Predicting the Rangers' Rotation for the Playoffs
There aren't many reasons at this point to say the Rangers are a lock to make the playoffs, but if they do, what could their pitching rotation look like? Texas certainly has all the talent they need to make the playoffs, but after a successful month of August where they went 20-7, the Rangers have gone just 2-7 in September.
The struggling ball club has an overall record of 81-64 and sit two games out of first place in its division. With a tight race for the Wild Card, Texas has little time to turn it around if it hopes to close out the season as division champions, or make the playoffs in general.
While it isn't guaranteed that they'll find themselves in the playoffs at the end of September, here is a look at what the Rangers' rotation could look like should they make the postseason.
All stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
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1. Yu Darvish
The top of the rotation for the Rangers is a guaranteed lock. Staff ace Yu Darvish boasts a 12-8 record this season with a 2.84 ERA and has racked up 246 strikeouts thus far. He has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league for most of the season, posting 10 or more strikeouts in 11 of his 28 starts.
Darvish was the main man in the Rangers' lone postseason game last year. Despite giving up just two earned runs over 6.2 innings at home against the Baltimore Orioles, he was charged with the loss in a 5-1 Orioles' victory.
Texas posted nine hits that game to Baltimore's eight hits, but timely hitting led the Orioles to a victory, while the Rangers just couldn't put anything together.
Not only will Darvish appear in the first playoff game for Texas this season, but he may even have a shot to redeem himself against the Orioles, as both teams are tightly contesting for a wild-card spot.
2. Derek Holland
This pick feels a little more like a prediction, as the Rangers could go either way at the two slot with either Derek Holland or Matt Garza. Texas acquired Garza to add pitching depth to its rotation, which he'll provide, but Holland has had the hot hand lately.
On the season, Holland has gone 9-8 while posting a 3.17 ERA. He's made 29 starts for the Rangers this season and has 172 strikeouts to just 62 walks. One reason for Holland's rather meek record is the Rangers have scored three or fewer runs in 12 of Holland's start this season, forcing him to have his best stuff almost half the time he takes the mound.
It's not uncommon to see teams go with the hotter pitcher when playoffs come around, and depending on the other team's lineup, Garza could still start over Holland. For now though, I'd feel more comfortable with Holland toeing the rubber in Texas' second playoff game over Garza.
3. Matt Garza
Having already laid out my reasoning for putting Garza as the third starter in Texas' playoff rotation, there isn't much more to say on Garza getting the third spot.
The veteran righty has struggled mightily since being acquired by Texas, and has a 3-3 record to show for it. What's worse is his 4.31 ERA that he is carrying with him since joining the team.
In his nine starts with the Rangers, Garza has allowed four or more runs in six of those starts, while opposing teams have hit .253 off of him. His batting average against isn't terrible, but there's no excuse for the runs he's allowed given everything Texas gave up to acquire him.
If there is a bright side to Garza starting in the playoffs, he does have postseason experience, all of which has come in the American League.
During his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, Garza started five games, going 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA. It's really a toss-up where Garza could fall in Texas' playoff rotation. With his struggles since joining the team though, Ron Washington would be smart to put him behind Holland in the order.
4. Martin Perez
Lefty Martin Perez has been as good as you can hope for when considering a fourth starter. He's posted a 9-4 record this season with a 3.60 ERA, and went undefeated in August, winning all five of his starts.
Opposing teams are hitting .268 off him this season, and he's recorded 65 strikeouts over 100 innings of work. Outside of his record and ERA, his numbers aren't too impressive, but he's winning games, and in the playoffs that's all that matters.
He doesn't have any playoff experience at this point in his career, but don't expect the bright lights and pressure of postseason play to be too much for the second-year pitcher.
5. Alexi Ogando
The fifth starter in the rotation has become more irrelevant in postseason play. Teams usually have time to rest their staff ace somewhere between playoff games, and tend to start them every fifth day if possible.
Should Texas be in a situation where they need a fifth starter however, I wouldn't be surprised to see Alexi Ogando take the mound.
The right-handed pitcher has struggled to stay healthy this season, finding his way on the disabled list three times. For now, Ogando is healthy, and it couldn't come at a better time as Texas pushes toward the postseason.
On the year, Ogando has posted a 6-4 record with a 3.38 ERA, appearing in 17 games while making 15 starts.
His two appearances out of the bullpen have both come since his most recent return from the disabled list, with Travis Blackley holding down the fifth rotation spot for now.
Blackley has gone 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA with the Rangers, and teams are hitting .296 off him. To top it off, he has no postseason experience to date, whereas Ogando has made 18 playoff appearances, although none of them starts.
Historically, manager Ron Washington prefers to use Ogando out of the bullpen come playoff time. The righty made 29 starts for the club in 2011, but didn't make one start for them in their postseason run to the World Series that year.
Should the Rangers need a fifth man to start a playoff game this year, Washington may break his trend, and give Ogando the nod if necessary.