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Speaking of the bullpen...

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Regular LSB poster shroom offers some good comments on Gerry Fraley's incredible unprofessional game recap from the DMN yesterday...

But shroom's comments got me thinking about Fraley's overriding theme from that recap, which is summarized in the first line of the article:

The Rangers' bullpen ruined a game Saturday just as it has ruined a season.

While I know that the conventional wisdom is that the bullpen is to blame for the disappointing 2005 season, the Rangers' team ERA coming into tonight's game is 5.01 -- not great, but not nearly as awful as one might expect.

And the split between starters and relievers? 4.99 ERA for the bullpen, 5.02 ERA for starting ptichers. Rangers are 12th in the A.L. in relief ERA, and 12th in the A.L. in starting ERA.

Fraley's scapegoating of the bullpen is the simple, kneejerk reaction to make, but it simply doesn't dovetail with reality.

So what led to this disappointing season? There are multiple causes, as there almost always are. Yes, the loss of Frankie and Almanzar, plus Cordero's regression, hurt, as did Mahay going into the tank. But those were mitigated somewhat by John Wasdin and Joaquin Benoit both having excellent seasons in the pen, and Kam Loe being pretty solid as a setup man. The bullpen was not the strength of the team, as it was last year, but it isn't the out-and-out disaster some make it out to be.

More problematic, though, was the decision by the front office to not do anything to shore up the rotation this offseason. More problematic has been Hank Blalock's very disappointing season, the lack of production from DHs other than David Dellucci (Ranger DHs are .242/.329/.428 this season), and the lack of offense from right field and center field (.239/.311/.446 and .242/.297/.401, respectively).

Fraley's dime-store analysis notwithstanding, it isn't the bullpen's collapse, or the front office's decision not to go out and trade for a setup man, that killed this team this season. Rather, it was the gaping holes at the back of the rotation, and in a handful of spots in the lineup, which, combined with the pen's problem, kept the Rangers from competing.

And to be fair, this team also has suffered from a lot of bad luck...it has won fewer games than would be expected, based on its runs scored and runs allowed, and have allowed many more runs than would be expected, given the performance of the pitching staff. BP's Adjusted Standings reflect a team that is much better than its record indicates, which suggests a large dollop of bad luck...

Nevertheless, the fact remains...this team could have won without Frankie and Almanzar, with a sub-par Cordero and Mahay. It couldn't win, though, with only two decent starting pitchers, and black holes in two of the outfield spots (plus the DH slot against lefties).

And that's why we're twiddling our thumbs in the last week of September, waiting for the season to end...