Don’t look now, but the Texas Rangers currently hold the second Wild Card spot and are just two games back from their first-place AL Western foes—the Houston Astros.
They’re Too Hot (Hot Damn)
One of the many reasons the Rangers are sitting firmly in the driver’s seat is because of their hot play. Since the All-Star break, they have gone 26-16, which is mostly due to the resurgence of key offensive players like Shin-Soo Choo (.302/.413/.925) and Adrian Beltre (.298/.354/.472).
The Rangers aren’t only getting it done with their bats though. Since they acquired Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman at the trade deadline, the bullpen has become somewhat of a strength for the team. In the month of August, they posted a 3.71 ERA (3.20 FIP), putting them third overall in the league, according to Fan Graphs. To put that into perspective, the bullpen ranked ninth in the league in the first half with a 4.10 ERA.
Even Cole Hamels, who couldn’t find his rhythm in Texas at first, seems to have found his groove. In his last start, Hamels walked four batters, which included walking in a run in the third inning. Then Hamels got mad. He went on to pitch 8 innings, giving up only two hits and striking out 10. Hamels clearly buckled down and found his inner TORP mojo. Or, according to my girlfriend, it was because he looks good exactly 100 percent of the time. Yeah—that’s it.
Aside from the major trade acquisitions and attractive faces helping the Rangers win, health has been a major contributor in the second half of the season. Texas gained two major starters from the DL to their rotation in Martin Perez and Derek Holland. While Perez has been solid since his return, it’s been Derek Holland who has solidified the Rangers pitching staff into the talks as one of the better rotations in the league.
The Dutch Oven
Holland last pitched against the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched a complete game shutout, giving up three hits and zero walks. He also tied a career high striking out 11 batters. Holland was straight up dominant and showed that he still maintains excellent stuff after all these months of not playing.
So what does Holland mean to this team exactly?
Well, a lot actually.
Holland has eight career complete game shutouts. He also has averaged more than seven strikeouts for his career and has shown that he can be a force for the Rangers when he’s healthy and has great command/control of his stuff.
Typically, a good measure to indicate how effective a pitcher is is his walk rate and batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. According to baseball-reference.com, Holland’s career average for walks per nine innings (BB9) is 2.8 and has gotten lower every season since his rookie year. So far through four games Holland’s BB9 is .4. He has shown amazing ability to control his pitches.
As far as BABIP goes, Holland has had a career .298 BABIP. That doesn’t leave much to be desired, but buried within that number are a few seasons that have shown promise. In 2012, Holland had his best season where he posted a BABIP of .264. So far this season Holland is trending near that 2012 figure at .259. If he keeps pitching like he did in his last start, he could easily finish the season posting new career numbers for all these stats.
Anyone remember Derek Holland’s Opus, or rather, Game 4 of the 2011 World Series? I’m sure the Cardinals do.
Holland went 8 1/3 innings with two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. Holland’s performance swung the momentum to the Rangers’ favor and they ended up being only one strike away from winning it all… I know… it’s still depressing…
How the West Was Won
The Rangers are currently on a 10-game road trip with 31 games left in the regular season. They also have to play Houston seven more times. Texas is in prime position to finish the season strong and push the Astros into second place. With the offense firing on all cylinders and Derek Holland and Cole Hamels pushing this rotation into legitimacy, the Rangers have a chance to do something they haven’t done since 2011—go to the post season—and win.