Feldmania And That Olt Time Religion
One could find so many nasty things to say about the Texas Rangers, Ron Washington, Elvis Andrus and countless others associated with Sunday’s giveaway loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Rangers, though, took two of three from the Royals and gained a game on both the Angels and the A’s in the process, so Sunday’s game notwithstanding, it seems appropriate to say nice things about the team that once again has the best record in the American League.
Just six weeks ago, Rangers fandom, this writer included, was ready to jettison Scott Feldman to the Mars mission scheduled to land tonight. On June 4th, Feldman stood at 0-4 on the season. After finishing his fourth start as Neftali Feliz‘ replacement in the rotation, Scooter had an ERA of 7.01. While the ERA would improve over the next two starts, he still stood at 0-6, 6.50 on June 14th, a mere six weeks ago. What has transpired since then has been nothing short of amazing.
Over the next three starts, Feldman won two games and got one no decision. They weren’t lights out starts, but they did lower his ERA from 6.50 down to 6.11 on July 4th. At this point, it appeared Feldman would be returning to his original role of long relief, as Colby Lewis was coming off the DL and Roy Oswalt was now on board. Feldman expressed his displeasure at being pulled in one direction and then another, once again earning him little favor from the fans. He picked up his third win with two innings of relief in an extra inning win over the Twins. When Lewis’ season ended, Feldman was back in the rotation. Since then, he has been the Rangers steadiest starting pitcher. Over his past three starts, he’s allowed only three runs over 22.2 innings, lowering his ERA to 4.52. The three wins he’s earned in that span has brought him all the way back to 6-6 after an 0-6 start.
Feldman isn’t going to strike out a lot of people. He pitches to contact and when his cutter and sinker are working, the contact is usually poor. It was that talent that led him to a staff-leading 17 wins in 2009 and earned him the Opening Day spot for the 2010 season.
2010 wasn’t kind to Feldman. He struggled early and never got back on track. His season ended early and he underwent microfracture surgery on his knee, one of the first in baseball to undergo the procedure. He got a ring for being a member of the 2010 World series team, but he really didn’t contribute a lot: a 7-11 record with a 5.48 ERA. This didn’t gain him many friends in the fan base, considering he had signed a contract worth $8 million a year following his 17-win campaign.
He continued to alienate folks in 2011. He started the season in the minors, working his way back in shape from the surgery. At one point, disabled list rules called for the Rangers to call him back up unless Feldman agreed to continue his minor league rehab. Scooter refused. The Rangers were forced to bring him back up. He was used sparingly by the Rangers the rest of the year. In fact, he was with the club for almost two weeks before he was even called on to make a game appearance. By season’s end, he had appeared in just 11 games including two spot starts to give Alexi Ogando a rest. Feldman did pitch himself into at least decent graces again with the coaching staff and appeared in nine post-season games for Texas, including five games in the 2011 World Series.
Feldman began 2012 as the team’s long reliever. He made one spot start in April in which he lasted only 3.1 innings. Fans were willing to forgive him at first for a couple shaky starts. When he gave up eight runs in less than two innings of work against the A’s June 4th, that’s when the “Dump Feldman” griping came in earnest. Scooter persevered. Now he’s the Rangers most consistent starter. Good job Scott.
Meanwhile, the Mike Olt era began on Thursday when the heralded rookie was recalled from AA Frisco. Olt has now appeared in three games. On the negative side, Olt committed the game-ending error Sunday against the Royals. Everything else on his ledger has been positive. A noted power hitter, Olt has yet to get an extra base hit. He has, however, done exactly what Ron Washington preaches: he does what the game asks him to do. That’s why, after three games, Olt has just two singles in seven at bats. He also has three walks. He also has two sacrifice flies. He also has 3 RBI in three games, hitting in the 8 and 9 hole. He’s shown patience at the plate. He shortens up his swing once the count gets to two strikes. He’s made a lot of fans in just a short period of time. If he keeps it up for another couple of weeks, Olt might never see a minor league game again, unless it’s on a rehab assignment.
I still worry about this team’s post-season chances in 2012. Scott Feldman and Mike Olt are not a part of those worries.