Let’s face it: injuries can be a real bitch. But, as we know, not all injuries are created equal. Yu Darvish’s neck issue was resolved after the first week of the season, and on Saturday Colby Lewis is set the return from a layoff of almost two full years. After Matt Harrison comes back — probably sometime in the next week or 10 days — the Rangers will feature a starting five of Darvish, Martín Perez, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, and what I can only assume will be either Nick Tepesch or Nick Martinez. That, honestly, isn’t too shabby. It beats the hell out of what Texas looked like on Opening Day.
But, perhaps more importantly, the additions of improved starters will actually upgrade the bullpen as much as the rotation… maybe more so. Right now the Rangers are looking at Alexi Ogando, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria as their primary relief options; with the impending help coming on the starting pitching front, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross will each arrive back at the place where their stuff plays a more effective role, giving Ron Washington a full complement of bullpen weapons to (mis)use.
At the same time, maybe that’s all beside the point. In 9 games the Rangers have allowed 48 runs (5.3 runs/game), which includes the 14 they gave up Opening Day, the 8-1 blowout they suffered to begin the Rays’ series, and the 7 they surrendered last night in a win against Boston… throw out those 29 runs, and Texas has allowed 19 in 6 games (3.2 runs/games), so it doesn’t look as bad.
Still, if I was to forecast how the Rangers pitching staff will perform from this day forward, I’d certainly put my money on them being closer to 3.2 than 5.3, with the true answer lying somewhere well in the middle. Basically, even with a makeshift starting rotation, and three replacement-level arms pitching from the bullpen, the Rangers managed a 4-5 record through its first nine games. Could it have been better? Probably. Would you be greedy for expecting more? Definitely.
The real problem, however, may be in the offense. Jurickson Profar is being replaced by Donnie Murphy (.217/.269/.304) and Josh Wilson (.385/.385./.462) whose sample sizes are too small to even be worth mentioning, so I’m not sure why I did. Second base is likely going to be a black hole for the Rangers lineup for the next two-plus months, and if Adrian Beltre’s leg injury is as serious as some are leading on, Texas may find themselves in a really, really shitty situation.
I’ll admit, this is purely speculation on Beltre — he could be back in the lineup for the Astros series on Friday for all I really know. With that said, taking a glass half-empty approach, because the worst-case scenario is totally worth envisioning… then you’re talking about playing Kevin Kouzmanoff (who was recalled just this morning) at 3B for Beltre, and either Murphy or Wilson at 2B for Profar, costing the Rangers — depending on Adrian’s timetable — possibly two full Platonic Wins before the All Star Break.
This is made worse by the fact that, in only 9 games, Prince Fielder hasn’t shown any signs to suggest he’s not in the middle of a real decline phase in his career. He’s 6-37 (.162/.205/.216) with only 2 extra-base hits (both doubles), 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. Not very good. On the bright side, his lifetime BABIP is .303, and heading into this afternoon’s game it was only .207… so, with all things being equal, he’s a decent candidate to break out of his early season funk relatively soon.
I deal blackjack as my job, so I’m not a big believer in luck. (Even though I wish every customer “good luck” before they come to my table and as they are leaving it.) Sometimes, the deck is just hot. Sometimes it isn’t. Thus far, the BABIP gods have gone against Fielder, so basic probability would indicate he’s due for some sort of a run, with an off day and a weekend series against the Astros seeming like a pretty good time to get it started.
Speaking of streaks, Shin-Soo Choo (.355/.475/.484) is fucking awesome.
Alex Rios (.364/.405/.515) and Elvis Andrus (.306/.306/.444) have been pretty solid at the plate as well.
Again, I’ll keep saying it’s the beginning of the season. It’s early. Don’t start freaking out just yet. At the same time, if I’ve learned anything from these first 9 games, it’s that I’m strangely comfortable with the way the pitching staff has looked — which was my only real concern heading into the year — and suddenly I’m growing uncomfortable with some aspects of the offense, especially if Adrian Beltre is going on the shelf for some prolonged juncture of the season.
In the mean time: Pitching. Even with the injuries, Texas can weather this.