Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rangers Pepper 5/28: Bullpen Talk, June Looms, Wash and the NL

by Dustin Copening of www.DFWFanConnection.com
Every few days or so I like to send a few “#RangersThoughts” tweets out via @dfwfanconnect to share some things that have been brewing in my baseball brain. In an effort to expand on the 140 character limit that stymies to a degree the effectiveness of said thoughts, I present to you the first installment of “Rangers Pepper”. Here’s a fun video that’s totally SFW and informative on the finer art of Pepper to wet your appetite:
From Gas To Gassed - Yes, if you follow the Rangers on a day-to-day basis then you’re well aware that the bullpen is spent. Texas just played three games in a 48 hour period (including a 13 inning affair on Sunday) in which they went to the bullpen a total of 12 times. Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor, Michael Kirkman, and Ross Wolf all appeared in two of these three games. The troubling trend is not just this stretch of games though.
In April the Rangers played nine games in which their starters pitched at least seven innings. Derek Holland (4), Yu Darvish (2), Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Alexi Ogando all contributed, allowing the bullpen to evenly spread out their workload. The Rangers had back-to-back 7+ inning starts thrown on the 9th/10th, and on the 26th/27th; along with a seven inning performance from Holland on the 16th, before an off day.
May has not been nearly as efficient. Only Darvish (4) and Holland (2) have gone seven innings or longer in a start this month. There have been zero times where the Rangers have gotten back-to-back 7+ inning starts, and only once (Holland on the 8th) before an off day. Technically Darvish’s start last night is the second time that Texas has gotten 7+ inning from a starter before an off day, but that’s a small consolation considering the amount of work the bullpen has been pressed into since Sunday afternoon’s first pitch.
Today’s off day couldn’t come at a better time for a unit that was once a surprising strength for Texas, but has begun to wilt before things really start heating up in June.
June Heats Up Indeed - Regardless of the outcomes from Sunday and Monday and the 5-5 mark in their last 10 games, the Rangers are still tied with Boston for the best record in the AL and the 2nd best record in the majors before tonight’s action. Texas’s 32-20 record can be thanked in large part to a soft schedule in April and May that’s about to firm up mightily in June.
After the Rangers have played their three remaining games in May, they will have faced opponents with a combined .475 winning percentage (result through 5/27) so far this year. In June they have 28 games scheduled against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .559.
Before you run off to buy more rum for Jobu, take into account that Texas is 11-7 against teams with a winning record, they get a nice long 11 game homestand (3 vs. Cleveland, 4 vs. Toronto, & 4 vs. Oakland) before going to St. Louis and New York, and even though Oakland is drawing near, the A’s opponents in June have a .545 winning percentage.
The Athletics do get nine games to beat up on the Brewers (3) and Mariners (6), however the Rangers get 9 games of their own against sub .450 competitors (Royals for 2 and Blue Jays for 7). The Angels have the weakest strength of schedule in June of the top three AL West squads. They face opponents with a combined winning percentage of .511, including 10 against the Astros (6) and M’s (4).
Wash Gets Questioned Again - I’m a Ron Washington defender. While I think he gets second guessed far too much by folks who aren’t looking at the entirety of each decision he makes (like say Darvish throwing 130 pitches to save an overworked bullpen), I do think he has at times put the Rangers at a disadvantage when playing under NL rules. Such a situation where I found it valid to question the skipper’s lineup maneuvering occurred in the top of the 9th in last night’s game in Arizona.
With one out and Leonys Martin at first following a walk, Wash decided to let Leury Garcia face Matt Reynolds instead of bringing in Jeff Baker or Jurickson Profar to bat against the lefty. Both Profar and Baker have hit lefties better, but the reality is that neither would have ended up facing Reynolds. Garcia fouled out on a 3-1 pitch and Baker came into the game for Michael Kirkman. Not surprisingly, Kirk Gibson brought in the righty Brad Ziegler to pitch to Baker.
I understand the reasoning behind Wash’s decision not to hit for Garcia. He’s always tried to keep his bench from being emptied late in close games in NL parks in case extra innings are needed. Mitch Moreland was already in for Lance Berkman, so batting Baker for Garcia would mean using him at 2B and then burning through Profar in place of Kirkman, or vice versa. Geovany Soto would be the only bench player remaining for the Rangers, leaving no one to come in for an injured player or a situational AB later in extras.
The problem here is that the game never got to extras. Baker did single, but Elvis Andrus grounded out to Ziegler to end the inning with Martin stranded at third. The DBacks scored the winning run in the bottom of the 9th, and Profar never got a chance to bat.
So, what was the right call?
Easily you can argue the wrong call was made because of how the game played out, but such is the life of the Rangers manager. The expectations are higher than ever for this club, and even in games where Texas wins Wash gets questioned incessantly.
I would have preferred to see the man go for it last night, but it’s only one of the few times I’ve felt inclined to join the peanut gallery.

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