The Texas Rangers and pitching have always been through rocky relationships. It is a phase of the game where this club struggles nearly every year, with some exceptions of course. This season, fans and analysts still view the Rangers’ pitching as bleak, and there’s a reason for that. Nevertheless, the moves this team made with the rotation, management, and technology create an uplifting feeling that should give fans an open mind for the upcoming season, and overall future of the organization.
The Price is Right (or Cheap)
Player signings are similar to business investments. When a player signs, what the team is doing is investing in that player’s stock. In this pre-2019 offseason, the Rangers goal seemed to be to make small investments. If you total all five projected starters for the Rangers in 2019 (Minor, Lynn, Miller, Volquez, and Smyly), their salaries equal to just over $30 million. To put that in perspective, the Detroit Tigers are still paying Jordan Zimmerman 22 million this season after his colossal 7-8 record with a 4.52 ERA season in 2018. In November of 2015, Zimmerman signed a five year and 110 million dollar contract.
Shelby Miller video. Or a facsimile thereof pic.twitter.com/WPKNBcofZV
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) February 15, 2019
Bottom line is the Rangers went shopping for pitchers at discounted stores instead of going to the overpriced department store. As of now, only ten of the twenty-five pitchers on the current roster are under guaranteed contracts, six of those guys are under one-year contracts, and only one pitcher outside that list is arbitration eligible. Now a small downside, the Rangers did have to use a two million total for Martin Perez, Matt Moore, and Doug Fister buyouts, but the club did reduce their costs on the pitching side. At the very least, a solid season from these pitchers may equal out to exchange pieces come deadline time.
Now when I say experience, I’m talking about the anticipated pitching roster the Rangers will put together on opening day. According to TR Sullivan, the Rangers project to bring up twelve pitchers. All twelve of these guys have made a small or large mark in the big leagues. Now, of course, there’s always the injury factor to older pitchers. Though the Rangers have alternative options like Adrian Sampson, Ariel Jurado, and Jason Hammel, who have MLB experience.
For a team that is in its rebuilding stages, this may come across as more a negative than a positive. The main intention is to supply these young players minor league experience. Therefore, they are skilled and ready for the major leagues. The club may ease a couple of newcomers throughout the year. However, one goal is to get these guys to polish their game to become a force on a big league bump. Remember, to get to the top you have to start from the bottom (you can take that as a Drake reference if you’d like).
LeClerc ready for the closing role
Jose LeClerc went beast mode on the hill last season as he eased into the closer’s role. In August and September, Jose tossed eighteen innings, did not give up a run, and racked up twelve saves. In fact, in those two last months, LeClerc allowed only three total hits. Although he gave up six walks, his primary focus in spring training will be if he can improve his pitch command. If Jose enhances his control along with what he presented in 2018, the Rangers may have themselves an All-Star closer in the works.
The signing of Zach McAllister
When a pitcher signs, everyone evaluates the pitcher’s arsenal and the stuff he’ll bring to the table. Still, this signing isn’t about what McAllister will bring on the mound, but what he’ll provide in the clubhouse. Last season, both the Indians and Tigers released McAllister due to his ineffectiveness. It was a curious season because his stuff didn’t deteriorate. The issue was that oppositions timed his pitches perfectly which led to an unpleasant pounding for Zach nearly every trip.
The Dodgers picked Zach up in a minor league deal and presented him to new technology. They introduced him to the Rapsodo tool and an Edgertronic high-speed camera. In his time with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, McAllister was able to see what caused those issues, to correct his grip and release point, and now is feeling more confident than ever to start 2019. It’s a tool that new pitching coach Julio Rangel wants to add this year as he did with the Giants. It is a tool that links to the Houston Astros success over the last few years when they implemented it in 2017 and aided in rejuvenating Justin Verlander’s career.
The Rangers will probably not go from the bottom of the league to top in pitching, especially after one season. Nonetheless, the primary purpose is to develop the pitching culture of the organization. Plus with a new ballpark in the works, it’ll create more possible suitors to sign with the Rangers. Should fans expect a complete turnaround from last year, no. But, the changes made should make things interesting for fans to get excited about, and I mean “the good” excitement.
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