Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sadly No: The Rangers are not the best starting pitching staff in baseball.

On a non-baseball internet forum I frequent, the argument has been put forward that Nolan Ryan's influence on pitcher conditioning and getting later into games is the sole reason the Texas Rangers pitching staff is much improved over years prior.  This is entirely possible, as their two best starters (CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis...who knew?) are averaging about 6 2/3 innings per start, a marked improvement over, say, the pre-Nolan 2007 season when 5 IP seemed like a pitch count limit.  The argument was also put forward that Texas has the best starting five in baseball.

In terms of overall staff figures, this is plainly absurd.  Texas's respectable 3.65 starter ERA is good for 8th in the league, but is a full run higher than that of the Cardinals, Rays, and Giants.  Their 158 IP is only 17th, despite Ryan's philosophy.  Their composite 9-6 record isn't poor, but they don't compare to the 15 wins held by the Yankees, Rays, and Twins.  The 74 walks issued by Rangers SPs is second only to the Rockies.  By second, I mean second highest, so perhaps "29th best" is more appropriate.  This puts them 23rd in K/BB, 13th in WHIP, and their xFIP is the 6th highest in baseball.

Now Harrison and Feldman might be better than Todd Wellemeyer (6.33 ERA) but the Giants 1-4 are so much better than the Rangers 1-4 that I don't consider this a serious comparison.  Or consider that the worst Rays starter right now, arguably Jeff Niemann, has a 2.76 ERA and no losses.  Or maybe it's James Shields, highest ERA (3.15) but he's 4-0 with more strikeouts than innings pitched.  Hell, the Cubs worst starter right now is Ted Lilly, and I'd still take him over Harrison and Feldman and probably Harden.  You can even make an argument for the Twins and Nick Blackburn, or Lohse and the Cardinals.

This isn't to say Texas fans shouldn't feel optimistic about their pitching for the first time since Nolan Ryan, they're doing quite well.  But the Yankees, Cardinals, and Giants each have four pitchers putting up ludicrous video game pitching numbers right now and are clearly the cream of the staff pitching crop in 2010.  It'll be interesting to see which of this year's out-of-nowhere studs falls apart first.

My bet is Brad Penny.

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