I haven’t been around very much lately. This is for two reasons: (1) There is nothing even remotely interesting happening in the baseball world, and (2) I’ve been pretty busy driving to and from the desert. The casino I’m dealing at right now is, like, an hour away. I’m not complaining or anything, just talking to myself, I guess.
In the MLB world, nothing significant is going to happen until Masahiro Tanaka signs with somebody. The deadline is next Thursday, I think. I remember a couple years ago, when the whole Yu Darvish bonanza was going on, every day I scoured the Internet looking to see if he had already signed with the Rangers. I couldn’t miss it. I’m pretty sure I wasted an entire day at work refreshing pages and looking in on various live-update Rangers forums and chats. I am, with certainty, about as nerdy as they come with the sports teams I follow, but particularly so with the Texas Rangers.
Anyway, the fundamental difference between the diametrically opposing positions Tanaka and Darvish have/had during their signing processes is this: Yu Darvish could only sign with the Rangers, per the posting system agreed upon vis a vis MLB and the NPB; however, Masahiro Tanaka can sign with anybody and, since he is the best remaining player in a pretty anemic free agent class, he’s basically going to re-set the market.
So, it behooves pitchers like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez not to sign anywhere just yet, because Tanaka — who is expected to receive something in the 6-year, $100-plus million range — can help earn them more money on their next contract. And it stands to reason that whomever of the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels or Mariners do not sign Tanaka, they will probably be in on Garza and Jimenez.
Meanwhile, the Rangers aren’t really getting into much of anything. I’ve heard reports about a possible contract for Jerome Williams or Paul Maholm, who are each capable of filling Texas’s need for a back-of-the-rotation starter to help chew up innings until Derek Holland (in theory) returns.
Regardless, I’m obscurely confident in Matt Harrison to rebound nicely in 2014. I have nada to base this on, of course, but if nothing else I am optimistic because there hasn’t been any bad news as far as his prospects are concerned. Sometimes no bad news is good news. Or maybe that’s all the time.
Obviously I expect another TORP-type season out of Yu Darvish, because he’s just flat out the truth. There is going to be a season — who knows, maybe this season — when Yu Darvish begins to really explode on a national scale. He did finish second in the 2013 Cy Young Award vote, so it’s not like no one is noticing, but there are still factions of people who think his lack of wins says something about him as a pitcher. In two years he’s compiled a 29-18 (.617) record. However, with the types of pitches he possesses, and the magical artistry in which he deploys them, he could end up something like 21-5 some year. And my feeling is the media will treat him like they treated Max Scherzer last year. Like omg! This guy has found it!
With a potential +6.0 win pitcher in Yu Darvish (Steamer projections has him at a conservative +5.0 WAR in 192.0 innings), and perhaps +3.0- to +3.5-win Matt Harrison (Steamer has him at +2.3 WAR in 173.0 innings), those two guys alone could outproduce the rotations in Anaheim (+8.7 fWAR in ’13) and Houston (+7.1 fWAR in ’13) in 2014. It’s not something one should necessarily expect, but it’s certainly not out of the question. Should Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando stay healthy, Texas should maintain as one of the more formidable rotations in the American League, even in spite of Derek Holland’s untimely injury. (When are injuries ever not untimely?)
To be frank, I’m not bothered nor do I really care who the 5th starter is. If it’s Nick Tepesch, who mildly suffered from bad BABIP luck (.309) and a relatively high percentage of fly balls going over the fence (13.5% HR/FB ratio), I’m cool with it. Aside the fact that he’s inexperienced, he’s in his age-25 season — so his peak is still ahead of him — and both his strikeout rate (7.35/9) and walk rate (2.61/9) in 2013 inspire confidence. People may want to look at his 4-6 record or 4.84 ERA and throw him in their mental discard pile, but Nick Tepesch is a true sleeper. You could do a lot worse with your #5 starter.
The other option is Colby Lewis. Someone you’d have to consider the odds-on favorite if he’s healthy. It’s kind of crazy that he hasn’t pitched since June of 2012, fresh off being Texas’s most consistent starter in both the 2010 and 2011 World Series trips. There’s one school of thought that says the deep postseason runs of 2010 and 2011 adversely affected Colby Lewis, because of the added workloads; the other says he’s an old man in baseball years and it’s a small miracle his degenerative hip condition even allowed him to make it this far. I tend to lean toward the latter, but I’m not sure if it’s because Colby will always be remembered as part of the Rangers first two (and only two) World Series appearances, or if it’s that Lewis has already more than fulfilled what he was expected to produce tenfold.
So, yeah. Whether it’s Tepesch or Lewis, it really doesn’t matter. The Rangers will have a strong rotation. Maybe another time I’ll write about the offense, but right now, this is all I’ve got.