CLEVELAND, OH: Starting pitcher Alexi Ogando #41 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Indians 11-2 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
It's the middle of June, and there are exactly two pitchers in the major leagues with 7-0 records.
And because this is baseball, neither of the two would have been, three months ago, considered good candidates to win seven games all season. Let alone have seven wins and zero losses in the middle of June.
One of our perfect pitchers toils in the National League, and we'll deal with him tomorrow.
Two obvious things about Ogando:
One, he wasn't supposed to be a starting pitcher this season.
Two, even if considered as a starting pitcher, he wasn't supposed to be nearly this good, this season.
How good? Leaving aside the 7-0 record -- because records, of course, are highly subject to outside influences -- Ogando's got the second-lowest ERA (2.10) in the American League. His strikeout rate his lower this season than last, but so's his walk rate, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is actually better than last season, when he posted a 1.30 ERA in 44 relief outings.
Which is to say, Ogando's conversion from relieving to starting has gone brilliantly well. Not to mention shockingly.
Signed by the Athletics out of the Dominican Republic as a teenaged outfielder, Ogando became a pitcher after joining the Ranger organization in 2006. In four minor-league seasons -- including 2010, which he split between the minors and the majors -- Ogando started three games. And even those don't seem to have been real starts; including those three starts, he pitched only 15-2/3 innings in seven outings.
So the Rangers, in March, turned a 27-year-old relief pitcher into a starter, which really had no right to work. For some reason I can't find it, but I'm pretty sure i wrote at the time that management was misguided at best, a little nutty at worst, for thinking Ogando could serve as more than a stopgap while everyone waited for Tommy Hunter to heal up. I don't know that even management believed Ogando was more than that.
But whatever management thought, Ogando serves as a lesson for all of us who like to think we know more about a player's capabilities than his employers know. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't; the trick is knowing when it's the former, and when the latter. In this case, it seems the Rangers knew a lot more about Alexi Ogando than the rest of us knew.
Tommy Hunter? He's on the comeback trail. But if and when he's ready to return to the Rangers, he's not going to supplant Alexi Ogando, who's made the rare transformation from setup man to staff ace as quickly as any pitcher in recent memory.
For more about Ogando and the Rangers, please visit Lone Star Ball.