The Texas Rangers were long-regarded as an offensive-minded ball-club, built upon the strength of their lineup, with pitching generally seeming like an afterthought.
Since Nolan Ryan took control of the franchise however, the emphasis on building a deep, talented pitching staff has become a priority.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Rangers have experienced more success in the last two seasons than they had throughout their entire history up to 2010. Beginning in 1961 as the Washington Senators, the franchise had only experienced three playoff series, losing in the first round in 1996, '98 and '99, before their two-consecutive AL pennants over the last two seasons.
Still an offensive powerhouse, Texas has taken a more balanced approach to building their roster, focusing as much on pitching and defense as on the strength of their lineup. There are few one-dimensional players on the squad these days, a welcome change from seasons past.
After two straight years of incredible success, the pitching staff finds itself in a state of transition, though many of the primary contributors remain the same.
They signed Joe Nathan to bolster the rear of their bullpen, in hope that one-time uber-prospect Neftali Feliz can become the ace they have long envisioned. Their ace of the last two years, reliever-turned-starter C.J. Wilson, has moved on to their fierce rivals in Anaheim, preferring to move home to Orange County once he became a free agent.
Texas will gamble again on transitioning a reliever to the starting rotation, something which they've had great success with over the last few years, first with Wilson, then with Alexi Ogando last season.
Also, their dramatic leap into the international player market was one of potential great reward, as they signed perhaps the most-touted Japanese pitcher ever in Yu Darvish. His professional resume in Japan is stellar and they're gambling big that he can replicate his success in Major League Baseball.
Alongside Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers' principal owner, Texas has established a formidable brain trust with an intimate knowledge of pitching. Their pitching coach Mike Maddux is one of the more respected at his profession in the league, able to impart a vast array of knowledge and experience upon his staff.
His brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers in recent decades, will now serve as a front office consultant to GM Jon Daniels.
With such an impressive group of pitching minds involved in the construction and management of their staff, the Texas Rangers are in good hands when it comes to matters of the mound.
As they prepare to decide upon their starting staff for the 2012 season, faced with an excess of talented arms, let's look at the primary contenders who will be vying for the five slots in their rotation.