Rangers might be without their greatest asset in season finale

Much has been made of what the Texas Rangers have done since the trading deadline. The team with second most wins in the American League since August 1st has had a lot of key things happen along the way, but perhaps none more important than the success of their revamped bullpen.

From Opening Day until July 31st the Rangers bullpen ranked dead last in ERA in all of baseball at 4.64. With the acquisitions of Sam Dyson from the Marlins and Jake Diekman from the Phillies the Rangers were able to post an incredible turnaround. From August 1st through October 2nd they put together the second best bullpen ERA in the game.

I spoke with Jeff Bannister in late August and he told me what a difference his new bullpen had been making on his team. "It’s been much easier to make decisions, knowing that I had dependable arms that I could go to consistently."

The Rangers have been unable to clinch the American League West and now head in to the final game of the season, where a win secures a division title, with an exhausted bullpen.

Check out the recent usage of the Rangers most valuable relievers over the past seven days with innings (and pitches):

Date S. Dyson S. Tolleson K. Kela
9/27 1.0 (15)
9/28
9/29 1.0 (10) 1.0 (18) 1.0 (14)
9/30 1.0 (11) 1.0 (11)
10/1 1.0 (8) 1.0 (19)
10/2 1.0 (13) 1.0 (15)
10/3 1.0 (21) 0.0 (6) 0.1 (8)
Totals 6.0 (78) 4.0 (69) 1.1 (22)

A couple of things jump out at me. The most concerning is that both Dyson and Tolleson have thrown five days in a row. Three is a lot for a reliever, four is pushing it and five consecutive days pitched just rarely happens. Six? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it.

Dyson was terrific on Saturday but has been used in six of the past seven days. Tolleson was clearly out of gas on Saturday allowing two home runs on just six pitches before being removed from the game. 

The other issue is Keone Kela. Kela has had an impressive start to his career. As a rookie he has put up a solid 2.39 ERA in 68 games pitched over 60.1 IP, all while striking out better than 10 batters per 9IP. Kela is in just in his third full professional season and threw in a career high 44 games to go along with 49 innings in 2014. The Rangers have been very well aware of Kela’s workload using him just eight times in September and rarely using him on back to back days this season.

On Saturday Kela finished off the 7th inning allowing one hit on his eight pitches. During the final at bat Kela seemed to wince after throwing a pitch which prompted a visited from pitching coach Mike Maddux and the Rangers trainer. Kela stayed in and finished the inning.

In his post game press conference Jeff Bannister was asked if had ever considered using Sam Dyson, who pitched the 8th, to also pitch the 9th. He said no, considering the recent workload. But he also said something telling, "We considered Kela (for the 8th), but Kela let us know he couldn’t go anymore."

When you look at Kela’s light workload over the past seven days, 1.1IP, 22 pitches and five days off, you can’t help but assume he is also out of gas. 

This could be a big problem for Texas. Can Dyson or Tolleson pitch a sixth day in a row? What, if anything, does Kela have left? The good news is Cole Hamels gets the start Sunday. Hamels is 6-1 in 11 starts for the Rangers. A complete game victory would be very welcomed, he has one this year, that no-hitter in July against the Cubs.