I'm not sure there's much of a point to be made about what went down last night. The offense was decent, the starting pitching was horrid, and the bullpen was arguably even worse. "S--- happens" probably won't suffice as a good enough explanation for the pitchfork-wielding fans who demand that somebody be held accountable and/or that something be done in response to last night's brutal affair, but it works well enough for me. I think.
With that said, however, I would like to break away from the usual mold this morning and play a little game -- a game I'd like to call "Who's That Pitcher?", which would probably be a bit more fun to play if I had snazzy audio intros and silhouettes of the pitchers in question. To that end, you'll just have to use your imagination and/or ingest a large quantity of hallucinogens beforehand.
Here, then, are those two unidentified pitchers:
Pitcher A: 158.2 IP, 4.42 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, 2.4 fWAR, 1.2 bWAR
Pitcher B: 159.2 IP, 3.83 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 1.5 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Pitcher A has posted inferior strikeout and walk rates this season compared to Pitcher B, but boasts a far superior -- albeit still league-average, at best -- home run rate. Pitcher A boasts what I think many would consider to be superior raw stuff at this stage in the game, but has endured the worse BABIP (.316) and left-on-base percentage (69.8 percent). Pitcher B, by comparison, has seen the velocity, consistency, and sharpness of his repertoire dwindle this season, and yet boasts a far better BABIP (.255 BABIP) and left-on-base rate (78.0 percent), which together have helped considerably in terms of pulling down his ERA.
Well, at least up until last night. Because last night, Pitcher B's ERA jumped 24 points to 4.07 overall on the season. Last night, Pitcher B's once-full reserve of political capital ran just a bit dryer.
As you might have already guessed by now, Pitcher A is Derek Holland, and Pitcher B is Colby Lewis, who was victimized for seven earned runs on nine hits, two walks, and two home runs in six nigh-unwatchable innings last night. Holland owns the better stuff, peripherals, and scores where the fielding-independent metrics are concerned, but has sunk or swam all season based on the vagaries of his command, and has lacked consistency and ... well, something important. Something that explains the flighty nature of his seasonal performance. Focus? Maturity? A killer instinct? I'm not sure how qualified I am to speculate on that, but it's apparent his development is a work in progress.
And, on the other side, you have Lewis, who has post-season experience, maturity, and probably every other virtuous intangible a pitcher can have working in his favor, but has witnessed a decline in his stuff to some extent, has been troubled by many of the same deficiencies in command as Holland, and hasn't really been all that much more consistent than Holland along the way.
Over his last seven starts, Holland has posted three very good to great starts, three miserable starts, and one iffy, mid-ranking start where he allowed only two earned runs in six innings despite also allowing 12 baserunners. Over his last seven starts, Lewis has posted three very good to great starts, two miserable starts, a below-average start, and an above average start. Cut that sample down to each pitcher's last six starts, and it looks even better for Holland and worse for Lewis. I'm being simplistic in my classifications of each pitcher's efforts over this stretch, but that owes more to me trying to make a point here than a conscious effort on my part to mislead.
The post-season is still more than a month off. If enough things go terribly wrong for the Rangers and enough things break right for the Angels, there won't be a post-season to speak of -- but, operating under the reasonable assumption that the Rangers probably will play on into the post-season, I'm not convinced that there's a place for Lewis in this team's post-season rotation. I think there's great question about who, between Lewis and Holland, has been the better pitcher up to this point in the season, and there may be even greater question about who will be the better pitcher from this point forward.
But if there's one question that overrides the rest of the pack, it has to be this: How do you make Holland and Lewis ... better?