The key to success for the Texas Rangers this season has nothing to do with adding a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.
It might have everything to do with turning back the clock 22 years. The Rangers should try to pattern their season after the 1990 Cincinnati Reds.
That Cincy team won a World Series with a starting rotation that included no starter who won more than 15 games in the regular season and only one starter (Tom Browning) who made more than 30 starts that season. The Reds did have two other solid starters in Jack Armstrong, who was an All-Star that season, and Jose Rijo.
It was a good staff but it’s not better than the starting five the Rangers have.
Of course the Reds did have the Nasty Boys in the bullpen with Randy Myers, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble leading the way. Those three allowed the Reds to shorten games with an overpowering bullpen. Myers, the closer, saved 31 games and averaged more than a strikeout an inning. Dibble was a dominant setup man and Charlton was a swing man who started 16 games and pitched more than 150 innings and made 56 appearances.
The 2012 Rangers don’t have a nifty name for their bullpen and there’s no one with quite the same personality as Dibble, but the bullpen has the ability to take the burden off the starting rotation, no matter who is starting.
Texas already has the second-best bullpen ERA in the American League and has done so without having all its best pieces in places. That’s starting to change too. Alexi Ogando is back in the bullpen and he can give the Rangers multiple innings with an overpowering fastball.
Neftali Feliz is making his second rehab start Friday night for Round Rock and could be joining the club in the next two weeks. While Feliz left as a starter, there’s no room in the rotation for him right now. If he goes into the bullpen, he could be another Ogando, giving the team multiple innings with an overpowering fastball.
The bullpen already has three known commodities in Robbie Ross, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan. Ross has been the club’s top rookie this season and has allowed just one run in his last 18 appearances. Adams hasn’t been as dominant in his setup role as he’d like, but even if he struggles, the Rangers have options with both Ogando and Feliz.
Nathan has a 1.35 ERA over his last 33 outings and has been the lock-down closer the Rangers had hoped for when they signed him before the year.
The club could also be getting Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe back soon. Lowe has a 2.30 ERA and Uehara has a 2.11 mark.
If Feliz goes to the bullpen, he’d be joining those six relievers. All six of them have ERAs of under 3.00. Not even the Nasty Boys could boast a number like that as their big relief trio was the only relievers on the staff to post sub 3.00 ERAs.
That would give Texas a bullpen that could shorten nine innings games to six inning affairs. Texas starters have had six complete games. With a bullpen like the one they could potentially have, they wouldn’t have to do much heavy lifting down the stretch either.
Texas can let the Los Angeles Angels try and scramble to add pitching. The dominant Los Angeles starting rotation on paper to start the season hasn’t materialized as only Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have lived up to the billing. Ervin Santana has been erratic and Dan Haren a combination of bad and hurt.
The LA bullpen is nowhere near as good as the Rangers’. Closer Ernesto Frieri has been great and lefty Scott Downs has been solid. But outside that duo, the Angels don’t match up with what the Rangers have now.
The discrepancy in the bullpens will be more glaring if Texas ends up putting Feliz in relief and when Lowe and Uehara get healthy.
There are shiny names out there on the trade market. Cliff Lee sounds good. Cole Hamels too. But all the Rangers have to do is look back to the Reds for inspiration.
When Cincinnati swept Oakland that year to win the World Series, the bullpen didn’t allow a run in the series.
The Rangers have a relief staff that’s capable of doing the same. Now that’s nasty and it’s already on the Texas roster. It sounds like the perfect combination.