Rangers closer Sam Dyson imploded on Wednesday night giving up five runs to the Cleveland Indians in one third of an inning. While it was technically Dyson’s first blown save of the season, it was the second straight poor performance to start the season for the Ranger’s right-hander.
Dyson has now given up eight earned runs in a total of just one inning pitched on the season, good enough for an ERA of 72.00. After such a rough start, Rangers fans our clamoring for a change at closer while simultaneously wondering what on earth is wrong with Dyson.
The most surprising part about this start for Dyson is the stark contrast between the Sam Dyson of the World Baseball Classic and the one who has started this season so poorly. Dyson was lights out in the WBC tossing six hitless innings against some of the best competition in the World. Dyson’s bread and butter pitch is his sinking fastball and it was in mid-season form during the United States successful run through the tournament. Dyson also had impeccable control which allows his sinker to be so successful. Because of his strong performance, the Rangers felt that he was poised to build off his successful 2016 with an even better 2017.
So what exactly is wrong with Sam Dyson?
The simplest answer is that his fastball just isn’t sinking. Dyson is not your typical closer in that he doesn’t have the type of dynamic strike out stuff that many closers in the game today feature. Dyson works well as a closer because when his fastball sinks, it is almost impossible to get good contact, resulting in weakly hit ground balls and a strike out every now and then.
In addition to the lack of sink on his fastball, the velocity on the fastball is also down a tick from an average of 95.8 mph a year ago to 94.2 mph this season. While two games is an extremely small sample size, it’s still something to keep an eye on.
Dyson has also stayed away from his full arsenal of pitches so far this year and he has completely abandoned his curveball through two games, a pitch that he threw 10% of the time in 2016. This is very likely due to his struggles with control and location. His curveball works well when his sinker works well, if the ball isn’t sinking then the curveball becomes less effective. While none of these things are reason for panic yet, they are definitely something to keep an eye on as the Rangers move forward.
It should come as no surprise that many Rangers fans are clamoring for a change in the closer role despite the fact that we are just three games into the 2017. Despite this, Rangers manager Jeff Bannister has made it clear that no such thing is going to happen, yet. After the game on Wednesday Bannister had this to say about his struggling closer.
“We always consider everything but off a two game look, that’s not how we want to start the season.” Bannister continued saying, “We’ve got to find a way to figure it out, Sam’s got to find a way to figure it out and well put our heads together and well go to work on it. But this guy has been really good for us and we’re not going to jump off after two games.”
Bannister is extremely loyal to his players and is not the type of manager to overreact to such as small sample size. Bannister is also realistic which is why he was clear that Dyson needs to figure this out. It was just last season that the Rangers had a similar situation with closer Shawn Tolleson. Tolleson struggled early in the season and Bannister stuck with him and gave him a chance to figure things out.
Unfortunately for Tolleson, he was unable to do so and was eventually replaced by Dyson. Dyson will get his chance like Tolleson did to figure things out. If he’s unsuccessful the Rangers will then have to decide who is best equipped to take his spot. The best candidate is probably righty Matt Bush who has typical closer stuff and a season of experience under his belt. Only time will tell and the Rangers are hoping that for Dyson, his best days of the season are still ahead of him. After this start, there really is no other way but up.