Neftali Feliz: An Equally Important Debut

ST LOUIS, MO - Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the ninth inning during Game Six of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Yu Darvish got all of the press, but Neftali Feliz's debut as a starting pitcher is equally important for the Texas Rangers.

Like most of you, I spend my day thinking about ways to get Jeff Sullivan fired. Then I realized the best way would be to a) write about Mariners-related stuff and b) make .gifs of said Mariners-related stuff. Make him replaceable. Show the suits that there are other employees ready to step in.

And the Mariners are going to be in the news on Tuesday. I mean, they aren't really going to be in the news. They'll just happen to be the team against whom Neftali Feliz will make his debut as a starting pitcher. I figured that I would watch every inning that Feliz has thrown against the Mariners and report on my findings. This comes up because …

Zero for 48. Four walks. Fifty-two plate appearances. Nary a hit. They did get a runner to second once, but it was via defensive indifference. That last sentence is the most Mariners sentence ever constructed.

Watching all of the Feliz appearances led me to an inescapable truth: Boy, the Mariners sure had trouble hitting Neftali Feliz over the last three years. That was the only piece of information that I gleaned after watching at-bat after at-bat.

I promised .gifs, though. Here are the two of the five almost-well-struck balls that the Mariners hit against Neftali Feliz over the last three years:

Both of those balls were hit by Kyle Seager, who is currently the starting third baseman for the Mariners against right-handed pitchers! Conclusion: Neftali Feliz should watch out for Seager, who absolutely owns him*.

The alternate conclusion is that Sullivan's job is safe, and that he could have found something interesting to write about the Mariners going hitless against Feliz.

But if we're talking about things that are important, Feliz's success against the Mariners over the last three seasons isn't very important. Feliz's overall success is one of the most important things for the Rangers this season. While Yu Darvish is important to both the short- and long-term fortunes of the Texas Rangers, and the baseball world was accordingly abuzz for his debut, Neftali Feliz's debut as a major-league starting pitcher is just as important.

If Feliz can be a high-value, low-cost starting pitcher, he can allow the Rangers to acquire or retain high-priced talent.

If Feliz can be a high-value, low-cost starting pitcher, he can help the Rangers build a team that has the offense of the Yankees and the pitching of the Rays.

If Feliz can be a high-value, low-cost starting pitcher, he can do a lot more to help the Rangers win another pennant than he possibly could as a closer.

So while there was plenty of attention paid to Darvish -- and rightfully so -- don't sleep on how important the Neftali Feliz gambit is. The Rangers have tried the reliever-to-starter conversion before, and it's safe to say that without C.J. Wilson, the Rangers still wouldn't have a pennant at all. They're trying it again, and the ramifications of the Feliz conversion could be just as significant as anything that Darvish will do.

As long as he can stay away from Kyle Seager, of course.


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