2013 Stats: 6-2, 1.88 ERA, 76.2 IP, 59 Ks and 220 ERA+

Salary: $500K (Arbitration eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019)

Each week, we will look at key players on the Texas Rangers 25-man roster, and this time we look at a pitcher who was extremely valuable last season, Tanner Scheppers.

Year in Review: Scheppers was nothing short of phenomenal in his second season with the Texas Rangers. He ranked third in the American League with 76 appearances, third on the team in ERA+ behind only Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan, and was tied for fifth in rWAR among pitchers on the team with Alexi Ogando.

While his K/9 dipped from 8.4 in 2012 to 6.9 in 2013, and his BB/9 increased slightly from 2.5 to 2.8, he became stingy with allowing runners on base in last season. In 2012, his WHIP was a robust 1.732 in 32.1 innings pitched, but in 2013, that number dropped to 1.07. Hitters had a slash line of .214/.295/.310, and he was equally effective against right-handed and left-handed hitters:

vs. RHB .210/.306/.304

vs. LHB .218/.283/.316

Scheppers was solid at home (2.85 ERA, 1.341 WHIP and 2.2 K/BB), but he was dominant on the road (0.76 ERA, 0.757 WHIP and 2.89 K/BB). Unlike many players, Tanner did not break down as the season wore on:

1st Half 1.84 ERA, .602 hitters' OPS, 1.091 WHIP

2nd Half 1.93 ERA, .608 hitters' OPS, 1.041 WHIP

Career: So what changed from 2012 to the 2013 season to make Scheppers so effective? For starters, he switched from primarily throwing a four-seam to a two-seam fastball.

Pitch usage*:

2012: Four-seam (52.9%), Two-seam (16.3%), Curve (26.6%) and Change (4.2%)

2013: Four-seam (14.4%), Two-seam (66.6%), Curve (18.1%) and Change (0.89%)

*Courtesy of

Scheppers spoke about this change back in May:

'I've switched mostly, predominantly to two-seam (fastballs) now. That was something that the staff and I looked over through tape and over the offseason. The straight fastball wasn't moving anything. It was staying in one spot, and these hitters in the big leagues, it doesn't matter how hard you throw it, they're going to get you pretty good if it's straight.'

Traditionally, the four-seam is faster than the two-seam, but in Scheppers case, the difference is minimal. In 2012, his four-seam was 96.07 mph and the two-seam was 95.92. In 2013, Scheppers' velocity went up slightly as he threw the four-seam 96.58 mph and the two-seam 96.06.

2014 season: In 2014, Scheppers could end up a starter, set-up man or closer for the pitching staff. Recently, he shared his mindset as Spring Training nears:

'I'm just going to go in there in the best shape of my life and be ready for whatever,' Scheppers said Saturday as part of the Rangers' winter caravan at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. 'I want to do both. I want to pitch and help this team. It's not my decision to make that call.'

ZIPS projections have the following for Scheppers: 72 IP, 59 Ks and 3.75 ERA.

Those numbers take into account that while his 2013 ERA was great at 1.88, his FIP was 3.74, suggesting he was rather lucky last season.

The Rangers will be stretching out Scheppers as a starter in Spring Training, but expect him to compete for the closer role with Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria as Opening Day nears. Tanner's reliance on the two-seam fastball primarily suggests that he is better suited as a reliever.

Eddie Middlebrook is a staff writer for Paranoid Fan, covering MLB and college football. Back in 2010, Eddie wrote for Fox Sports Southwest covering the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and the Big 12. In 2012, he began writing for Shutdown Inning where he eventually became Vice President of Media. You can email Eddie at eddie@paranoidfan.comor catch him on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

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