It’s unusual to see such a stark contrast between a starting rotation and a bullpen on the same team, but that’s where the Texas Rangers find themselves at the midway point of the 2016 season. At the moment, the Rangers have a rather healthy lead atop the AL West, in large part because they have one of the best starting rotations in the American League. However, Texas also has one of the worst bullpens in baseball, which has been the team’s biggest weakness this season.
The Rangers have already been forced to make a change in the closer’s role this season, with Shawn Tolleson being removed from that post after a disastrous May and being replaced by Sam Dyson. While Dyson has responded well to becoming the closer, he lacks experience in that role and is not necessarily the kind of dominant reliever who is often seen closing out games for playoff-caliber teams.
In addition to the closer’s role, the Rangers have had difficulty finding consistent and reliable setup men to form a bridge between their starters and Dyson. Cesar Ramos and Jake Diekman, two of the most used pitchers out of the Texas bullpen, have both seen their performances go downhill over the course of the season, which is not a good sign for things to come. The Rangers have also had trouble finding competent pitchers to fill out the final couple of spots in the bullpen, and that lack of depth could become a problem during the second half of the season.
To make matters worse, the Rangers are currently missing three members of their starting rotation due to injury, including Yu Darvish, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, and Colby Lewis, who is having the best season of his career. With less talented pitchers filling out the rotation, there is more pressure on the Texas bullpen to perform. The Rangers are also taking pitchers who might otherwise be able to contribute out of the bullpen and putting them into the starting rotation, making the bullpen even weaker.
The Rangers have survived the first half of the season with a bullpen that’s well below average, but they may not be able to get through the second half, and they surely won’t survive the postseason. At some point, the Rangers must make a trade, possibly multiple trades, to acquire bullpen help in order to improve what has clearly been the team’s biggest weakness to this point in the season.