Why the Texas Rangers Blew World Series Hopes by Settling for Ryan Dempster
The Texas Rangers absolutely needed to acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. Doing nothing was not an option.
They were linked to some big names. There were plenty of rumors about them dealing for Cole Hamels before he re-upped with the Philadelphia Phillies. They were also linked to Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson and even Cliff Lee.
It was clear that they had No. 1, ace-type pitchers in their crosshairs. And shoot, why not? The Rangers have some quality starting pitchers, but no man in Texas' starting rotation can rightfully call himself an ace.
They ended up not with Greinke or Johnson or Lee. They ended up with Ryan Dempster.
The word "anticlimactic" comes to mind.
The deal was finalized with mere minutes to go until the trade deadline, with the Rangers sending a pair of minor leaguers to the Chicago Cubs to complete the transaction. Just like that, the Rangers acquired a pitcher with a 2.25 ERA.
Not that anybody was really fooled by that, of course. Before the deadline, the sabermetrically inclined were quick to point out that Dempster was operating with a FIP well over 3.00, a sign that his sparkly ERA was a fluke. There was also plenty of chatter about his being categorically doomed if he were to be traded to an American League club.
Still, maybe there was hope. There's always hope, right?
It sure doesn't feel like there's any for Dempster now. Not after what he did in his Rangers debut on Thursday.
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It didn't go so well.
Facing the Los Angeles Angels in a fairly important game, Dempster was touched up for eight earned runs on nine hits and three walks in 4.2 innings.
There are some positives to take away from Dempster's outing. First and foremost, the Rangers did manage to win the game, thanks to a 15-run explosion against old friend C.J. Wilson. Dempster managed to strike out six in his 4.2 innings, and he actually recorded a season-high 18 swinging strikes, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
That's about the extent of the positives. Dempster got shelled, and his performance can't be chalked up to bad luck manifested in the form of Texas leaguers and seeing-eye singles.
Of the nine hits Dempster gave up, two left the ballpark, and four went for doubles. Thus, two-thirds of the hits Dempster gave up went for extra-bases.
That's a big negative. An even bigger negative is the fact that all of this came against a club that the Rangers are going to have a tough time holding off in the final two months of the regular season. With six games still to play against the Angels, it's a good bet that Dempster will have to face them again.
The bright side is that Dempster doesn't have to worry about facing the Angels again until the middle of September. He has six weeks to grow accustomed to pitching in the American League.
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The Rangers have no choice but to hope that Dempster does figure things out, as they don't have many options to turn to if he falters. The next-best option after him is probably Roy Oswalt, and the thought of starting him again is something that must make Ron Washington cringe.
Will Dempster be bad enough to cost the Rangers the AL West? Or worse, a spot in the postseason?
Nah. I highly doubt it, anyway.
Dempster can be as bad as he wants, but the truth of the matter is that he's only one man and he's only going to make about eight or nine more starts between now and the end of the season. The Rangers will be in trouble if they lose all of those, but that's not going to happen. Their offense is too good, and surely he's not that bad.
I said earlier this week after the trade deadline that the Rangers are my pick to win the AL West this season when all is said and done. I'll stand by that.
I'll also stand by my belief that Dempster was a good pickup because, at the very least, he's an able-bodied starting pitcher. The Rangers desperately needed one of those.
But winning the AL West and making the postseason are accomplishments that are mere formalities for this Rangers club. Texas has its sights set a lot higher. The Rangers have been to two straight World Series, and this year they're trying to win it.
Dempster is not going to help them do that.
The Rangers weren't looking for an ace at the deadline because they felt they needed one to lock up a spot in the postseason. They were looking for an ace at the deadline because they felt they needed one to potentially lock up the final out of a World Series victory.
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The Rangers were going to need this theoretical ace to get them there, too. In the postseason, they could come up against the likes of Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke and David Price, just to name a few.
It behooved the Rangers to go out and acquire a pitcher who could match up with these elites, as trusting their offense to overcome the odds would have left them vulnerable to the time-tested adage that good pitching always beats good hitting.
Dempster is not going to be able to match up against the elites. That task will have to fall to Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish (whose starts must be watched with crossed fingers).
In this rotation, Dempster is at best a No. 2, which is hardly a shining endorsement considering the fact that we're talking about a rotation without a No. 1.
Keep in mind that it was going to be hard enough for the Rangers to make it back to the World Series before they added Dempster. The American League is stronger this year than it has been the past two seasons.
The Angels are a legitimate championship contender. The Oakland A's have more swagger than any team in either league. The Tigers have the look of a team that will be deadly in short series. The White Sox are a lot better than advertised. And of course, the Yankees are still the Yankees.
Dempster's presence will not make it any harder for the Rangers to get back to the World Series. What makes his acquisition a disappointment in the grand scheme of things is that he's not going to make it any easier.
Actually winning the World Series with Dempster in tow is a longshot. As good as he was against National League competition this season, he's not better than the various aces the Rangers could come up against if they do make it back to the Fall Classic. That list includes Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.
But there's really no need to complicate things by going into a long, in-depth discussion about how Dempster matches up against the best the National League has to offer or why there's hope for him against the best the American League has to offer. (There's not.)
What it all comes down to is a very simple question.
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The Rangers weren't good enough to win the World Series in 2010, when they had Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and a healthy Colby Lewis in their starting rotation. They weren't good enough to win it in 2011, either, when they had Wilson, Lewis and Harrison as their top starters.
Lee and Wilson are gone, and Lewis is out for the season. In their places are Harrison, Holland, Darvish and, of course, Dempster.
So here's the question: With this rotation, are the 2012 Rangers better than the Rangers teams of 2010 and 2011?
Short answer: no.
As good, maybe. But not better.
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