Darren Oliver tossed a scoreless inning last night in his 59th appearance of the season, which is the number needed for the Rangers’ 2011 team option on the 39-year-old reliever to vest at $3.25 million.
Texas will be glad to have Oliver back at that price, as he’s quietly gone from being a mediocre and then seemingly washed-up starter to one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball for the past five seasons. Oliver has a 2.50 ERA and 63/14 K/BB ratio in 57.2 innings this season, producing the second-highest strikeout rate ever for a 39-year-old with at least 50 innings:
Randy Johnson 2003 9.87 Darren Oliver 2010 9.83 Nolan Ryan 1986 9.81 Mariano Rivera 2009 9.77 Roger Clemens 2002 9.60
That’s quite a list. Four of the greatest pitchers of all time and Darren Oliver, who in his five seasons prior to moving to the bullpen full time in 2006 went 33-39 with a 5.83 ERA in 573 innings spent primarily as a starter. Since becoming a full-time reliever he’s thrown 348 innings with a 3.08 ERA and is doing the best work of his career in his 17th season.