The pen. 21 comments

Bullpens are the toughest thing to handicap.

It used to be bullpens were some sore armed starters who come in to finish out a few games a month. That was back when starting pitchers were expected to pitch. And when starting pitchers went every four days instead of every five days.

But now that starting pitchers are china dolls and mainly just innings fillers, bullpens are as important as starters. Or, maybe to put it more aptly, are as unimportant as starters.

It’s just pitchers getting outs. The ones who start the game are expected to get a few more outs than the ones who come out of the bullpen.

It diminishes the responsibly of your better pitchers (starters) by increasing the responsibility of pitchers who weren’t good enough to be starters. It’s putting the outcome of the game into the hands of the ones least capable.

It’s silly. But it’s the way baseball is right now. Because major league baseball is a game of copy cats.

Which leads to the Rangers bullpen, traditionally the biggest afterthought on a Jon Daniels constructed roster (other than defense and developing pitching). In some ways, it makes sense. A bullpen is as reliable as a brother-in-law who just got out of prison.

Rare is the bullpen that, collectively, is consistent from season to season. Mostly it’s made up of guys who are headed to somewhere else and stop by on their way.

The main problem with the Rangers bullpen is they don’t have a closer.  Well, they do, they just don’t have an elite closer. So it’s really up to whoever has the hot hand for a two- or three-week period.

It could be Alex Claudio. It could be Jake Diekman. It could be Matt Bush. It could be Tim Lincecum. It could be Kevin Jepsen. It could be you.

On a team with deep-playoff aspirations, an elite closer is really handy. On the Rangers, closer du jour will do.

Final bullpen spots are still up for grabs. With the combination of Banister’s early-to-yank management philosophy and a starting staff assembled for early yanking, this bullpen is going to be like the State of California. Overtaxed to the point of collapse. Uninhabitable.

Making the Rangers bullpen isn’t necessary a badge of honor as much as it is a call to duty.

Good luck, my brave bullpen soldiers. See you Thursday. Then see you on the other side.