The usual ifs. 123 comments

Another spring training is behind us and this spring taught us all one thing: that spring training didn’t teach us a thing.

There was very little competition for open jobs. About the only surprise was how well Ryan Rua hit. But, if you looked at what he did when he came up at the end of 2014, it’s not that big of a surprise. He had fourteen RBIs in twenty-eight games and seemed to hit the ball hard every time.

The Rangers come into 2016 as defending West Division Champs, the weakest of the three American League Divisions in 2015.

While Seattle got a tick better, it’s not enough to worry about. The Rangers and the Astros are still the two teams that are getting all the pre-season love by people who predict things.

But, like with any season, there are ifs. Look at the rotation. It can be anywhere from spectacular to trainwreck. I think the needle will be pointing much more to the S rather than the T.

Cole Hamels will do what Cole Hamels always does. Win. Dominate most of the time. Fight like heck the rest of the time.

Martin Perez is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. At times he pitched brilliantly last season. His fourth game in particular was a masterpiece where he threw just eighty pitches in 8.1 innings, taken out for some headscratchingly head scratching reason, only to watch the bullpen nearly implode and graffiti over his masterpiece. Look for 2016 Martin Perez to be more like that Martin Perez.

The top of the rotation is locked and loaded.

The if parade starts after that.

The biggest enigma on the team is Derek Holland. There are two Derek Hollands, in fact. One Derek Holland is nicknamed the Dutch Oven. He pitches with confidence and has the ability to dominate games, like he did his first game back last season against the Mariners where he brilliantly mixed his pitches and kept the Mariners hitters totally baffled.

The other Derek Holland is called Flinchy. Flinchy pitched in the playoffs against Toronto. He is so scared of getting hit with a line drive that he winds up, throws the ball somewhere toward the batter, and tosses his hands in the air to protect his head. Rather than his head getting clobbered, though, his pitches do. When Flinchy shows up, many earned runs follow.

Second on the if parade is Colby Lewis. History says do not worry about Colby. He somehow managed to McGiver seventeen wins last year on an ERA that looked as pleasing as an old man at a nudist colony. But history also says thirty-seven-year-old pitchers with reconstructed hips should not be pitching. Eventually the batteries have to wear down on this animatronic marvel.

Then there’s Yu Darvish, coming back from Tommy John surgery. The prevailing opinion seems to be he will step back out on that mound and be the Yu Darvish he always was, as if he was merely flash frozen at the peak of freshness. That is highly unlikely. Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery, and there have been many with the pedigree of Yu Darvish, take time. Some a few months. Some half-a-season.

Don’t expect Darvish to immediately come back and pick up where he left off—losing 1-0 games with regularity. As Ryan Rua showed last season, coming back from major is difficult.

The Rangers won the West last year with four of these same five starters. Trade out Gallardo for Darvish and that’s the expected rotation this year.

Two solids and three ifs.

Like pretty much every other rotation in the American League.

I like our chances.

Better, I like our prospects should we need to turn them into another Cole Hamels.