Rangers' rotation championship ready?
The rotation is ready
The Texas Rangers are in an enviable spot. They don't have to make a move at the trade deadline, but they have the pieces to do so if they choose.
But it's those premium pieces -- Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt -- that the club should keep rather than dealing them for a starting pitcher, even one with the résumé of Cole Hamels.
Why? Because the current pitching staff is good enough to win a World Series without giving up a top-flight prospect.
Matt Harrison has become a consistent pitcher capable of going deep into games and producing sterling performances when his offense isn't clicking. Colby Lewis has been this club's best postseason starter the past two years and won't be intimidated by the surroundings. Roy Oswalt gives this club a veteran presence who knows all about pitching when it matters most. Derek Holland needs to show he is healthy and can return to form, but his last two starts have been good ones. And the baseball world saw how he responds to pressure with his outstanding Game 4 outing in the World Series last year.
The biggest question in the rotation is Yu Darvish. The 25-year-old hasn't figured out how to command his fastball consistently enough to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. He has a few months to improve and be ready for the playoffs.
But it's the bullpen that makes the staff good enough to win a title. The Rangers' relief corps is one of the best in the big leagues.
Joe Nathan was an All-Star this year and is one of the dominant closers in the game. Mike Adams gives manager Ron Washington a reliable eighth-inning setup piece. Rookie Robbie Ross has emerged as a versatile option who can pitch multiple innings and get hitters out on both sides of the plate. Alexi Ogando has returned from the disabled list, making the bullpen stronger. And if there's not a rotation spot for Neftali Feliz, the Rangers could have another versatile reliever in the fold.
We haven't even talked about the offense, which has not found a groove the past few months. It's difficult to imagine with the track record of the guys in the lineup that they won't start hitting better, putting even less pressure on the starters to shut down the opposition.
The Rangers have a rotation and a club good enough to win the World Series. They don't have to overpay for a rental pitcher.
These arms aren't able
Winning in the postseason is all about pitching. If you have an ace and two other strong starters, your team has a helluva chance to win, especially when coupled with even a decent offense.
Look at the three best teams in the American League. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels have a better shot at winning the World Series than the two-time defending American League champs Texas Rangers because they have that one thing that the Rangers do not -- a proven ace.
The Yankees and Angels are also playing better baseball over the past two months. Both have a better record than the Rangers during that time and have played more consistently. The Yankees and Angels have proven front-end pitchers in CC Sabathia and Jered Weaver with potent offenses backing them up.
The Rangers think they have a Game 1 starter in Matt Harrison, but as one baseball expert said on Galloway and Company earlier this week, as dominant as Harrison has been over his last 10 starts (8-1), he still doesn't have faith in Harry getting the ball to start a series.
Colby Lewis has been a stalwart in the past two postseasons, but do you have immense confidence that he can stare down Weaver?
Take a look at who is behind the front-end pitchers for the top three teams and the advantage still goes to the Yankees and Angels. Hiroki Kuroda has been solid with a 3.57 ERA for the Yanks, and Ivan Nova has won six of his last 10, pitching into the sixth inning in every start over that stretch except one.
We'll see what Dan Haren has Sunday when he faces the Rangers in his first start since coming off the disabled list. People in L.A. expect to see a dominant Haren in the second half of the season now that his back strain is healed. Throw in Ervin Santana and a charged offense, and the Angels have a potent formula to contend for a World Series crown.
The Rangers hope Roy Oswalt can be the Oswalt of old. They hope Yu Darvish can cut down on walks and attack hitters. They hope Derek Holland can recapture the magic he had the second half of last season when he went 9-1. They hope Harrison can be that guy in Game 1.
The Yankees and Angels know what they have now. The Rangers need to call the Phillies and hope they can get Cole Hamels. Then they will know they have a rotation that can win the World Series.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
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Rangers team president Nolan Ryan dishes on Yu Darvish's poor outing, Matt Harrison's complete game shutout and much more.