Fresh off a three game series sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rangers find themselves battling for an A.L wild card spot. In their path stands a gauntlet of teams, the Yankees, Royals, Rays, Twins, Angels, and Mariners, all of which have respectable bullpens.
Then stands the Rangers, 2.5 games back of the 2nd wild card position, and in a conundrum of whether to buy or sell. It is no secret Jeff Banister has struggled to recreate the success from the bullpen he obtained last season en route to a 2nd consecutive A.L West title. The stats speak for themselves: 17 blown saves, a save percentage of 50%, and the opening day closer, Sam Dyson, is now in San Francisco.
In many ways, the Rangers bullpen has blown what could’ve been a historic division race between Texas and Houston. The bullpen has been charged with 20 losses to this point of the season. The average Major League bullpen would only have about 8, meaning if the Rangers bullpen were average, Jeff Banister’s team would be 60-38, and only 5 games back of the Astros.
However, the reality is that the bullpen has been less than effective, and instead of being in the midst of a division race, the Rangers are lucky to be battling for a wild card spot. Despite the futile efforts of guys like Sam Dyson, Tony Barnette, and at times, Matt Bush, a 6’3, 180 lbs southpaw from Puerto Rico has continued his rise that began last July.
Alex Claudio has continued to show time after time how crucial he is to this team. His versatility is almost unheard of: He has the ability to pitch 2-3 innings if the starter gets knocked out early, and then 2 nights later, throw a 1-2-3 ninth inning to convert a save. Claudio’s ERA stands at 2.42, and has converted 4 saves, 3 of which have came since the all-star break. Those stats are impressive, but, perhaps, aren’t even his best. Claudio possesses an other-worldly 3.35 pitches per plate appearance. His ability to get outs without throwing a great deal of pitches allows Claudio to pitch a critical 8th or 9th inning on consecutive days while still being very effective.
Since the all-star break, Claudio has really turned it on, giving up only two base baserunners (neither of which scored) in 6 1/3 innings of work. Claudio’s emergence as a go-to guy has been monumental, and will continue to be a pivotal piece for a team that is searching for its third consecutive postseason appearance.