What’s up with the Texas Rangers? Not their ERA.

The Texas Rangers and “offense” have been synonymous since the 1994 strike, producing five MVP seasons, three more than any other American League team. And through 10 games in 2011, that doesn’t seem to change. The Rangers lead the majors in home runs and slugging percentage and are top 8 in most other offensive categories.

With Alexei Ogando’s gem Monday (7 innings (on only 79 pitches!), 2 hits, 1 walk, zero runs, 4 strikeouts), the Rangers’ team ERA dropped below 2.50 and their WHIP is hovering just above 1.00. Ogando out-dueled Justin Verlander, who was good enough to win (complete game, 6 hits, 1 walk, 2 runs). Ogando’s story is a unique one, filled with a rule-5 wavier claim, human-trafficking scam, and a five-year ban from the US, all of which is wonderfully chronicled here.

Ogando was excellent as the right-handed setup bullpen arm last season, with a 1.30 ERA over 41.2 innings, and was forced into the rotation when Tommy Hunter injured himself. If Alexei keeps pitching like this, the Rangers will have an awesome predicament: too much pitching.

The Texas Rangers pitching staff currently lead all of Major League Baseball in ERA, hits allowed, batting average against, WHIP, have 8 quality starts (and are one out away from nine), and opposing OPS is 60 points lower than the next-best team.

It seems like every Rangers pitcher has an interesting story. C.J. Wilson is a converted reliever and known for his social media exploits. Colby Lewis spent a few seasons in Japan after flaming out with the Rangers and Tigers in the early part of the decade. Derek Holland was a 25th-round draft-and-follow player who showed up in A-ball with a 95 mph left handed fastball. Matt Harrison’s wife heckles umpires from the stands while other players’ wives talk about redecorating. And then there’s Ogando.

Alexei will not hold up over the entire season. He’s a converted outfielder with jerky mechanics. He’s best suited for the bullpen, where he was immensely successful last season. It’s also being reported that Ogando has fluid under a callous from a blister he developed during his last start. Obviously his pitching hand is not going to hold up over 150+ innings. If you took a flyer on him already, try to sell high. Otherwise, stay away.

Derek Holland goes Dutch, pays for himself

The Texas Rangers’ Derek Holland turned in his second straight quality start Sunday, vaulting the Rangers to an 8-1 start and improving Holland’s record to 2-0. His Sunday line was 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, zero runs, and 6 strikeouts. For the season he’s gone 12 innings, allowed three runs and struck out 11. What’s most impressive is his reduced walk rate, which is 2.25/9 IP, down from his career average of 3.28, down a full walk every 9 innings.

Holland has always been a high-strikeout pitcher, averaging 7.5/9 IP for his 200+ innings of major league pitching. His minor league strikeout rate was 9.5/9 IP, so it’s no surprise his strikeouts have transitioned well to the major leagues.

He came into the 2011 season a wild-card on draft day, as he wasn’t announced as a starter until about a week before the season started. He went mostly undrafted, but is already paying returns for those who did pick him up.

Analysis: Holland throws too many pitches (215 through 12 innings), and what’s  dis-concerning is his in-game trends of how he reaches those high pitch counts . Here’s what I mean by that:

Against Seattle: 3 of 6 leadoff hitters reached, only one 1-2-3 inning

Against Baltimore: All five hits and 2 walks against came with two outs, only one 1-2-3 inning.

The Mariners and Orioles are not elite offensive teams, and Holland has gotten away with making mistakes. His next start is against the Yankees, which owns 13 runs, 20 hits, and 5 home runs in 12.1 career innings. He also is slated to pitch against CC Sabathia, who is 8-3 in his career against Texas.

However, Holland’s three starts after that come against Kansas City, Toronto, and Oakland, all of which are very favorable towards the Rangers’ southpaw.

Recommendation: Pick up Holland now and stash him on your bench for the Yankee game next Saturday. The Yankees have too many good, patient hitters who can annihilate Holland’s mistakes. It would not be surprising if he only lasted four or so innings. The following three starts you should absolutely start him, as the potential of three wins and 20 strikeouts is a strong possibility.

Matt Harrison is 2011’s C.J. Wilson

The Texas Rangers’ Matt Harrison is only one start into 2011, and it’s been dominant. Seven innings, 5 hits, 2 walks (both in the 7th inning after showing signs of fatigue), and 8 strikeouts (four looking) against arguably Major League Baseball’s best lineup in the Boston Red Sox.

Harrison opened the 2008 and 2009 season as the Rangers’ #5 starter, but with the loss of Cliff Lee to free agency and Tommy Hunter to injury, he slid into the 3rd spot of the rotation. Matt had a solid spring, leading all Ranger pitchers with 23 innings.

He’s a hard thrower for a left-handed pitcher, topping out at 94 miles per hour. Any lefty that can do that will have a chance to be successful in baseball. He’s had flashes of greatness, including today, as long as he minimizes the walks. He got into trouble against the Sox after 2 walks in one inning, but came back to strike out Jacoby Ellsbury. If Harrison can keep his K:BB above 3:1, he’ll have a chance to go deep into games and position himself to win a lot of games.

Advice: Pick Harrison up and for the first few month or so, use him against favorable matchups. His next expected starts are against Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Oakland. Other than the Yankees, those are all favorable, which makes Harrison a very valuable player early on. Even though he dominated a vaunted Boston lineup, he’s still raw enough to be punished by patient, established hitters like the Yankees.

Projection: 28 starts, 175 innings, 14 wins, 3.45 ERA, 145 k’s, 1.26 WHIP

What do you think? Will Harrison have a solid season? Or was this first start an aberration?