Apr
22

4/22-4/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

By

I wasn’t planning to continue the series previews this year, but apparently they were pretty popular. I wasn’t aware of that. So, back by popular demand…

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

This six-game road trip features six games on artificial turf, as the Yankees now head to Tampa for three games with the Rays after playing three games against the Blue Jays in Toronto. The Bombers and Fightin’ Maddons are meeting for the first time in 2013.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays are 8-10 with a -7 run differential this season, but they did just sweep a three-game series against the Athletics this weekend. After scoring 53 runs in their first 15 games (3.53 per game), they scored 17 runs in the three games against Oakland (5.67 per game).

Offense
Despite the big weekend, the Rays still own a below-average team 90 wRC+ that ranks as the eighth worst in baseball. Their only injured offensive player at the moment is DH Luke Scott, who has yet to play in a game this season.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Tampa’s overhauled offense features two familiar faces in the middle of the lineup: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist (122 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (142 wRC+). They’ve batted three-four pretty much everyday so far. Platoon bats 1B James Loney (146 wRC+) and former Yankee DH Shelley Duncan (106 wRC+) are off to nice starts. 2B Kelly Johnson (102 wRC+) and CF Desmond Jennings (101 wRC+) have basically been average in front of Zobrist and Longoria.

Manager Joe Maddon’s parade of part-timers includes IF Sean Rodriguez (89 wRC+) and IF Ryan Roberts (68 wRC+), who will start against lefties. OF Matt Joyce (62 wRC+) and OF Sam Fuld (-31 wRC+) get the call against lefties. SS Yunel Escobar (40 wRC+) plays everyday while pitch-framer extraordinaire C Jose Molina (85 wRC+) gets most of the starts behind the plate. C Jose Lobaton (10 wRC+) backs him up. Overall, the Rays are middle of the road when it comes to hitting homers (17), but they’ve been one of the league’s most prolific base-stealing clubs (13).

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Matt Moore
The 23-year-old Moore is off to a very strong start, allowing just two runs in 18 innings across his first three starts (1.00 ERA and 3.36 FIP). The strike out (10.0 K/9 and 27.8 K%) and ground ball (52.5%) rates are strong, but he has been a little too liberal with the free pass (5.50 BB/9 and 15.3 BB%). Like everyone else it seems, Moore’s velocity is down compared to last year, but he’s still sitting in the 91-94 mph range with the four-seamer. He’ll mix in the occasional two-seamer, but otherwise his primary secondary pitches are a low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen the southpaw a few times now, and they’ve both hit him hard and been shutdown. Little of both.

(Photo via @MLB)

(Photo via @MLB)

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP David Price
Price, 27, is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, but he’s had two good (not great) and two poor (one awful) starts in the early going (6.26 ERA and 4.49 FIP). Outside of some early homer problems (1.96 HR/9), the left-hander’s peripherals are right in line with what he’s done in recent years: 8.22 K/9 (20.8 K%), 2.74 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), and 49.3 K% grounders. Price remains a low-to-mid-90s fastball machine, throwing a ton of four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters. An upper-70s curveball is his top offspeed pitch, but he’ll also use mid-80s changeups and sliders. We’ve all seen plenty of Price through the years, both the fans and the Yankees players. Should be no surprises here.

Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb has been a trendy breakout pick this year, and he’s managed a 2.53 ERA (3.21 FIP) in his three starts so far. He hasn’t missed a ton of bats in his relatively short big league career, something that has held true so far this season (6.33 K/9 and 17.2 K%). His walk (2.53 K/9 and 6.9 BB%) and ground ball (45.2%) rates are very strong, however. Cobb uses his two- and four-seamer almost evenly, and both sit in the 88-92 mph range. His best pitch is a knockout mid-80s changeup, which he’ll use in any count against righties and lefties. He’s very similar to the departed Jamie Shields in that regard. An upper-70s curveball rounds out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Cobb a handful of times these last two years and he’s handled them well each time.

(J. Meric/Getty)

(J. Meric/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Despite their strong rotation, the Rays rank among the AL leaders in total relief appearances (53) because of all the mixing and matching. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney has been very good again despite an early-season appearance that wrecked his pitching stat line (4.76 ERA and 5.67 FIP). Setup men RHP Joel Peralta (2.25 ERA and 2.02 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (7.36 ERA and 5.89 FIP) have both been dynamite — McGee allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning on Opening Day and has been whittling down his ERA ever since. He’s been untouchable of late.

Low-leverage guy RHP Brandon Gomes (4.70 ERA and 4.98 FIP) threw two innings yesterday and is presumably unavailable today. Former Yankee RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.50 ERA and 7.02 FIP) will see some late-game action, then they have LHP Cesar Ramos (8.31 ERA and 6.02 FIP) and long-time big leaguer RHP Jamey Wright (2.06 ERA and 3.86 FIP) filling out Maddon’s seven-man relief unit. Outside of David Phelps, everyone should be available for Joe Girardi in the series opener tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, we recommend DRays Bay and The Process Report.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Eddard

    Thanks for taking the time to do this, Mike. I always enjoyed the series previews. I really think we can take 2/3 in Tampa. Everyone says Moore and Price will shut the offense down but what about CC and Andy shutting down their even worse offense? Zobrist and Longoria is about all they have. Duncan and Molina? Please.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      Are you arguing with yourself because no one yet has said Price and Moore will shut down the Yankees.

      • Eddard

        People were saying that in last night’s game thread. They said our offense has no chance against Moore and Price. They’re not as good vs LHP but we have two LHP of our own and the better offense, and that was my point.

        • Manny’s BanWagon

          Missed that. My bad. There’s no such thing as no chance against any pitcher.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            EddardWorld, in this case, did reflect reality. There were a few “they’ve got no chance against Moore” posts.

            • MannyGeee

              Lost me at the first sentence.

              Sorry, Eddard

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Exactly.

      Their pitching slightly worries me, but I’ll take our offense over theirs and we’re not exactly sending Chuck Cary (BOOM!) out there to pitch.

      2 of 3 indeed.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Should be a good series with the tough pitching all the way around. With that piss poor offense, I wonder when Will Myers will be called up. Must be in another month or so to delay his clock with arbitration.

  • trr

    Thanks for this Mike.

    This will be a challenging series for us to win, due to the Rays better pitching and our recent bullpen struggles, but I hope to see us take 2/3. Need this game tonight to do so, IMO

  • Joe R

    This is going to be a low scoring series for sure. 2 good lefties going against us, and well, the Rays just cant hit period.

  • Darren

    Every time there’s supposed to be a low scoring series with Tampa, it devolves into a sloppy slugfest. Usually because of the vaunted CC/David Price match-up. Pitchers’ duels rarely materials when expected.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yup. Wouldn’t be surprised in the least.

  • MannyGeee

    National game tonight on ESPN. That should be worth something.

  • Havok9120

    Thanks for bringing these back Mike. They’re really useful for those of us that don’t keep close track of the other teams.

    • MannyGeee

      This. Good recaps, and could be especially helpful when the Interleague stuff gets rolling, since we kind of know what the Jays and Angels are up to (within reason)

    • Flamingo

      This. I’ve always enjoyed them.

  • Havok9120

    DRaysBay’s current front page article is one saying that the attendance problems seem to be much improved because they drew 67K fans to a weekend series against an exciting team and currently rank 22nd in home attendance.

    Yikes. Talk about different standards.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s something, ain’t it? And this is after multiple successful years and, unlike their dipshits cousins further down I-75, what most baseball fans admire as a strong business plans.

      So replacing Cashman with Friedman WON’T automatically increase attendance. Gotcha.

  • Tony

    Love the season previews, Mike. I also think these are among the best and most helpful features on RAB. One problem – hard to root against #FYDP now that you’ve put up that picture.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I like these posts/articles alot. A good read when we face the NL teams I may not follow as close, and the bullpen statuses are great. Thanks Mike.

  • jim p

    Shelley Duncan. Has he gotten enough Major League time under his belt to qualify for a decent pension and benefits after he retires? It’s hard to not like the guy’s demeanor from his time as a Yankee, but I’ve lost track of him since.

    • Darren

      He has more than 3 years of service time so he will qualify for a pension, which kicks in at 62. Obviously, the more he plays, the higher is pension will be. 10 years of service time (which he is unlikely to reach, of course) is the max at $180k per year.

      I’m really glad he’s stuck around this long, I remember hearing an interview with him when we was first called up and he was super pyched.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        $180K pension a year for ten years of service.

        My son’s doing everything lefty, starting tonight.

      • jim p

        Thanks. I’m glad to hear it. He’s just someone who is so enthusiastic about playing the game, it’s nice to know he’s going to get something back from it in the long term.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    You made a mistake on Lobaton’s wRc–you have it as a 9.

  • Mike HC

    Nice preview. Looking forward to this series a lot with all the good pitching match-ups. Hoping that Nunez can break out a little to make up for our struggles vs lefties.

  • WhittakerWalt

    As long as we intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez at some point, it’s all good.

    #neverforget

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I actually have sewn a patch with Rodriguez’s uniform #, plus “IBB,” into every piece of clothing I own.

      • WhittakerWalt

        I realize it’s been more than a year now, but good Christ was that a boneheaded move. That’s going to haunt Girardi forever.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Oh yeah. That was awful.

          I’ve also mowed it into my lawn.

  • Pat D

    Not going to lie, I really like that picture of Price with the dog. The dog looks so happy.

    • nycsportzfan

      Ya, i love seeing people in sports or hollywood that have animals and treat them well.. I seen George Clooney pic’s with a popbelly pig named max he had for like 20yrs, and the pic’s of them together were priceless! That Price pick is very cute..

      • A popbellied pig

        Pop! Pop! Pop!

    • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

  • nycsportzfan

    I don’t love the pitching matchups on paper, but thats why they play the games.. Lets keep that series win’s going and take at least 2of3!

  • Anthony

    These series are what I like most about RAB. You do a great job Mike, thanks for taking the time.

  • warren

    Loved the series previews!!! So glad there back!!!