Neil Paine writes a piece in the NY Times about the Texas Rangers recent hot streak, how their defense has contributed to winning this season and last.
They’ve done it without an array of “name” pitchers like those of the Phillies, Giants and Brewers; instead, they’ve relied on converted relievers Alexi Ogando and C.J. Wilson; young, unspectacular strike-throwers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison; and a scrapheap pickup Colby Lewis.
While the names are unfamiliar, the results are excellent.
Is it due to the strategy to tell these pitchers to pound the strike zone and let the superior defense take care of the rest despite pitching in a notorious hitters’ ballpark in Arlington?
It certainly appears so.
The Brewers have gone in the opposite direction as the Rangers in terms of putting their team together. Whereas the Rangers built their club with this intention clearly in mind based on the deployment of players and execution of plans, the Brewers have a starting rotation of Cy Young Award quality-talent with Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo; a solid, gutty craftsman in Shaun Marcum; and a workmanlike veteran Randy Wolf.
The Brewers defense is also slow-footed and lacks range. Despite having pitchers in their starting rotation who are better than those on the Rangers, their ERA+ is in the middle-of-the-pack of the National League.
If a team brings in starting pitching the level of that which the Brewers have, ignoring the defense is a huge mistake.
The Rangers are deeply balanced and have built their team based on that conscious decision to focus on the factors of pitching and defense with a fair amount of power thrown in.
How much better would the Brewers be if they shored up the defense at third and short and would it behoove them to do so? And would fixing this issue now with the acquisition of a defensive ace at short the likes of Jack Wilson or Jason Bartlett help? There’s been talk of Rafael Furcal who’s been injured and awful, but a pennant race might wake up his game—if he’s healthy. They’d get him for nothing.
The Rangers success with this template is a better option than what the Brewers did. All that great pitching isn’t doing much good if the infielders don’t—or can’t—catch the ball.