C.J. Wilson and the 10 Greatest Pitchers in Texas Rangers History
After 15 consecutive seasons in which the Rangers allowed at least 740 runs, the team recently boosted its investment in pitching, and the organization has reaped the rewards to the tune of two consecutive pennants.
But even though the Rangers haven't traditionally been thought of as a team that values pitching, the team has had a number of effective pitchers since moving to Texas in 1972, including the man many believe to be the greatest right-handed pitcher of all time.
What follows is a ranking of the 10 greatest pitchers in Texas Rangers history, judged by the time they pitched for the Rangers organization.
#10 Bobby Witt
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Bobby Witt came to the Rangers with high expectations, touted for his fastball. After starring at the University of Oklahoma, Witt was drafted with the third overall pick by the Rangers.
Witt posted a respectable 11-9 record in his first season with 174 strikeouts, but also led the league in walks and wild pitches. This lack of control would continue to haunt him for the rest of his first run in Texas. He led the league in walks twice more and wild pitches once more, but also topped 150 strikeouts on four occasions.
Witt was traded to the Athletics as part of the trade that brought Jose Canseco to Texas, and though his control still suffered at times, he never again topped 100 walks in a season. Witt briefly moved to the Marlins organization, before returning to Texas in 1995. He spent two full seasons and two partial seasons with the club, earning a combined 36-32 record.
Witt retired with a 142-157 record, and is remembered as a hard throwing, occasionally brilliant starter who struggled with control.
#9 Francisco Cordero
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At 36 years old, Francisco Cordero is already 12th on the all-time career saves list, and will likely crack the top 10 next season. Though the majority of those were earned while playing for the Brewers and Reds, Cordero was a dominant closer for a few seasons in Texas as well, earning 117 saves for the team.
Cordero's breakout season was in 2004, when he posted 49 saves with a 2.13 ERA, earning his first career All-Star selection, the only one he earned with Texas. He followed that season with 37 saves the following season, and earned six saves in early 2006 before the Rangers traded him to the Brewers.
Since leaving Texas, Cordero has earned at least 34 saves in all five seasons, though he has not matched his 2004 high with the Rangers. Cordero remains one of the dominant closers in baseball, and the Reds rewarded him in 2007 with the biggest contract ever given to a relief pitcher.
#8 Jeff Russell
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Jeff Russell came to Texas from Cincinnati as a starting pitcher, but after a season spent in the rotation, he moved to the Rangers bullpen. Russell was one in a series of excellent closers to pitch for the Rangers.
He earned two consecutive All-Star appearances while pitching for Texas, and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting in 1989, in which he lead the league in saves with 38 and posted a 1.98 ERA, the second best of his career.
Russell earned 111 saves pitching for the Rangers, before being traded along with Bobby Witt and others for Jose Canseco. He pitched for the Red Sox and Indians before returning to finish his career with Texas, where he earned 23 additional saves, adding up to a total of 134 saves in his Texas career.
#7 John Wetteland
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John Wetteland's career in Texas was short; he spent only four years playing for the Rangers. Yet in that time, he was such a dominant closer that he earned a spot in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
Wetteland started his career pitching in the Dodgers bullpen, and then moved to the Montreal Expos via the Reds, where he became a dominant closer, twice earning MVP votes for his performance. Wetteland moved to the Bronx to pay for the Yankees, where he led the league in saves in 1996 and earned his first All-Star selection.
He moved to Texas as a free agent, and in his four seasons pitching in Arlington earned two All-Star selections and finished sixth in Cy Young voting in 1999. He earned 150 saves for the Rangers and set a team record for saves in a single season. He retired at the end of the 2000 season at the age of 34.
Wetteland was the most dominant pitcher of the 1990's, and earned more saves than any other pitcher during the decade.
#6 C.J. Wilson
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In a free agent market dominated by some of the best hitters in the game today, C.J. Wilson is the top pitcher available. Wilson has been the ace on the Texas staff for the past two seasons, posting a combined 31-15 record with 376 strikeouts. He is 30 years old and a southpaw with a low 90's fastball, and thus is a desirable asset to any team looking to strengthen its rotation.
Prior to becoming the team's ace in 2010, Wilson had a solid but unspectacular five season career in the bullpen, collecting 52 saves and 261 strikeouts in 280.2 innings. Wilson moved to the rotation in 2010 and added a change-up and a curveball to his repetoire. He showed even more improvement in 2011, dropping his walks by 20 percent despite pitching in nine percent more innings, and was named to his first All-Star team.
Wilson hasn't pitched enough innings for Texas to earn the type of gaudy numbers possessed by others on this list, but has had one of the best two-year runs in team history.
#5 Kevin Brown
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If C.J. Wilson decides to leave the Rangers for greener pastures (and a bigger paycheck), his Rangers career would be quite similar to Kevin Brown's.
Brown debuted with the Rangers in 1986, and joined the team full-time in 1988 and the rotation in 1999. Brown was an unremarkable pitcher in his first three years as a starting pitcher, earning a 33-31 combined record. At the age of 27 in 1992, things clicked for Brown, and he led the league in wins with a 21-11 record while posting a 3.32 ERA and 173 strikeouts, pitching in an impressive 265.2 innings, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting.
Brown's numbers cooled off in his final two seasons in Texas, and he went 15-12 in 1993 and 7-9 in the strike-shortened 1994. Brown became a free agent after the strike and signed with the Baltimore Orioles for a single season. Brown went on to pitch for four more teams in his career, and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting four more times. He is also notorious for signing what was then the richest contract in baseball history, a seven year, $105 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While Texas Rangers fans only got a taste of Brown's eventual success in his time with the team, his 78-64 record and noteworthy 1992 season make him one of the team's best ever pitchers.
#4 Charlie Hough
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Charlie Hough came to the Rangers after spending his 20's in the Dodgers bullpen, where he developed into one of the team's most valuable players. Hough began his transition to a starting pitcher in his final season with the Dodgers, and completed the transition in his second full season with Texas.
From 1982 through 1990, Hough was Texas's most reliable pitcher. Each season he won at least ten games, and in 1987 won a career high 18 games with 223 strikeouts, while leading the league with 285.1 innings pitched. Hough had a decent fastball, but earned his paycheck with his outstanding knuckleball, known as the "dancing knuckleball."
Hough left the Rangers for free agency in 1990, and went on to play for the White Sox and the Marlins in their first two seasons, but he is best remembered for his time pitching in Texas. He left the Rangers as the team's all-time leader in wins and strikeouts, and was the anchor of the team's pitching staff for nearly a decade.
#3 Nolan Ryan
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Nolan Ryan was the greatest pitcher who ever pitched for the Rangers, but the majority of his incomparable career was spent pitching for other teams, thus his lower placement on this list.
Ryan was, quite simply, one of the most dominant pitchers ever. In his 27 season career, he set the all-time strikeout record (5,714) and led the league in strikeouts 11 times, the final time when he was 43 years old. He won 324 games, earned a 3.19 ERA, threw a record seven no-hitters, and was voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot with the second highest voting percentage in history.
Ryan also had his share of struggles. In addition to his strikeouts record, he also holds the all-time walks record by a significant margin. Ryan lost 292 games in his career, never won a Cy Young Award, and led the league in wild pitches six times.
While playing for the Rangers, Ryan earned a 51-39 record and threw 939 strikeouts in 840 innings, all between the ages of 42 and and 46. What made Ryan's time on the Rangers especially memorable wasn't the statistics he earned while on the team, but the number of milestones he reached while wearing a Rangers cap. Ryan earned his 5,000th strikeout, 300th win, and his sixth and seventh no-hitters while playing for the Rangers.
Though Ryan only pitched for the Rangers for five seasons, less than he pitched for both the Angels and the Astros, Ryan chose to be depicted in a Rangers hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, and he will be best remembered as a Ranger.
#2 Ferguson Jenkins
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Along with Nolan Ryan, Fergie Jenkins is one of only two members of the Hall of Fame to pitch with the Rangers for at least two seasons.
After pitching six consecutive dominant seasons for the Cubs, in each winning at least 20 games, Jenkins had a down year in 1973, earning him a trade to Texas. In his first season pitching for the Rangers, Jenkins proved that at 31 he was not over the hill, and he went 25-12—the most wins in his career—with a 2.82 ERA and 225 strikeouts, earning him a second place finish in the Cy Young voting behind Catfish Hunter.
Jenkins dipped to a 17-18 record the following season, and moved to the Red Sox prior to the 1976 season. Jenkins returned to Texas in 1978, and had the final dominant season of his career, posting a record of 18-8 with a 3.04 ERA. Jenkins pitched in Texas for three more seasons, returning to Chicago in 1982 to end his career with the Cubs.
In his six seasons with Texas, Jenkins earned a 93-72 record and two top 10 Cy Young Award finishes. The bulk of his Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments were earned elsewhere, but during his limited time in Texas he was one of the best pictures the team has ever seen.
#1 Kenny Rogers
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Kenny Rogers was never supposed to be a great pitcher; in fact, he was never supposed to be a pitcher at all. Rogers was drafted in the 39th round of the 1982 MLB Draft as a right fielder, and was converted to pitcher in the minor leagues. He spent seven seasons in the Minor Leagues before joining the Rangers big-league squad in 1989 as a bullpen pitcher. Rogers spent four seasons in the bullpen before being promoted to the rotation in 1993.
Rogers spent three years in the Rangers rotation from 1993 through 1995, before leaving for the Yankees in free agency. During that time, he earned a combined 44-25 record, higlighted by a 1995 campaign in which he went 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA and 140 strikeouts, earning his first All-Star team selection.
In 1994, Rogers was responsible for one of the greatest moments in Rangers team history. Pitching against the California Angels on July 28, 1994, Rogers threw the first and only perfect game in Rangers history and only the fourteenth in MLB history.
After stints playing for both New York teams and the Oakland Athletics, he returned to Texas as a free agent in 2000. This was the first season in which his outstanding defensive play was recognized, and he earned his first of five Gold Gloves.
Rogers once again left Texas after the 2002 season for a one year stint in Minnesota, but returned for two more seasons in 2004 and 2005 to pitch two of the best seasons of his career. In 2004, he won a career high 18 games, led the league in games started, and earned his second career All-Star selection and third career Gold Glove Award. He earned both honors again the following season, in which he posted a 14-8 record with a 3.46 ERA, his best since the 1998 season.
After the 2005 season, Rogers departed Texas once again for Detroit, where he would pitch in the final three seasons of his career. Rogers won over 200 games in his career, earning a 133-96 record while playing in 12 seasons for the Texas Rangers.
In his long on-again off-again career with the Rangers, Kenny Rogers earned the title as the greatest pitcher in team history.