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As a whole, the Rangers pitching staff is averaging 3.4 BB/9, 5.3 K/9, and 1.25 HR/9 for a 5.17 FIP this season. Compare that with 3.9 BB/9, 6.1 K/9, and 1.1 HR/9 for a 4.83 FIP last season. The walks are down a bit, but so are the strikeouts, and the home runs are up, which more than offsets the drop in walk rate. Texas' pitching staff isn't doing any better this year than they did last year. They still aren't very good.
Why is their ERA lower then? Texas got on the defensive bandwagon over the off-season, and their decision to realign the team in order to improve the glovework has made them significantly better. It's the defense, not the pitching.
By shifting the assets around to make room for Andrus, the Rangers have drastically improved their infield defense at three spots. Not surprisingly, their team-wide UZR has gone from -51.7 in 2008 to +9.5 in 2009. This is expressly manifest in the lower team ERA that Neyer noted yesterday - their 4.72 ERA is 45 points lower than their 5.17 FIP, giving them the fourth largest gap between how well they are preventing runs and how well their pitchers are actually performing.
This isn't an accident. The Rangers made a conscious decision over the winter to upgrade their defense, and it's paying dividends early on. They might not win the AL West, but they're better than most people thought, and they're headed in the right direction.
As I noted, a significant bit of the Ranger pitching's "improvement" can be attributed to Kevin Millwood, whose ERA has dropped from 5.07 last year to 2.92 this year (granted, in just seven starts). But maybe Millwood only furthers Cameron's point, because Millwood's success has come despite a significantly lower strikeout rate, as the former power pitcher is averaging fewer than five K's per nine innings.
Keep those corrections coming!