Eye on Surprise: The Texas Rangers' 2011 Bullpen

Categories: Texas Rangers

Neftali Feliz - World Series.jpg
Forget missing out on Cliff Lee and Zach Greinke at the front end of the rotation, a huge factor in how the Texas Rangers will defend their American League championship will be who pitches and how they perform out of the back end of the bullpen.

I think the Rangers have voluntarily limited their options here, and I think it's a mistake.

As I wrote at the time, I never understood the acquisition of Mike Napoli. Takes away at-bats from Michael Young at DH and we've seen how that has spiraled into an unhappy face of the franchise. But also, Napoli cost the Rangers Frankie Francisco.

Francisco blew some games last year that, combined with an injury, cost him the closer's job he held coming out of spring training 2010. Nonetheless, the Rangers seemed determined to give Neftali Feliz a chance to be a starter, same as they did with C.J. Wilson last March.

My question is, if Feliz becomes a starter who becomes this team's closer?

As we know Feliz can hit 100 with his fastball and has a devastating curve he can throw for strikes at around 79. But does he have the confidence to throw the off-speed stuff down in the count? And can he consistently throw them for strikes?

I know Francisco wasn't on the playoff rosters, but I still think long-term he's difficult to replace. Think back to the final month of the season and remember the painstaking 8th innings, trying to get the ball to Feliz in the 9th. We're all intrigued by the electric stuff of Alexi Ogando, but I saw Mark Lowe in the World Series and if the Rangers are counting on him it's going to be a long season. Maybe Tanner Scheppers is an answer, but his second half in the minors last year was a disaster.

Ideally, Feliz closes and the set-up role is split in Darrenville -- lefty Oliver and righty O'Day. I'm fine with that. Smells like a recipe for bullpen success.

But with the departure of Lee and the arrival of Napoli, the Rangers are flirting with trouble if they tinker too much.


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Brian Tams
Brian Tams

If Neftali Feliz does turn out to be a good starting pitcher, and Brandon Webb gets his stuff back, that's a damn scary rotation the Rangers have. Wilson, Lewis, Webb, Feliz... The Phillies may have the best Rotation on paper, but the Rangers might have a bit of a dark horse rotation going on. Of course, if Feliz and Webb work out.

And I could definitely see Ogando as a closer. He's already relieved multiple innings in a game before, and you could see him making huge steps in improvement towards the end of last year. My prediction is he either closes, or the Rangers also look at him as a possible starter coming out of spring training. And, don't bury Mark Lowe yet. We've only seen him in the World Series. And that's a hell of a place to make your debute for a team.

Dollar Dog
Dollar Dog

"I never understood the acquisition of Mike Napoli."

In addition to Napoli's catching duties the Rangers need to be able to match up against left handed pitchers.

So we have Moreland, Murphy, and Borbon all to see regular appearances against RHP.

But there's a significant exposure to lefties by these three because anyone of them can be made to look BADDD against proven lefties.

Options:

Napoli can replace Moreland at first if Moreland needs to be spelled.Napoli can replace Moreland at first and Moreland can play right field (Moreland split time between right and first at OKC) if Murphy or Borbon needs a rest.

The numbers tell the story. They are pretty impressive as far as Napoli against lefties:

BA OBP SLG OPSMorelandvs RHP .264 .373 .496 .869 vs LHP .200 .304 .300 .604

Murphyvs RHP .298 .368 .479 .847 vs LHP .272 .328 .368 .696

Borbonvs RHP .284 .312 .348 .660vs LHP .247 .297 .312 .609

Napolivs LHP .305 .399 .567 .966

I give JD a mightyfine on this deal.

Baseball Intelligence
Baseball Intelligence

I understand the fact that people want to see Nefty in the rotation because his stuff is absolutely electric...I get it. What I don't get is how everyone seems to think that that has to be the answer. My question is: How often do you have a young stud dominating closer basically fall in your lap? I mean I think it was pretty generally accepted that Feliz was going to be a starter coming up, but he just fits so well at the back end of the bullpen that I don't think you change that. If he remains healthy and as dominate or close to as dominate as he was in 2010, I don't think its a stretch to say he will be, at a minimum, the caliber of Marian Rivera and will likely exceed that. My point is it takes a special breed to become a dominate closer in the major leagues and it feels like Nefty is that type.

baseball intelligenterer
baseball intelligenterer

Not very baseball intelligent. Ace starters are as rare as they come and give you exponentially more innings to a team than a reliever, and this team doesn't make the world series last year without an ace. You gotta get the lead for a closer to matter in the 9th, and Neftali didn't mean jack squat in the World Series because of that.

And since when have people been on the Feliz to the rotation bandwagon? The vast majority are the monkey see monkey do variety who want to keep the status quo. This team needs to think outside the box a bit and JD fortunately is the type to do it.

phe_75034
phe_75034

I pretty much agree, but....

Isn't a dominant starter more valueable than a dominant closer? I mean, wouldn't you want your beast throwing 6, 7, 8 innings every five days, rather than an inning and a bit four out of five days?

Dominant closers are hard to find. But dominant starters don't exactly grow on trees either, and it just seems like starters contribute more over the course of the season.

Thoughts? Am I wrong?

kergo
kergo

I wouldn't have given a box of rocks for Napoli and his fat #ss.....we couldn't use Frankie? Better hope Nefti is lights out again, and that all those spare parts fit in JUST right.

Let's see: Every team in the AL West is better, this team is not as good as last October.

MikeInEuless
MikeInEuless

I think Michael Kirkman will be in the mix, assuming he doesn't somehow crack the 2011 rotation. Eventually I think he will be a starter but I hope this season will be one where he transitions to a fulltime major leaguer by working significant innings out of the bullpen and by reducing his walks per innings pitched.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

Wasn't Mark Lowe out all year because of back surgery? I think what we saw of him in the playoffs was his first work of the season. Of course he'd be rusty. I'll give him a couple of weeks at the start of the season to see what he's got. Scheppers, I think, just wore down in the second half. If push comes to shove, put him in the bullpen and use him sparingly keeping him somewhat fresh. Plus, I see Ogando starting before Feliz.

I don't think it's gonna be all that bad, Richie.

Richie Whitt
Richie Whitt

I admit that my Lowe image was formed during World Series.

Judge_Softy
Judge_Softy

Give me Ogando over fatass hothead Frankie Frank any day of the week. He'll be just FINE as our closer, should Felix become a starter. The real void then becomes set-up man.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

You've got to get over the Greinke thing, considering you kept going on and on about how Lewis was better when Greinke was on the block.

Frankie contributed very little last year, especially during the late season push when he was injured. Keep in mind they signed Arthur Rhodes too.

Odds aren't that great that Feliz blows the doors off spring training and earns a rotation slot. He'll have to be ultra-impressive, and if he is, that's a great problem to have. If that scenario happens, Ogando closes and can't handle it, Lowe closes and can't handle it, perhaps you give Scheppers a try there or you make a move then. Big ifs there.

This bullpen is pretty solid.

Richie Whitt
Richie Whitt

You're right, I believe in Colby Lewis. But I'm having a hard time counting on Arthur Rhodes. Should I?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Well, he is old, but his ERA and WHIP the past 3 seasons has been pretty solid. As long as he doesn't get overworked like Oliver did (always a risk with Wash), he should be a good late inning left hand option.

There are alot of miles on his odometer though.

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