It’s easy to let the way 2015 ended sour the taste of the good things that happened this season.
I am guilty of this, because the season ended with a slap to the face and a punch to the gut. That pain still resonates.
But 2015 was a far cry from 2014. And this team is miles ahead of where it was at this time last year.
First of all, 2015 was a first place team and not a last place team. So they’re already thirty-one games better than they were after the World Series last year. That is no minor accomplishment.
Going into this season, the Rangers had an injured Darvish, which was simply confirmed the the spring. Holland was coming off an impressive, albeit short, season. Colby Lewis had pitched like a guy coming back from hip, meaning not very well. Matt Harrison was a pipe dream. Martin Perez still had a long recovery period ahead of him for Tommy John. And Nick Martinez was a wild card.
A rotation of Holland, Lewis, Martinez and prayer would not put fear into an opposing hitter.
Cut to this year. Cole Hamels is far superior to anyone we had at this time last year. Martin Perez is healthy, and will have one more winter’s worth of recovery from his surgery. He is as good as anything we had coming into 2015.
So right there, with Hamels and Perez, the Rangers are in a much better place than they were twelve months ago.
Yu Darvish will be coming back in the first few months of the 2016 season, and that should give the Rangers three formidable starting pitchers.
The other two spots? It could be Derek Holland, if he gets over his fear of being sixty feet and six inches away from a guy swinging a bat. It could be Chi Chi Gonzalez, if he develops a more dominating out pitch. It could be Nick Martinez, he was dominating the first five weeks of 2015.
It could be free-agents they know in Yovani Gallardo or Colby Lewis, if the Rangers decide to re-sign both or either.
Or it could be one of the great crop of free agent starters available on the market this off-season. Or someone they trade for.
The point is, the Rangers are light years ahead of the rotation they ended 2014 with.
This team will be a real contender in 2016, and that wasn’t the case coming into 2015.
Let’s see what the off-season brings.