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Thoughts on a 3-2 Rangers loss

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Angels 3, Rangers 2

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Angels 3, Rangers 2

  • In this year of rebuilding and looking for signs of progress rather than worrying about wins and losses, we get to do things like proclaim a 3-2 loss to a mediocre Angels team as a successful game.
  • Which is what I am doing — proclaiming that Friday night’s loss was a successful game. A somewhat successful game, anyway.
  • The reason for that is the performance of Glenn Otto. Otto, the 25 year old righthander who was either the third or the fourth piece that came over from the New York Yankees in the Joey Gallo trade (depending on what you think about Trevor Hauver), made his second major league start Friday night.
  • Otto’s first start was superb, as he went five scoreless innings against a fearsome Houston Astros lineup, striking out seven, allowing two hits and not walking anyone. The chances of him topping that, or even matching that, against the Angels on Friday was remote, and we were just hoping for another solid start from the Texas native.
  • And we got that, more or less. Otto went 4.2 innings on Friday, missing going a full five for the second start in a row due to an Isiah Kiner-Falefa error that gave the Angels an extra out. He gave up a pair of runs in the first inning, allowing a pair of very softly hit singles and a hard hit single (as well as, to be fair, a smoked 4-3 groundout by Shohei Ohtani) before getting Jo Adell to pop out to end the first.
  • Otto wasn’t really in trouble after that. In his fifth inning that was cut short he issued his first major league walk, a one out 3-2 free pass to Jack Mayfield, then saw a runner reach on an E6, retired David Fletcher on a 1-3 play, and gave way to Dennis Santana. Given Shohei Ohtani was coming up for the third time, and had exit velocities of 101.2 and 105.7 off of Otto in his first two plate appearances, that seemed to be a reasonable decision by Chris Woodward, and Santana retired Ohtani.
  • Final line for Otto: 4.2 IP, 84 pitches, four hits, one walk, four Ks. Otto now has a 1.86 ERA as a Ranger, a 1.20 FIP, a 2.66 xFIP, and a 2.17 xERA. He has a .176 wOBA and a .227 xwOBA. It is a very small sample size, but what we have seen from him, in actual results, in expected results, and in overall quality of stuff, has been very encouraging.
  • To be clear, there were some areas of concern on Friday for Otto. He once again filled up the strike zone, throwing 61 of 84 pitches for strikes, including 13 first pitch strikes to 19 batters. But 84 pitches to 19 batters is a bunch of pitches — he averaged 4.42 pitches per PA, which is a high ratio.
  • That was largely due to an inordinate amount of balls the Angels fouled off — 24 in total, which is 28.6% of all the pitches Otto threw and 39.3% of the strikes he threw. As a point of reference, the league average is 28.0% of strikes being foul balls, and 17.9% of all pitches.
  • I think we can trace that to Otto struggling to command his slider on Friday. In his first start, he threw an equal number of fastballs and sliders, 30 apiece. Of the 30 sliders he threw against the Astros, 27 ended up being strikes, generating 20 swings (including 8 whiffs) and 7 called strikes.
  • Against the Angels, Otto threw just 24 sliders, compared to 44 four seamers. 7 of those 24 sliders were balls, three were called strikes, four were whiffs, three were put in play, and seven were fouled off. Half of his sliders against the Astros were either called strikes or whiffs, compared to 29% against the Angels. Whereas Otto was located his slider down and in gloveside against the Astros, hitting the corner or putting the pitch just off the corner (either of which is a location that generates swings and misses), he was missing badly to that spot with his slider on Friday, meaning fewer swings and misses.
  • Otto compensated by throwing more four seamers, which he located more consistently than the slider, working it at the top of the zone. Otto’s four seamer isn’t really a swing-and-miss pitch — he has thrown it 74 times in his two starts, and generated three swings-and-misses. Fourteen of the 44 fastballs Otto threw on Friday were fouled off. Because he wasn’t locating and getting swings and misses at the same rate with his slider, he had to lean more on his fastball, which meant more foul balls and fewer whiffs.
  • That said, it was still a successful outing. Otto adjusted and threw strikes. He mixed in his changeup and knuckle curve, along with the slider, enough to keep the Angels from sitting fastball. And Shohei Ohtani notwithstanding, Otto didn’t give up a bunch of loud contact.
  • In a way, Otto’s performance against the Angels may have been more impressive than his performance against the Astros. Against the Angels, he struggled with his command of his best pitch, he gave up a pair of runs in a first inning where he threw a ton of pitches, and yet he battled back, made adjustments, and shut Anaheim down the rest of the way. It was a mature performance from a young pitcher, and something to be encouraged about in regards to his long term future — if you’re going to be in the rotation, you’re going to have to succeed when you don’t have your A game, and Otto did that Friday.
  • And to be clear, I’m not proclaiming Otto a fixture in the Rangers rotation the next half-decade, or even saying he’ll be in the rotation in 2022. But what we have seen thusfar is very encouraging.
  • As noted above, Otto was a secondary piece in the Joey Gallo trade, though a month in, he’s the player who has performed the best since coming to the Rangers. Someone I follow on Twitter marveled at the fact that Yankees fans love Rougned Odor and hate Joey Gallo. Odor hasn’t been all that good for the Yankees — he is slashing .209/.292/.395, with a 0.7 bWAR in 94 games — though he’s apparently had some big hits, and really, if he’s not terrible, he’s fun to watch and root for.
  • Gallo, on the other hand, has slashed .134/.297/.321 for the Yankees. Its a continuation of his post-ASB slump that started with Texas — he’s slashing .123/.269/.301 since the break, with his season slash line dropping to .199/.357/.445. The fact that the Yankees have been hot, and have defied the odds by moving into the WC1 spot (due in no small part to the A’s August tail spin, which started when they lost two of three at home to the Rangers in mid-August), at least keeps Gallo from absorbing the blame he’d likely be getting if the Yankees were not playing well.
  • I’m a Gallo believer — he’s going to hit again, and he’s a quality player, and I wish he could have spent his whole career with the Rangers. I’d like the Rangers to pursue him when he’s a free agent. But when folks were questioning of the package the Rangers got back for him, one of the big counterpoints is that Gallo’s track record was such that teams were not valuing him like a 6 win player going forward. Gallo has MVP upside, but he also carried a lot of risk. Teams aren’t going to pay for the upside without factoring in the risk.
  • All that being said, if Glenn Otto pans out, it doesn’t really matter what happens with Gallo or the rest of the prospects going forward, the trade would be a worthwhile deal. Who knows if Otto will pan out — he carries a lot of risk himself, which was part of the reason he was a secondary piece, not a lead piece, in this trade — but the early returns, at least, are encouraging.
  • Does anyone really care about anything else from Friday’s game? Dennis Santana and Jharel Cotton pitched in relief, and Santana allowed a run, which seems to happen regularly. Jason Martin homered off of Shohei Ohtani for the Rangers’ two runs, and while that’s neat, it doesn’t really impact the future. Nick Solak had three hits, including a double, so that’s encouraging.
  • But really, this game was all about Otto.
  • Glenn Otto topped out at 93.6 mph with his four seamer, averaging 92.4 mph. Dennis Santana hit 96.8 mph with his sinker and threw one four seamer, at 95.7 mph. Jharel Cotton hit 94.0 mph with his fastball.
  • Nick Solak had a double at 108.8 mph, the hardest hit ball of the game by either team. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a 103.4 mph ground out. Nathaniel Lowe had his daily wormburner, a single at 102.3 mph with a -8 degree launch angle. Jason Martin’s homer was 99.3 mph off the bat.
  • Here’s looking forward to the next few Glenn Otto starts.