Looking for positives on this team’s pitching is actually pretty easy. There are so few that the good ones stand out like a skyscraper in a desert.
Mike Minor picked up his club-best twelfth win and Jose Leclerc picked up his tenth save in last night’s 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Mike Trout.
Minor was a quintessential Jon Daniels signing: cheap damaged goods. And while Bruce Chen and Armando Galarraga and Tommy Hansen and Tim Lincecum and Travis Blakley and Rich Harden and Ross Detweiler and Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Griffin and Kyle Lohse and Tyson Ross and Yovani Gallardo and Bartolo Colon and Doug Fister and Matt Moore, among others, were mostly monumental busts and wastes of good money, Mike Minor is the rare Daniels success story.
His overall ERA isn’t all that impressive. Even after last night’s one run in six inning gem, it’s just 4.19. But numbers don’t tell the story here. For one, 4.19 is by far the best on this staff. But this isn’t a case of the fastest snail syndrome.
He’s 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA since the All-Star break.
Minor came into the season after shining in the Kansas City bullpen in 2017. That in itself was a major accomplishment for him. He missed the previous two seasons because of surgery. This season it took him a while to get his bearings as he returned to the role of a starter. But once he found his legs, he has been brilliant.
Brilliant is a term you can apply to Jose Leclerc as well. According to Jamey Newberg in The Athletic, before last night, and since taking over as the team’s closer, Leclerc had faced forty-one batters. One has gotten a base hit. Three walked. One was hit by a pitch. And twenty-two struck out. As Newberg points out, “The league is hitting .027/.122/.054 off Closer Jose Leclerc, striking out nearly twice an inning.” Which is what he did last night as well. Zero hits. Two strikeouts. Much of the credit to Leclerc’s incredible turnaround, as Newberg digs up, goes to minor league pitching coach Jose Jaimes. Remember that name. He is a gem. He turned Leclarc into one.
Nothing says you are throwing in the towel quite like throwing away your closer mid-season, which the Rangers did when they traded Keona Kela at the break. Rather than working around a gaping hole, the Rangers struck oil.
Texas still has gaping holes. Many many gaping holes to fill in its pitching staff for 2019.
Mike Minor and Jose Leclerc are two certainties.
Now, just four more quality (see list above, avoid) starters and twelve more relievers and this team is ready.
Adrian Sampson (0-0, 54.00) vs. Jim Johnson (5-3, 3.81)
Game time: 9:07
How the Rangers hit against Johnson.
The Angels have never hit against Sampson.