2017 Marks New Era for Rangers Pitching

Former Texas Rangers SP Derek Holland had a brilliant World Series appearance against the Cardinals. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Former Texas Rangers SP Derek Holland had a brilliant World Series appearance against the St. Louis Cardinals. Gone… but not forgotten. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
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By Wiley Singleton

The Texas Rangers are making significant changes to their starting pitching roster. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland were let go this offseason. The Rangers refused to pick up Holland’s option, and did not sign Lewis after his one year deal expired. These two players are significant to the Rangers history as a team. They were at the forefront of the Rangers 2010 and 2011 playoff runs.

In the 2010 playoffs Colby Lewis was exceptional in all of his starts. He won three games, including the lone World Series win. Lewis was masterful against the Yankees, the team that eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in the 1990’s. Lewis shut down New York’s explosive offense twice. This was a critical moment in Lewis’ career. He started four playoff games and pitched well in all of them. His playoff performance proved he could be a significant part of the 2011 run.

Derek Holland was a reliever in the 2010 playoffs but hit his stride as a starter in the 2011. Holland put on one of the best performances ever by a Rangers starter in the playoffs. After the Cardinals scored 16 runs the previous night, Holland pitched 8 1⁄3 scoreless innings. The game was important because the Cardinals were up 2-1 in the series. The Rangers had exited the World Series in five games the previous year. Derek Holland’s excellent performance  ensured that the Rangers would not lost in five games again.

Lewis was excellent again in the 2011 playoffs. He won a pitching duel against David Price in the ALDS. Lewis threw six scoreless innings in Game 2 of the World Series. He was the starting pitcher of the infamous game six marathon. Lewis’ Game 6 start was marred by two costly Michael Young errors at critical points in the game.

Colby Lewis was by far the most consistent starter the Rangers had during their playoff runs in the 2010 and 2011. Lewis had multiple excellent starts where he was pitted against top tier opponents. Lewis performed well starting under aces Cliff Lee and CJ Wilson. Lee only played for the Rangers in 2010, Wilson took over the #1 starter spot in 2011. Lewis provided stout sharpness that counterbalanced CJ Wilson’s inconsistency.

The California native CJ Wilson was asked to fill the shoes of Cliff Lee in 2011. This was a very difficult task. The defining factor of Cliff Lee’s play was his control. Lee walked an extremely low amount of hitters. This allowed him to excel in the postseason against exceptional offenses. Wilson struggled with his command. Wilson would leave Texas to go back to his native state of California. Wilson played a few years in California and recently announced he is going to retire from baseball to race cars.

Holland and Lewis both struggled to recapture their 2011 form in 2016. They both battled injuries all year. An injured Lewis was called upon to shut down an explosive Blue Jays lineup, as Martin Perez struggled on the road and lacked playoff experience. The move was reminiscent of the 2006 ALDS in which the Twins had injured veteran Brad Radke try to save the 0-2 series. Radke, like Lewis, struggled with age and health and lost the game.

The Rangers of 2017 look to Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels spearhead their rotation. Darvish and Hamels both struggled immensely in their 2016 playoff starts. Perez and Hamels were both top five in walks for most of the 2016 season.

Darvish and Hamels will lead the rotation, and Perez will likely start third. The fourth spot will probably go to AJ Griffin, who was solid last season. Griffin’s main flaw is allowing home runs. Griffin throws a fastball that clocks in at around 88 MPH. He also features a looping breaking ball that clocks in around 68 MPH. The fifth spot is a bit tricky. The Rangers have been testing out Chi Chi Gonzalez in Spring Training, but he is now going to spend some time dealing with an injury.  Andrew Cashner is also a threat to take the 5th rotation spot.

Regardless of who takes the 5th spot, this offseason has marked a changing of the guard for Rangers pitching.