Building the Ultimate Pitcher's Repertoire, Using the Texas Rangers' Stout Rotation
The coronavirus pandemic has given baseball writers all kinds of time to dream up the wild scenarios. Last week, the Sports Illustrated MLB staff constructed the ultimate starting rotation for the 2020 season. InsideTheRangers.com followed suit with our own dream rotation, which included Texas Rangers starter Lance Lynn.
This week, the SI MLB staff and local writers have teamed up again to build the ultimate pitcher's repertoire. Staff writers including Tom Verducci, Stephanie Apstein, Emma Baccellieri, Connor Grossman, Matt Martell, and Michael Shapiro took some of the best pitches from around all of Major League Baseball – Gerrit Cole's fastball or Clayton Kershaw's curveball – and built their own fictional and seemingly unhittable pitchers.
- SI.com: Building The Perfect Pitcher
Here on InsideTheRangers.com, we have the benefit of looking at a pretty stout rotation right here in Arlington. Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels revamped the Texas rotation over the winter, which now boasts two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber along with incumbent arms Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, both of which were Cy Young candidates in 2019.
With this impressive group of arms, we've built a pitcher that would likely buckle the best hitters in the game on a regular basis.
Fastball: Lance Lynn
Nolan Ryan, the most iconic pitcher in Texas Rangers history, has arguably the most iconic fastball in the history of baseball. While Lance Lynn's fastball isn't quite on that level, it is one of the better ones in baseball.
Lynn's made a career off his fastball/sinker combo. In his best days in St. Louis, he heavily relied on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 56.6 percent of the time in 2015 before he was sidelined for all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
When Lynn returned in 2017, he primarily relied on his sinker over his four-seamer. While it generated relatively positive results during that season, the same can't be said for 2018. When Lynn signed with the Rangers going into 2019, Lynn returned back to a heavy reliance on his four-seamer, throwing it 54.1 percent of the time.
Lynn has also increased his velocity from previous seasons. His average velocity on his four-seamer in 2019 was 94.6 mph and could reach back at any moment to top out at 98 mph if he wanted to. He generated a 30.7 percent whiff rate on his fastball and hitters only generated a .218 average against it.
With how often Lynn throws his fastball, he is very successful with it. Turning back to the four-seamer paid off as he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting in 2019.
Changeup: Mike Minor
Mike Minor has seen a wonderful resurrection to his career in a Rangers uniform. After a successful stint out of the bullpen with the Kansas City Royals, the Rangers signed Minor to a three-year deal ahead of the 2018 season giving him a chance to start.
Both the Rangers and Minor have reaped the benefit of this move.
Minor has a classic four-pitch repertoire (four-seam, changeup, slider, curveball), but his lights out pitch has to be his changeup. Minor does generate a higher swing-and-miss rate with his curveball, but his changeup is right behind it. Add in the fact that he throws his changeup over two-and-a-half times as often as his curveball along with a .178 batting average against it, that makes it the most dangerous pitch in his repertoire.
Despite Minor's changeup averaging 86.2 mph in 2019, compared to his average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph, the horizontal movement is what buckles hitters. That's why the southpaw primarily throws hit against right-handed hitters. He can either throw it tailing out of the zone or as a front door knee-buckler (as seen against Houston's Jose Altuve above).
Breaking Ball: Corey Kluber
Call it a curve, a slider, a slurve, or just plain nasty. Corey Kluber's self-defined "breaking ball" is one of the most unique pitches baseball has ever seen. With the characteristics of a tight curveball with the horizontal break of a slider, Kluber's breaking ball has baffled hitters for the better part of a decade.
Even in his brief, unlucky, and rather forgettable 2019 campaign, his breaking ball was still nearly unhittable.
When Kluber is on top of his game, there might not be a more dangerous pitch in baseball. In his 2017 Cy Young winning season, his breaking ball generated a 49.0 whiff rate with a .099 batting average against. Even over the last two seasons, batters only hit .115 when the Klubot threw his breaking ball.
After some physical ailments that could have possibly caused his delivery point to dip over the past few seasons, his time off in 2019 from a broken arm and oblique injury may be a blessing in disguise for the two-time Cy Young winner.
Slider: Kyle Gibson
The other three Rangers pitchers here will likely get the most amount of attention from fans and media. It's understandable. After all, whenever a pitcher's name is even mentioned in the same sentence with the words "Cy Young," it's going to merit attention. However, let's not overlook a guy like Kyle Gibson.
Gibson has a five-pitch mix of a sinker, slider, four-seam fastball, changeup, and curveball, all of which are listed in their order of usage respectively. Gibson's slider could be overlooked by a lot of people, but it should not be.
Gibson's slider generated a 52.6 whiff rate with the Twins in 2019, all while using it more than everything else except his sinker, his primary pitch. Batters only hit .175 against Gibson's slider in 2019. Of his 160 strikeouts in 2019, 73 of them came on his slider.
No, Gibson's slider isn't on the same level as Justin Verlander's, but it's plenty good enough to make hitters look ridiculous.
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