Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Texas Rangers Bullpen - Story of the Playoffs

As far back as this writer can remember, the Texas Rangers could hit the seams off of a baseball. Going back to the Teixeira/A-Rod/I-Rod/Palmiero days, producing runs has never been a problem for them. And the same holds true today. But in the past, if you thought about the Texas Rangers, the two thoughts that always came to mind were: great offense - lousy pitching. And yes, Nelson Cruz deserves all the headlines for his historic (first time ever) walk off grand slam. But pitching is their bread and butter. It all seems so strange.

When the 2011 season started, people wondered if the Rangers would have enough pitching after Cliff Lee spurned them to sign with the Phillies. And the Rangers didn't run away with the division like this writer thought they would. So when the trading deadline came around, this writer figured the Rangers would go after another Cliff Lee-like deal. Surprisingly, they didn't. Instead, they stocked up on relief pitchers. What an insanely clever plan that turned out to be. Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams have been invaluable against the Tigers, but what has also been very clever has been the playoff use of two in-house solutions. One is the forgotten man, Scott Feldman, 2010's opening day starter and last man out ever since. The other is Alexi Ogando.

Let's start with Alexi Ogando. It was a minor surprise that Ogando did not figure into the Ranger's rotation plans during the playoffs. A case can be stated that Ogando was the Rangers' third best starting pitcher this season behind C.J. Wilson and Matt Harrison. He had a far better season that Colby Lewis. But Ogando faded a bit in the second half and Colby Lewis had a big post season last year. You can't fault Ron Washington's thinking there. 

The net result though was giving the Rangers another dynamic option in the bullpen and boy has that worked out. Ogando has pitched in five of the Rangers six post season games covering 6.1 innings pitched. He's given up two hits and one walk.

Every post season seems to have some sort of unsung hero. This writer's pick so far has been Scott Feldman. The Fan follows a couple of writers from the Rangers and Feldman is not loved by them at all. Perhaps they are right in that Feldman made nearly four and a half million this year and was worth (mostly due to injury) about $1.1 million. Rangers writers believe Feldman's contract (2012 - $6.5 million, 2013 - $9.25 million on a team option) is a sunk cost. If this Fan was Jon Daniels, that cost seems to be worth every penny from the way Feldman has pitched this post season.

Sure, Feldman has only made two appearances. But those two appearances have been lifesavers. Feldman covered seven and a third innings relieving a struggling starter both times. He's covered 7.1 innings in those two appearances that more vital relievers might have had to cover otherwise. In those 7.1 innings, he's given up three hits and no walks while striking out eight! There is no way the Rangers win Game Two against the Tigers without the effort he put up.

Nelson Cruz deserves every headline he has garnered. He sure came up big when he needed to. But the bullpen is what won the Rangers that game. And the bullpen is their edge over the Tigers. The Tigers can match two or three of those relievers. But not the full array the Rangers can throw at them.

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