The Texas Rangers to-do list is long this offseason—longer than it has been in a couple years anyway.
Yes, Josh Hamilton is a free agent and the lineup could use additional help, but there are many ways the team can improve going into 2013.
Perhaps the most glaring need is the pitching staff, which for various reasons, didn't perform up to expectations last season.
Here are several reasons why Texas should be pursued pitching over hitting.
Among the numerous things that hurt the Rangers in the second half of 2012, a big area was their lack of quality depth on the pitching staff.
The team’s offense has this depth, although it is young and unproven. Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Mike Olt are all top prospects with little left to prove in the minor leagues.
The same cannot be said for the pitching staff.
Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be ready until around midseason in 2013. Scott Feldman is gone and so is Roy Oswalt. Also, Texas does not appear to have any prospects ready to make the full-time leap to the majors yet.
The Rangers need to stock up on as many quality arms as possible to combat the injuries and ineffectiveness that plagued the staff last season.
The Rangers’ bullpen was a big strength on the two teams that won the American League Pennant.
Unfortunately, it appears there will be a big turnover in the bullpen going in to next year. Koji Uehara and Mike Adams are free agents, plus Alexi Ogando is moving to the rotation. All three are veterans with playoff experience.
That leaves Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman to get the big outs in front of Joe Nathan. These players are talented, but they don’t have the pedigrees to match their predecessors.
A great bullpen takes significant pressure off the rotation. It also gives the team with a lead late in the game lots of confidence. Plugging the holes in the bullpen must be a priority for the Rangers.
Inconsistency played a big role in last seasons disappointing finish.
Josh Hamilton and company hit a wall down the stretch in 2012 and never recovered, but they still managed to lead the league in runs.
The pitching staff, on the other hand, never really got a chance to get going. Matt Harrison was the Rangers’ most consistent starter, followed by Yu Darvish late in the year.
The old baseball adage says that momentum is only as good as the next days starting pitcher. A better pitcher taking the mound the day after a tough loss or a big win makes it easier to keep momentum going.
The front office will certainly look to improve the club in all areas. What Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan will have to dissect is where the Rangers’ biggest need is.
Pitching has to be at the top of the list. A difference-maker in the rotation and a lights out reliever will no doubt these two men much more comfortable heading in to 2013.
They can approach adding another pitcher via trade or free agency. Neither will be cheap, but the biggest area of need requires the most attention.
As the steroid-era recedes further and further away, the aspect dominating this game comes more into focus: pitching.
It’s still essential to score, but runs are at a premium these days. For example, in 2000 the average major league team scored 832 runs, in 2006 they scored 787 and in 2012 they scored 701. Baseball has become a pitcher’s game.
It’s an arms race, and those who can’t keep up usually find a comfy spot on their couch to watch the playoffs.
Need an example of how far truly stellar pitching can carry a team? Look not further than the San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three world championships.
Those two teams had a different cast of characters in the lineup, but the one thing they had in common was really good pitching.
The Giants pitchers silenced the mighty American League bats in both series, proving why people always say that good pitching beats good hitting.
It’s not coincidence the Rangers started playing October baseball when their pitching began to significantly improve. They have pieces to continue building on, like Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison, but they can’t quit there.