Friday, October 7, 2011
Five questions for the Texas Rangers bullpen in ALCS
For the Rangers to get back to the World Series, the bullpen will be key.
1. Should Koji Uehara pitch when the Rangers have a lead?
When the Rangers traded for Koji Uehara, you couldn’t have asked for a better answer to the team’s bullpen woes. His numbers were ridiculous at the time: 62 strikeouts, a 1.72 ERA, and 25 hits in 47 innings. It was hard to decide who would pitch the 8th inning, Uehara or Mike Adams.
It didn’t take long to figure Koji was not the 8th inning guy. He didn’t fare the same pitching in a pennant race for the Rangers as opposed to playing out the string in Baltimore. That goes double for pitching in the postseason.
Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote in August about the high expectations placed on relievers and counted a couple of hiccups by Adams and Uehara as being human. Well for teams with hopes of a World Series ring, human is not good enough. Think Gibson, Jackson, Schilling, and Morris.
In Game 2, Uehara’s line was 0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 3ER. Fortunately the Rangers had a 7-3 lead before Uehara yielded a 3 run homer, but the game went from Rangers in control to Rays could win in a matter of minutes.
At this point of the season, games should be six innings long. After the 6th, there’s little room for error. I’d say reserve Koji for one batter situations or games where the Rangers are down.
2. Who is Michael Gonzalez?
The addition of Michael Gonzalez at the end of August was easy to miss. While the trades for Uehara and Adams where heralded, Gonzalez just kind of showed up on the mound one day.
I’m pretty intrigued by Gonzalez’s wind up and delivery, but that’s my own deal. Regardless of what the Rangers have asked him to do, he’s done it well -- whether it be as a situational lefty out of the pen or to get multiple outs. Gonzalez could play a pivotal role somewhere in this series. He’ll be ready.
3. Is the real Neftali Feliz back?
I think he is. Early in the season it seemed like Feliz wasn’t himself with the whole starter/closer situation. But he eventually settled into a groove and got the job done when it counted.
We’ve seen that Feliz can be as good as the Rangers need him to be. If he comes in with a two run lead, then there’s a high probability a batter will get on first with a walk or hit and move down to second base on defensive indifference. The runner may score, but he can usually shut the door without blowing the save. I’m pretty comfortable with that guy in the closer role.
4. Which Mike Adams will we see?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I remember being at the bowling alley on August 2nd when Adams made his first relief appearance for the Rangers. It was against the Detroit Tigers, and Adams gave into a tie game in the 8th and promptly surrendered a go ahead home run to Brennan Boesch in the eighth inning of a tie game. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Adams allowed a homerun to Mark Trumbo in the bottom of the 9th that kept the Rangers from sweeping the Angels, made a potential 8 game into 6, and sparked a pretty salty win streak by the Halos. And then there was Game 3 of the ALDS.
I tweeted in the last week of the season how everything about Mike Adams, except the part from when the ball leaves his hand to hitting the mitt, worries me. His mound presence makes me nervous.
He looks like he’s thinks he might do a bad job. I heard someone say he seemed to be sick in Game 3. He always looks like that to me. It feels like trouble is right around the corner when he’s on the mound.
I hope that’s not the case. The Rangers could use him though because they’ve got to have three GREAT arms out of the bullpen and his should be one.
5. What do you do with Alexi Ogando?
Ogando is smoking right now. The guy had a great season as a starter and was good down the stretch with a little extra rest. He’s been lights out in the postseason as a reliever, a role he thrived in last year.
It would be good to have a set plan for who will pitch the 7th and who will pitch the 8th inning in a close game. Ron Washington may already know, but it’s hard to see how he could. In Game 3 of the ALDS Adams blows up in the 8th, but comes back and excels in the 7th inning of Game 4.
I like Ogando in the 8th, but mostly, I like him when the fire is the hottest. I think back to someone asking Wash at the beginning why thought Ogando could handle being a starter. He said most of the time Ogando doesn’t know where he is, in terms of how big the stage really is. He just goes out and pitches.
The guy never seems to get bothered. That could prove valuable if the Rangers are going to make a second straight trip to the World Series.
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