Monday, May 18, 2009

Hey Look! The Rangers Can Pitch!

I was wrong. Dead wrong, actually. Thirty seven games into the season, the Texas Rangers pitching staff has been, dare I say it, quite good. The pitching staff has a collective 4.54 ERA, which is good enough for sixth in the American League and a vast improvement from 2008, when the pitching staff finished with a 5.38 ERA.

So what changed from 2008 to 2009?

For starters, the quick answer is Mike Maddux. For years Maddux has been one of the top pitching coaches in baseball, routinely resurrecting the careers of struggling pitchers in the Brewers organization. But few, including myself, actually thought that Maddux could work his magic with the Rangers pitchers, who have been notoriously bad over the years. But so far, the results have been very good for Maddux.

Just take a look at some of Maddux's success so far:

-Kevin Millwood is actually pitching like a top of the rotation stud that the Rangers paid him to be instead of an overpaid and underachieving scrub.

-Former chair thrower Frank Francisco has turned his career around and is a pretty damn good closer, currently sporting a 0 ERA.

-Matt Harrison is looking like a quality starting pitcher, who the Rangers can build around instead of a fringe pitcher, who gave up too many hits and could not strike out hitters.
(Let's give credit where credit is due here: Teagarden)

-CJ Wilson is a useful relief pitcher again.

-Jason Jennings has regained his old form, albeit out of the bullpen.

-And wow, Scott Feldman might actually be a pretty good pitcher.

Considering that we're not even two months into the season, these have to be very encouraging signs for Rangers fans. When you take into account just how good their offense is, if the Rangers can somehow get decent starting pitching like this for an extended period of time, they might be able to make things interesting out West. Because in reality, if the Rangers staff holds teams to 4.5 runs per game, this team will win lots of games.

For now, we'll see how long the Rangers pitchers can keep up this kind of performance and which pitcher Mike Maddux is able to wave his magic wand onto next.


Bill said...

All good points, but there's also some evidence to suggest that the big improvement is in defense, not pitching. Their FIP this year is 5.08, and last year's was 4.83. But their defense (going by UZR) has already saved 15 runs over average, when last year it was a little worse than minus-50 runs.

Kinsler is playing better, Andrus is a huge upgrade over Young at short, Young is a huge upgrade over Davis at third, and Davis is a huge upgrade over Blalock at first. And I guess the outfield logjam is working it out, too. :)

Bill said...

Here's the FanGraphs post on that topic, which I couldn't find yesterday. I don't endorse their absolute certainty in the infallibility of their numbers, but it's interesting, anyway. :)

jorgesaysno said...

Thanks for all the great insight, Bill. I look forward to seeing how the Rangers pitching performs for the rest of the season