For all the extra inning grand slam heroics of Nelson Cruz in the ALCS, the Texas Rangers have their pitching depth to thank for their 2-0 series lead over the Detroit Tigers. It’s easy to compliment a bullpen that in both games came in early, once thanks to a rain delay and again because of Derek Holland’s inability to throw a strike, to dominate a Tigers lineup that has finally been revealed to be wanting.
Detroit has scored five runs over two games, none of which have come against Texas relievers. In fact, the Rangers bullpen has faced 47 batters, allowing only five hits and three walks. Those are Verlanderesque numbers.
Typically, the key to a good bullpen is a good starting rotation, and while there’s little doubt that Texas boasts one of the most consistent group of starters in the American League, C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland have both struggled this post season to find the strike zone. By moving Alexi Ogando from the rotation to the bullpen, where he’s joined former starter Scott Feldman, mid season acquisitions Mike Adams, Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara, as well as the underrated Darren Oliver and closer Neftali Feliz, the Rangers have the reliever depth to use situational pitching early in a game.
In other words, the bullpen is so deep that Ron Washington, a year after coming under fire for his bullpen management during the 2010 playoffs, has the arsenal to create favourable pitching matchups as soon as it’s no longer beneficial to let his starter continue in the game.
This blog cheekily praised Rangers GM Jon Daniels’ reliever acquisitions as fool proofing the bullpen for Washington’s use, but that’s a bit of an undersell. In addition, shoring up the bullpen has allowed Washington another option to depend on, rather than a starting rotation that was overused to a degree over the course of the season.
Only five of the Rangers 162 games weren’t started by the five pitchers in the team’s rotation. In the American League, the Rays, Angels and White Sox may have had more innings pitched by their starting pitchers, but Tampa Bay had 14 games started by pitchers other than the five in their rotation, Los Angeles had 13 and Chicago had 29. No team in baseball relied on five pitchers as much as Texas.
This isn’t to suggest that the failings of Wilson and Holland in such a small sample size are a sign of tiredness. What it is a sign of is a general manager recognizing the possibility of impending trouble and acquiring potential solutions that have worked out incredibly well. Foresight is such an important quality in any occupation, and Jon Daniels ability to look ahead and see his team’s needs in advance is deserving of praise. The Rangers’ first two wins in the ALCS, largely on the back of the bullpen, is testament to his abilities as a general manager.
The two teams are back at it tonight in Detroit with Colby Lewis going for the Rangers and Doug Fister taking the mound for the Tigers.
Over in the National League, the story line isn’t quite as defined as the American League. Two games have seen two very different results. A fiery Game One saw a few lead changes and one crooked number inning brought to us by Milwaukee’s power hitting. Game Two was the Albert Pujols show.
The Cardinals first baseman (for now) went four for five with a two run home run and three doubles, knocking in five runs and scoring three himself in his team’s 12-3 win over Milwaukee. Pujols became just the fourth player in postseason history to have four extra-base hits in the same game, and the first ever to have two games in one playoffs in which he had three extra base hits.
Shaun Marcum was again beat up in the second playoff start of his career, giving up five runs on seven hits over four innings. The former Blue Jays starters has now allowed 12 runs over eight and two third innings this postseason. Despite his struggles, manager Ron Roenicke has claimed that he won’t be dropping Marcum from the rotation for a possible Game Six.
The series goes to St. Louis, where Chris Carpenter will take on Yovani Gallardo on Wednesday night.
And The Rest
The Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin had a nice little sit down with Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Beeston and was kind enough to write it all down for us to enjoy.
The Cincinnati Reds will not trade Joey Votto. No way. No how.
Bud Selig says that expanded playoffs are coming, but maybe not as soon as some are suggesting.
Wally Backman might be leaving the New York Mets’ organization to take a job with the Washington Nationals.
The Boston Red Sox won’t begin searching for a new manager until their general manager situation is resolved.
The New York Yankees and Brian Cashman have yet to formally discuss a contract extension. The team’s GM current deal runs out after this season.
The New York Mets are putting together an impressive list of candidates for their open bench coach role.
Quelle surprise: Frank McCourt isn’t living up to his responsibilities.
The massive turnover in the Los Angeles Angels front office over the last week is not an impulsive action.
The Philadelphia Phillies should just fire everybody!