Now that the Rangers' eventful (or uneventful, depending on how you look at it) offseason appears like it’s winding down, let’s look at their new roster.
It’s different, but not necessarily in a bad way.
For so many years, the Rangers' strength was at the plate more than on the mound. This makes sense considering they play in the American League, where the DH is much more helpful with a bat in his hand than a pitcher is.
The ballpark they call home also offers a helping hand. The Ballpark in Arlington is a hitter’s paradise for many reasons, that friendly jet stream in right field among the most popular.
Yet, over the past few years the pitching staff has gained substantial ground on their hitting counterparts. They are no longer a liability. In fact, the rotation looks like the team’s strongest area right now.
The Rangers have designed it this way. They gave long-term deals to Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, made a big push to re-sign Cliff Lee in 2011 and were finalists to land Zack Greinke recently.
While their pitching has added some muscle, the lineup has undergone a facelift. Again, the change doesn’t necessarily spell doom.
It’s important to play well at home. Five of the six division winners in baseball last year were 19 games over .500 or better at their own ballpark. It makes sense for teams to play to their ballpark’s strengths, and in Texas this usually means jamming the lineup with sluggers to score a lot of runs.
So, in an offensive arena like the Ballpark in Arlington, are the Rangers better off with big bats than a stable of arms?
Baseball is basking in the glow of the post-steroid era. Obviously the players who are benefiting most from this transition are the pitchers.
It was an urban legend several years ago that fielding a good rotation in Texas was next to impossible. The heat was too much. The ballpark was too difficult to pitch in.
Lee, Wilson, Darvish and others have done a fine job disproving that legend.
Pitching is important no matter the park. However, in the Rangers' case, it makes sense to run out the best rotation possible so they can neutralize the other big bats around the AL who visit Arlington.
In baseball, a home-field advantage like a hitter friendly ballpark works both ways.
The front office is wise to make pitching a priority. Big bats are important—and the Rangers still have a few of those left—but in a ballpark like theirs, you can never have too many arms.