Texas Rangers: Why CJ Wilson Did, Scott Feldman Didn't and Alexi Ogando Won't
Maybe this is preemptive. Maybe this shouldn't be talked about right now. Maybe it's flat-out wrong.
Obviously, the subject at hand is how well the Texas Rangers have played in September (13-5 coming into Thursday's finale in Oakland), as well as how well they will do against their first round opponent in the playoffs.
Their pitching predicament for next season, however, has gone relatively unnoticed, as it should for the most part.
CJ Wilson has been their most dominant pitcher this year. He rolled through hitters last year, learned as much as he could from Cliff Lee in the abbreviated time they had together and used what he learned to continue his domination this year.
He'll be a free agent after the year.
Scary? Some might say it's not a big deal if he leaves, but Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland won't be able to pick up the slack Wilson's departure would create.
One thing Wilson, Feldman and Ogando all have in common is that they all left the bullpen to try and become starting pitchers.
Wilson succeeded, Feldman failed and Ogando, while somewhat successful this year, will fail next year. If the Rangers think they can get away with Ogando filling Wilson's shoes, they're wrong.
Why CJ Wilson Found Success
Wilson is the real deal. He converted to the rotation in 2010 with phenomenal success. He's got three filthy pitches (fastball with plus velocity from the left side, change up and cutter) that he has confidence in in any situation.
Wilson had five successful years in the bullpen as a set-up reliever and closer. Hitters during this time had a hard time facing him. Because he was so good, scouts would write their reports on him as a closer. Once he was a starter, there were already scouting reports on him. Hitters had an advantage with these reports and, if he was ever set to fail, it would have been in the beginning of 2010.
As it turns out, even while going through line-ups that already knew what he brought to the table, he was still able to beat hitters and get outs. His confidence started to go through the roof and he accepted every challenge given to him.
He's always positive, always soaking up information and never afraid of who is stepping into the batter's box. This confidence, along with his dirty movement on nearly every pitch and the ability to keep everything low in the strike zone, will allow him to continue his great success for many years to come.
Why Scott Feldman Couldn't Find Success
Scott Feldman is an interesting case. He had great success in 2009, which we were all hoping he could repeat in 2010.
That year he developed something that was new to his repertoire: the sinker. It was new to him, and relatively new to the league as well. He was one of the first pitcher's in the league to start using the sinker (which was a factor in the beginning of the "pitchers era" or "year of the pitcher").
When you can throw a ball nearly as hard as your fastball and it sinks, or cuts, you avoid the sweet spot on the bat. Feldman did this in 2009 to finish the season 17-8, however towards the end of the season he started to falter, and ended the year with a 4.08 ERA.
He never quite had the same "stuff" as he did in 2009. After being named the opening day starter for 2010, he quickly lost his spot in the rotation. When not in the minors or on the disabled list, he's been in the bullpen. He has since gone 8-12 with an ERA well above four ever since.
His confidence has yet to make an appearance, and his sinker hasn't really been sinking. More hitters are getting around on his pitches, and since his 2009 breakout year, more scouts are taking looks and making reports.
His stuff is good, but not good enough when the hitters know what is coming.
Why Alexi Ogando Won't Find Success
This brings us to Alexi Ogando. If the Rangers lose Wilson, you can bet Ogando will be looked at to fill the void, and why not? He was leading the league in WHIP, he was top-five in ERA and at points this season, he couldn't lose a ball game if he tried. He seems like the perfect answer.
However, a combination of only two above-average pitches, his early success which will get him scouted more often and an extreme delivery to home will cause him to suffer a lackluster season next year.
Only one pitcher I can think of can be successful at the MLB level without three pitches. That would be Mariano Rivera, who only uses his cutter and is also the greatest reliever of all-time.
The plus velo on his fastball will not be able to carry Ogando into next year. No matter how fast they come in, hitters can always turn on it if they know it is coming. Without a plethora of pitches, hitters can guess fastball more often and have a greater success rating.
Scouts are looking at him more often and I fear that he will not have great success this postseason. Opposing scouts are looking him over every day and analyzing his every move, so hitters can find his flaws and force him into mistakes.
He hasn't been in the league very long, which is why he wasn't scouted as much. Once he had success, then he had the scout's eyes on him, just like Feldman. Now, late in the season, he has had a spike in his ERA and is not winning as many games. It's no coincidence.
Finally, his delivery is so violent that it is hard to maintain balance throughout the entire motion. It will also make the legs, or base of his motion to home, unstable during the later innings of a game. Once your legs go, pitchers tend to throw up in the zone, as they can't finish their follow through. Once this happens, balls start to leave the yard. Now that he has thrown almost 200 innings this year, you can expect the toll on his legs to be exponential.
He's going to get tired and to a hitter on another playoff team that, in addition to only possessing two pitches, is a huge advantage.
I hate to say it because I like Ogando a lot, but he doesn't have the experience to succeed next year. Expect him to follow a route that closely resembles that of Scott Feldman.