The Rangers lost a game yesterday that they should have won. Yeah, at this point, wins and losses don't matter a whole lot except for obtaining the #1 overall pick in next year's draft, a point I've mentioned doesn't matter to me a whole lot while each individual game is going on. Sure, I want the Rangers to have that pick, but while a game is going on, I want them to win as well.
As they say, you can't have your cake and eat it too. For that matter, Neftali Feliz and David Murphy made sure none of us got cake yesterday, and Murphy had one of those games that will undoubtedly make some in Texas scream that the Rangers should have brought him back -- which I don't agree with, but there are always those that will second-guess -- as he went 2-for-5 with a double and a home run and 3 RBI, with the final two he drove in coming off of a middle-middle 90 mph Neftali Feliz "fastball". Sure, it was only his first blown save, but it was something many of us saw coming from a mile away over a week ago. It was a matter of when, not if.
And that, I think is where we are right now. It's interesting to me, really, as it seems the growing sentiment among the fan base lately has been that Jon Daniels somehow royally screwed up by not keeping the core of the 2010-2012 rosters intact. Yet, when it comes to Neftali Feliz, somehow he's the one guy those same people point to and say that Game 6 "broke" him. It's the cake, folks, I'm telling you.
Nonetheless, Feliz is about a year returned from Tommy John surgery, and with the trade of Joakim Soria to Detroit, he's been handed the closing duties, it would seem, for the remainder of the season. The Rangers, it would appear, want to see if somehow, someway, he can recapture that magic that made him so electrifying early in his career.
Thus far, however, that hasn't materialized, and it's been mainly due to the noticeable absence of velocity on Neftali's fastballs. It's just... gone.
I tend to say this often when it comes to these types of things, but of course, I'm no doctor. What I do have, however, is the ability to look at previous Tommy John patients and see, with the rest of you, what kind of timeline usually occurs for a pitcher that is able to successfully recover from Tommy John surgery. On that front, it would appear that either Feliz is behind that timeline, or worse, he may never fully recover at all.
Of course, I don't think there are many of us who actually thought he would still be able to hit 99-100 mph consistently. That said, I'm not sure 95-97 was out of the question, and for whatever reason, Feliz just isn't able to reach back and get that anymore.
It's likely that we could go back and forth all day to try to pinpoint one thing that's the root cause. Many will of course point to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, which has always seemed silly to me as Feliz was hitting 95-98 in 2012 during his experiment as a starting pitcher.
It's possible, hopefully (and as Eric pointed out a little over a week ago), that Feliz is a rare case of a guy that needs an extra year to fully recover. While I certainly hope that's the case, part of me just doesn't buy into it.
For starters, Feliz has long been questioned for his work ethic. That came to light in 2012 as he prepared to be a starter and Ron Washington flat called Neftali out on it. To be clear, that isn't to necessarily say that Neftali doesn't care. More than anything, it's to point out that for the first portion of his career, he was heralded to have one of the easiest 100 mph fastballs scouts had seen, and when you have a weapon like that, it doesn't take as much preparation and maintenance to be ready to perform, especially when you're young.
There's no doubt that pitchers have managed to be successful in the past after losing velocity. It's an issue Pedro Martinez was once able to work through as he got older, and Justin Verlander is working toward that goal right now. It remains to be seen how things will play out in the future, but Tim Lincecum has shown some promise in making adjustments over the past 2-3 seasons as well.
Perhaps Neftali Feliz can come along in the same mold. If so, I don't know what his defined role might be for Texas in 2015 and beyond, but it's blatantly apparent right now that the status quo isn't getting things done. If, as Ron Washington has hinted at times this year, it's a matter of Neftali trusting himself and just throwing harder, that's one thing. Maybe it really is true that he doesn't trust his surgically-repaired elbow quite yet. The alternative, which isn't nearly as appealing, is that this is as good as Neftali Feliz will ever get with the velocity. If that ends up being the case, it will be a sad story of another pitcher that had so much promise thrown out of the window due to injury.
I really don't want that to be the case. I want the old Neftali back, or something close. If it takes one more offseason to make that happen, then I'm fine with that. If not, I'm not sure I trust the possibility of him needing to adjust his pitching repertoire to be consistently successful again.