This is the final installment of my series in reviewing how the Rangers performed prior to the All-Star break. The starting rotation has arguably been the biggest reason why the Rangers have had so much success this season. When was the last time you could say that?
Going into the season, Scott Feldman and Rich Harden were supposed to anchor the rotation, but they have probably been the Rangers two worst starters so far in 2010. Coming off 17 wins last season, Feldman has disappointed many by going 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA in the first half.
Harden has been just as bad, going 3-3 with a 5.68 ERA with only 59 strikeouts in 65 innings. He was placed on the DL with a strained glute after his start on June 11 and has been there ever since. Harden has typically been a better second half pitcher, so if he can find his way back, he may be able to add some depth to the pitching staff.
The other three guys have been the backbone of the starting rotation so far: Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hunter. We really didn’t know what to expect from Lewis coming over from Japan in the off-season, but he has been the workhorse for the Rangers. Lewis had a record of 8-5 with a 3.33 ERA in the first half and went at least six innings in 13 of his 17 starts. Lewis picked up his 9th win in his first start after the ASB in Boston allowing three runs in five innings.
C.J. Wilson desperately wanted to be a starter in spring training and he earned that chance with his performances in Surprise, AZ. I think everybody is happy with the way he has performed so far. Wilson began the season with seven consecutive quality starts but had a little rough stretch in late May/early June. However, C.J. has responded since then with six quality starts in eight appearances since June 9. His record in the first half was 7-5 with a solid 3.35 ERA. His first start after the ASB against Boston yesterday was phenomenal as C.J. struck out a career high 10 allowing only one run on three hits.
Tommy Hunter was on the DL to begin the season and didn’t make his 2010 debut until June 5. It didn’t take long for Hunter to make a good first impression. He threw a complete game, five hitter against Tampa Bay on a scorching hot day in Arlington as the Rangers won 6-1. He hasn’t regressed since then as he had a 5-0 record with a 2.34 ERA at the ASB with six quality starts in seven appearances. The only non-quality start was the game in Florida when he left early with an injury. His first start after the ASB in Boston was fantastic as well, going 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits in a victory.
The addition of Cliff Lee at the ASB is only going to help this starting rotation even more. Not only will he provide that ace of the staff that the Rangers have always needed, but he will also take a load off of the bullpen: he has pitched nine innings in each of his first two starts for the Rangers. If the Rangers are going to go on and make the playoffs, look for the starting pitchers to be a big part of it.