It's now time to talk about the guys on the mound. How they are designated -- No. 1 starter, etc. -- is certainly up for debate. Yu Darvish is expected to be this club's No. 1 pitcher at some point. But for the purposes of this series, we'll take a guess at how the rotation might line up and go from there.
Today's position: No. 1 starter
We'll give this slot to Colby Lewis. Why? Because manager Ron Washington has already stated that Lewis will be the Opening Day starter. He's been a solid starter for the Rangers the last two seasons after finding his location and control in Japan, where he played for two seasons.
Lewis was 14-10 with a 4.40 ERA in 200 1/3 innings in 2011. It was the second consecutive season he's thrown more than 200 innings. Lewis was 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA in 2010.
Lewis, 32, is in the final year of his contract after the Rangers picked up a club option for 2012 at $3.25 million. He was a much better pitcher on the road than at home in 2011 (after being better at home than on the road in 2010 ... go figure). He was 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA away from Arlington and 5-5 with a 5.54 ERA at home.
Lewis had a solid July and then struggled a bit in August and September. But when he needed to be at his best in October, he was. He was 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts in the 2011 postseason. The win was in pivotal Game 3 of the ALDS, as the Rangers took a 2-1 series lead wtih a 4-3 victory at Tropicana Field. They won the series in four games.
In fact, over the past two seasons, Lewis has been the club's top playoff pitcher. He was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in the 2010 postseason, including the club's only win over the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
Lewis had two complete games in 2011, joining Derek Holland (4) and C.J. Wilson (3) as the only Rangers with multiple complete games. Lewis got his in consecutive road starts in May (May 5 at Seattle and May 16 at Chicago White Sox), becoming the first starter with back-to-back complete games on the road since Kenny Rogers in May 1994. Lewis had 169 strikeouts, good enough for second on the staff, and posted a career-high 11 strikeouts against the Mariners on May 5.
Lewis' biggest weakness in 2011 was the home run ball. He gave up 35 home runs, the most in the American League and second most in the majors behind Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (44). It was the most homers allowed by a Rangers pitcher since Rick Helling surrendered 38 in 2001. Of the 35 homers, lefties hit 21 and 23 were solo shots.
Lewis also made news in 2011, becoming the first player to be placed on the MLB's Paternity Leave List (a smart, new policy from MLB to let players be there for the birth and give the teams a chance to replace them on the roster) from April 15-17 to be at the birth of his daughter.
Lewis comes into 2012 as the anchor of the Rangers' rotation. He's been a reliable innings eater and has shown up in the postseason. He looks for more of the same as the Rangers try to get back to the World Series for a third consecutive year.