It's been a rough season-plus to be a Ranger fan. Last year was legendarily bad, unlucky and awful, and while a recent 6-2 stretch has been heartening, Texas was as bad as 8-16 only a week-and-change ago, and it's not like they appear likely to compete for a playoff spot.
Any number of things contribute to that. Prince Fielder had a disaster 2013. Jurickson Profar hasn't played in a season and a half. Elvis Andrus lost his bat and has been swinging a pool noodle for a long time. Until recently, Shin-Soo Choo wished he could borrow that pool noodle.
But the biggest reason why the Rangers are 81-113 since the start of last season is the starting rotation. Things have ... well, they've been bad:
The Rangers 60-day DL rotation is better than a lot of teams rotations. Darvish Holland Perez Harrison Bonilla— Martin (@BABIP_God) April 12, 2015
@clint_bruton Rangers have a great full rotation on the DL— Aaron Clements (@Aaronclmnts) April 27, 2015
Easy to overreact after Rangers loss today. Easy to forget Yu, Holland, Harrison, Perez all on DL. That's a brilliant rotation.— Sam Fox (@curlyheadedfox) April 20, 2015
@mama_stacy Rangers 60 Day DL rotation would light up MLB...Darvish, Holland, Perez, Harrison... Ghost of Nolan Ryan haunting us.— Rodney Webb (@Jacket4Life) April 14, 2015
The Rangers have the best rotation on the DL in baseball. So there's that.— Sean Bloodgood (@seanb1223) April 5, 2015
In theory, a World Series winner could have that starting rotation (pick your name for the fifth slot — Bonilla, Tepesch, whatever — but it's the first four names that matter) and you wouldn't think twice about it. Even if the Rangers' offense were as good as its late-1990s vintage, that's just not make-up-for-able.
Frankly, what the Rangers have been able to do with a starting rotation considering all that is amazing. Ross Detwiler has been awful, as everybody in the world not already named Detwiler could have said. But Wandy Rodriguez has come back from the dead to pitch quite well through four starts. Yovani Gallardo has a 4.19 ERA and a 2-5 record, but had he been the No. 3 or 4 pitcher they intended, his numbers would work okay. Nick Martinez has been amazing (1.47 ERA through 36.2 innings), even if his 3.7 K/9 does not inspire long-term confidence.
The most interesting one, though, is Colby Lewis. Lewis, 35, was a disaster much of last year. After a 13-run, 2.1-inning outing July 10, Lewis had a 6.54 ERA in 84 innings, with a 1.82 WHIP. He was still in the rotation basically because ... well, you know, all the guys whose arms fell off. Lewis entered the big leagues in 2002, didn't pitch at all in MLB in 2005, 2008, 2009 or 2013, and looked like he might be reaching the end of his run. As Adam Morris pointed out on Lone Star Ball, Lewis has had Tommy John surgery, rotator cuff surgery, tendon flexor surgery and "a hip procedure which no pitcher had ever come back from." Dude shouldn't even be using his arms anymore.
Things turned, though. He wasn't great the rest of 2014, but Lewis pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 86.1 innings, pitching to a WHIP off 1.23. All-Star level? No. But it at least gave hope that Lewis could be a contributing member of a 2014 Rangers bounceback.
It's this year that has really been encouraging. Through seven starts, as of his win over the Royals Monday, Lewis has a 2.40 ERA. And, while he isn't exactly striking out a million people (6.8 K/9), he's been good for a FIP of 3.30. He's allowed two runs in 21 innings in May, and even when he wasn't as good early in the season, his ERA hasn't been above 3.79 any day all season.
None of the Texas pitchers is widely owned. In Yahoo! leagues, Martinez is at 35 percent, Gallardo 28, Rodriguez 8 and Detwiler 1 (poor souls, that one percent). It's easy to imagine Rodriguez slips; Gallardo hasn't even been great; Martinez screams regression. Lewis, though — this looks like who he is. Since coming back to the bigs in 2010, short of that awful stretch last season, Lewis has been solid and unspectacular, reliable but not flashy. He's the cardigan of pitchers.
He's 24-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. Most of the time, when I write these, I point out that guys' ownership percentages should be considerably higher. In this instance, I'm not really saying that. Lewis is 24-percent owned. That could stand to be higher, but I can't say it needs to be.
All I'm saying here is that Lewis is easy to scroll right past, to ignore almost completely. And that isn't fair. Lewis might not belong on your roster. But I've mentioned him to a couple of people who largely scoffed. "Lewis is terrible. I wouldn't touch him!" And he's not a scoff-and-dismiss guy. He's a streaming candidate. Ownership of 24 percent might now be far off. But when his next start rolls around (currently scheduled for a home game against Cleveland Saturday), Lewis belongs right in the middle of the streamer conversation, not around the fringes of the dump pile.