Texas Rangers: After C.J. Wilson, Who Should Make Postseason Starting Rotation?

Micah PowellCorrespondent IIISeptember 9, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 15: C.J. Wilson #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the New York Yankees in Game One of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 15, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Should the Texas Rangers hold off the Los Angeles Angels in the heated AL West race, they will secure back-to-back postseason berths for only the second time in franchise history. The other time that happened was in the 1998 and 1999 seasons, in which they were swept by the New York Yankees both times.

A possible postseason berth should be credited in large part to the job the starting rotation has done this entire year.

The combination of C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando have helped compile the most shutouts in franchise history with 18. They also all have at least 11 wins and are all over 150 innings pitched for the year.

In a year when the bullpen has been up and down, the starting rotation has been the most consistent part of the Rangers ball club. When was the last time you heard that?

However, heading into possible postseason play, the Rangers are faced with the tough decision of whom to start in a potential five-game series.

Go ahead and pencil in C.J. Wilson for the Game 1 start, as he has been the unquestioned ace on this ball club. After earning his first career shutout, Wilson has now become the first Rangers left-handed pitcher to post back-to-back 15 win seasons. He leads the team in ERA, wins and strikeouts and should a Game 5 arise, Wilson would be your guy.

After that, it gets interesting.

Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are doing the most to make sure they are penciled in as the No. 2 and 3 starters.

Holland has dominating stuff, but has struggled with consistency throughout his career. Holland has turned in a few gems that would make you think he is the real deal, but would follow those up with some horrendous outings.

Lucky for the Rangers, Holland is pitching as good as he has all year.

Before the All-Star break, Holland had two complete-game shutouts but still had an ERA of 4.68 and a WHIP of 1.46. Since the break, Holland has two more complete-game shutouts, but his ERA is down to a very good 3.25.

And while his complete game gems were against the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners, he has stepped up against some of the best teams in the American League. In that stretch, he has blanked the Boston Red Sox, given up one run over eight innings to the Los Angeles Angels and arguably out-pitched David Price in a game earlier this week.

With Harrison, you get the Rangers most consistent pitcher not named C.J. Over the course of the season, Harrison has compiled 14 quality starts while inducing the most double plays in the majors. Harrison also has only given up 12 home runs all season, which bodes well for him against the AL East sluggers.

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 05:  Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Cleveland Indians at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 5, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.Texas Rangers  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In a series against Boston, the Rangers top three starters will be Wilson, Holland and Harrison, in that order, due to the matchup problems they create. The Red Sox lineup is very left-handed heavy and the trio of southpaws the Rangers possess have already proven the ability to shut them down.

Now here is where the battle gets a little more complicated.

On the one hand, you have Colby Lewis, who was probably the best pitcher for the Rangers last postseason. The problem is Lewis has been, for the lack of a better word, inconsistent. He has pitched five games in which he did not allow a run but has also given up at least five runs in a game nine times.

In Lewis, you have the experience factor, but you also have probably the worst-performing Rangers starter over the course of the year. One stat that figures to work against him is that he has given up the most home runs in the entire American League with 33.

With the Rangers facing one of the top two home run-hitting teams in the majors, Lewis must have a drastic change in performance to instill confidence in him in a postseason matchup.

Then you have Alexi Ogando, the converted reliever turned All-Star starter. Ogando was arguably the Rangers best pitcher in the first half, going 9-3 while posting an ERA of 2.92, but things have since gone downhill. Ogando is just 3-4 since the break with an ERA of 5.19 and a WHIP nearing 1.50.

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 27:  Colby Lewis #48 of the Texas Rangers steps off the mound after giving up a home run against Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 27, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Get
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ogando has some of the most electric stuff of any pitcher on the staff and can be dominating at times, but the fatigue he appears to be suffering from could keep him out of the starting rotation all together.

Where Ogando has the advantage over Lewis, besides overall better stuff, is he has given up half the amount of home runs that Lewis has allowed.

So who should be in the starting rotation?

If I were making out the rotation, it would look something like this:

Home field advantage against Yankees:

Wilson, Harrison, Holland and Lewis.

On the road against Yankees:

Wilson, Holland, Harrison and Lewis.

Home field advantage against Red Sox:

Wilson, Harrison, Holland and Lewis.

On the road against Red Sox:

Wilson, Holland, Harrison and Lewis.

This all came down to whether Ogando can hold up in the postseason with the amount of stress his arm has been put under this season. He has pitched three times more innings this year than any other time in his career. Unless he can show some signs of the pitcher from the first half, I'll take the experience of Lewis and have Ogando come out of the bullpen once again in October.

As far as flipping Harrison and Holland depending on home-field or not, I would rather have Harrison pitching at home because of his ability to keep the ball in the park at the launching pad that is Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Holland has given up 18 home runs as opposed to Harrison's 12.

That's my playoff rotation. What's yours?