The Rangers are revolutionizing the concept of the opener. For generations, the opener was a relief pitcher who started the game and went just few innings, then the game was turned over to the starter who pitched an inning or two until the bullpen comes in to close it out. This was done to spare the starter of the arduous task of having to pitch six innings.
It was an idea that worked fine all those years. But, like with everything, someone always finds a better way.
And that someone is the Texas Rangers.
Their new concept is to open the game with a starter, have him go just a few innings, then bring in the bullpen where the starter used to come in, and finally have the bullpen comes on to close out the game for the bullpen.
Here is how the “new opener” works:
Mike Minor, 4.2 innings.
Edinson Volquez, 4 innings.
Drew Smyly, 3 innings.
Shelby Miller, 3.2 innings.
Edinson Volquez, 3.2 innings.
Drew Smyly, 3.1 innings.
So far, out of 79 total innings pitched this season, only 42 have been logged by a starting pitcher. In nine games, only three times has a starter made it past five innings, and only twice into the seventh.
The concept of a quality start doesn’t apply to the Rangers. Their starters don’t throw enough innings.
The Rangers went into the season with a precarious rotation. Five starters with six Tommy John surgeries among them. After Thursday’s game, Edinson Volquez left with elbow soreness. It doesn’t look good.
Suddenly, the Rangers rotation has a hole. Chances are great Volquez won’t be the only one going down. Drew Smyly didn’t pitch at all last season. So, every inning he throws, even though it’s just three a game, he is exceeding his innings total. It won’t be long until they start monitoring his innings. But what does that mean? Cutting him down to two innings per start?
Shelby Miller pitched just sixteen innings. Just four more starts and he will exceed his total from last year, and then he will be on the watch list.
The trouble is, the Rangers barely had arms for a rotation begin with. There are no extra pitchers waiting in the wings. It’s another case of what Jon Daniels has said on more than one occasion of his leaving the major league team “exposed.”
Texas won’t just be in desperate need of rotation arms soon. With most starters barely making it through three innings, that leaves five or six innings a game the bullpen is going to have to work.
That means it won’t be long until guys get overtaxed. Or, long guys become starters and short relievers are asked to do what they aren’t capable of.
And then, when the pitching caves, the offense starts feeling pressure to score seven runs a game, which is never a good thing.
In other words, it’s going to be a real mess soon. What a shame. It could have been prevented.
But hey, we’ll have a roof next year.
Shelby Miller (0-0, 4.91) vs. Chris Stratton (0-1, 8.31)
Game time: 3:07