers.

Ranger pitchers pitched 62 innings in this World Series. In those 62 innings, they gave up 41 walks. That works out to 5.95 walks per nine innings pitched. Obviously, that isn't good. Add those walks to the 56 hits Rangers pitchers allowed and it adds up to a WHIP of 1.565. And we're not even figuring in the hit batsmen. Just to give some perspective, that means that the entire pitching staff of the Rangers in this series pitched like Danny Duffy of the Royals. Apologies to Mr. Duffy, but that's not good. But it doesn't end there. The Rangers pitchers also gave up homers at a rate of 1.16 per nine innings. Anything over one is not good. The Cardinals on base percentage was .370 going into Game Seven and in Game Seven, they got on base at a .394 pace.

Ron Washington is certainly getting his share of heat for his in-game managing of this series. And he certainly deserves some of that heat. But you have to understand that the moves he made all during the World Series worked before the World Series. They didn't work in this one. Not one reliever the Rangers brought in to stop the Cardinals could stop them. Take Neftali Feliz's pitch sequence to David Freese in the ninth inning of Game Six. Yeah, Nelson Cruz could have played the ball better, but the skinny is that during the entire series, the broadcast team had told us that Freese and Allen Craig would hurt you on pitches on the outer half of the plate. So where did Feliz throw his two-strike pitch? Yup, on the outer third of the plate.

The starters (outside of Holland) could not get deep into games. Once the bullpen got into the games, they were ineffective. Here is a rundown of their final ERAs for the series:

Not a stop in the entire bunch. Give some credit to the Cardinals for good game plans and strategies against them. Obviously, they came into this series stressing making the Rangers throw strikes. The trouble is, they never did. No matter who Ron Washington gave the ball to made the Rangers' manager pay for the move in spades.

Some might ponder if, despite his near MVP-caliber World Series, Mike Napoli was the wrong catcher to start this series. But the numbers don't bear that out. With him behind the plate this season, Ranger pitchers walked 2.57 batters per nine innings. With Yorvit Torrealba, that figure was 3.24. The Rangers used the right catcher. They simply couldn't get the right results.

Was Koji Uehara hurt? Why was he left off the World Series roster? Perhaps he was hurt and this Fan missed the story. If he wasn't, he would have been a safer bet than Gonzalez and Mark Lowe at the very least.

You can say all you want about a wild card team getting home field advantage or the tight strike zones of World Series umpires. You can crucify Ron Washington if that makes sense to you. You can talk about the holes in the Rangers' defense at times. But the bottom line is that the Rangers fired blanks the entire series from what was a powerful arsenal of pitching before the series. The Rangers' pitching was like the Spanish Armada and it sunk the Rangers' ships before they could ever reach English soil.

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