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Texas Rangers rumors: Colby Lewis, 2015 Ranger starter?

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Does Colby Lewis's strong second half of the season make him a viable option for the 2015 rotation?

Tom Pennington

Texas Rangers rumors:  Colby Lewis took the loss in last night's ugly 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Angels, but the bullpen's 8th inning meltdown shouldn't overshadow the fact that Lewis once again pitched quite well.

Throwing 91 pitches and going 7+ innings, Lewis's final line was 5 hits allowed, 3 runs (just 2 earned), 4 Ks, 0 walks and a home run.  The unearned run was a result of a ball Michael Choice misplayed that allowed David Freese to reach base, with Freese then scoring on a pair of outs, while the third run charged to Lewis got on base on an infield single to start the 8th, after which Lewis was lifted.

Evan Grant writes this morning that Lewis is making a case to be part of the Rangers' 2015 rotation with his second-half performance, and it really has been a tale of two halves for Lewis this year.  Colby had a 6.54 ERA at the All Star Break, after a disastrous 13 runs, 2.1 IP stint against the Angels in his last pre-break start, and you had to wonder if he was simply done as an effective major league pitcher.

Since the break, however, Lewis has been a different pitcher.  He's put up a 3.74 ERA while averaging almost 7 innings per start, and while his stuff still isn't great, his command has been good enough that he's been a viable starter.  This coincides with Lewis being able to do bullpen sessions between starts, which he wasn't able to do earlier in the year, as he was recovering from his hip surgery.

Interestingly, Lewis's fielding-neutral numbers from the first half to the second half are almost identical...he has a 4.16/4.30 FIP/xFIP in the first half, compared to 4.47/4.42 in the second half.  The change in runs allowed, though, is attributable to his BABIP dropping...after an unsightly .410 BABIP in the first half of the season, Lewis is allowing just a .263 BABIP since the break.  That .263 BABIP isn't sustainable (and that .410 BABIP was due more to hittable pitches than bad luck), but it doesn't have to be for Lewis to be a viable 2015 rotation member.

Colby Lewis has expressed a desire to return in 2015, and the Rangers have, from what I've seen, indicated an interest in bringing him back.  I don't know that Lewis would agree to a minor league deal, like he did this year -- I suspect it would need to be a major league deal, with a base of a couple of million dollars, and several million in incentives based on innings pitched.

But if -- and its a big if -- you believe Lewis can perform adequately in 2015 -- say, a 4.50 ERA over 170 innings -- that's a reasonable deal, particularly given the state of the Rangers rotation.  Lewis and Nick Tepesch at the back of the rotation would allow the Rangers to prioritize getting one really good starting pitcher to put with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland at the top of the rotation, and would allow guys like Nick Martinez, Jared Eickhoff, Luke Jackson, Alec Asher and Chi Chi Gonzalez to stay in the minors as depth...and if the Rangers can find two starters, rather than just one, to add to the mix, it means that Tepesch can be the 6th starter, and start the year in AAA as the first callup.

Hoping for a return of the Colby Lewis of old isn't realistic...but the second half of 2014 has seen Lewis perform like a nice back-end starting pitcher.  Just on a personal level, it would be nice to see his comeback continue with the Rangers in 2015.