One thing is coming clear. Dane Dunning can pitch.
In a year of trials and tribulations and seeing who can play major league baseball and who can’t, Dunning is proving he deserves a spot of his own in the Rangers rotation. He doesn’t need piggybacking, thank you.
Of course, he will not always carry a 0.60 ERA. He is, after all, human. And he is, after all, facing major league pitching. And he doesn’t, sadly, get to face Rangers hitting which would help lower anyone’s ERA.
But in three starts, he has pitched 15 innings, struck out 16 batters and walked only two, given up one earned run on ten hits. That’s good for a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.800. Anything under 1.000 is exceptional. He is twenty-percent better than exceptional.
Compare Rangers’ starters ERAs (including piggyback partners):
Dane Dunning: 0.60
Kohei Arihara: 3.07
Kyle Gibson: 4.05
Jordan Lyles: 4.70
Wes Benjamin: 4.76
Mike Foltynewicz: 5.63
Taylor Hearn: 5.59
This leads to one question (well, many if you allow it to): Why do they feel a need to piggyback Dane Dunning?
Yes, he is one year removed from Tommy John. But that’s what last year was. The White Sox eased his arm into seven games in 2020. He was 2-0 with a pretty decent 3.97 ERA.
The Rangers want to protect Dunning. It makes sense since he was the return in the Lance Lynn deal, and since he appears to be a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher.
At least take off the training wheels. Stop referring to him as the first part of a piggyback tandem. Start referring to him as what he is. The best pitcher in your rotation. Your ace, even.
There really isn’t a close second.