6/30-7/2 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Yankees continue to prioritize rotation help in trade talks
Yankees offered to eat $4.5M of Ichiro's salary in trade with Astros
That kinda season in Tampa. (Mike Carlson/Getty)
That kinda season in Tampa. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

Once again, the Yankees are set to play a division rival as the Rays come to town for three games. This will be the Bombers’ fifth straight series against an AL East opponent and they’ve lost three of the first four. The Yankees will pass the season halfway mark tonight. It’s time to start stringing together some wins. They split four games in Tampa in mid-April and lost two of three to the Rays in the Bronx in early-May.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just did the Yankees a solid and took three of four from the Orioles (in Baltimore!) over the weekend. Tampa has won four of their last five and eleven of their last 18 games overall. Despite that, they still have the worst record (35-49) and sixth worst run differential (-37) in baseball.

Manager Joe Maddon’s team is league average offensively with a team 100 wRC+ and an average of 3.79 runs per game. The Rays are currently without OF Wil Myers (wrist), OF David DeJesus (hand), and SS Yunel Escobar (shoulder). Myers and DeJesus are on the disabled list and won’t be returning anytime soon. Escobar is day-to-day and could return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight.

(J. Meric/Getty)
(J. Meric/Getty)

As usual, Maddon’s lineup is built around 3B Evan Longoria (107 wRC+) and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (109 wRC+), but neither is having a particularly great year. OF Matt Joyce (121 wRC+) has been their best regular hitter while 1B James Loney (104 wRC+) and OF Desmond Jennings (103 wRC+) have been solid. OF Kevin Kiermaier (162 wRC+ in limited time) has been awesome filling in for Myers.

The rest of the offense is mix and match. C Ryan Hanigan (98 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (14 wRC+) share catching duties while UTIL Sean Rodriguez (96 wRC+) and OF Brandon Guyer (102 wRC+) sub in against lefties. OF Cole Figueroa (49 wRC+ in very limited time) and UTIL Logan Forsythe (76 wRC+ in limited time) fill out the bench. Tampa has stolen the third fewest bases in the league (Jennings leads the team by far with 12), so these aren’t the runnin’ Rays of a few years go.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Once David Price gets traded, the 25-year-old Archer is going to take over as the staff ace by default. He has a 3.29 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 16 starts and 93 innings this year, with improved strikeout (8.32 K/9 and 21.8 K%) and ground ball (47.5%) rates compared to his strong rookie campaign a year ago. Archer’s walk rate (3.48 BB/9 and 9.1 BB%) has jumped a bit and his homer rate (0.29 HR/9 and 3.9 HR/FB%) is unsustainably low at this point. I don’t think that will last all year. Righties (3.41 wOBA) have actually fared better than lefties (2.55 wOBA) so far this year, which is odd because Archer is a mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider guy. He throws only a handful of mid-80s changeups per start and those guys tend to have platoon splits, not reverse platoon splits. Small sample, I guess. Archer has never not pitched well against the Yankees — in four starts and 28.2 career inning against New York, he’s allowed four runs and 20 base-runners.

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TB) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Could this be Price’s final start with the Rays? I think that’s possible for every one of his starts from here on out. Price, 28, has a 3.63 ERA (3.00 FIP) in 17 starts and 124 innings this year, but that really undersells just how good he’s been. He has 144 strikeouts (10.45 K/9 and 28.4 K%) and 14 walks (1.02 BB/9 and 2.8 BB%) on the season, and has struck out at least ten batters in each of his last five starts. The last pitcher to strike out double-digit batters in five straight games was sicko Johan Santana back in 2004. Price’s ground ball rate (42.8%) has been about average but he has been homer prone (1.23 HR/9 and 13.3 HR/FB%). His platoon split is small. As always, Price remains a fastball machine, throwing his low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamer and mid-80s cutter more than 70% of the time combined. He backdoors the cutter to righties for called strikes better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Unhittable pitch. Mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Price twice this season. One start went well for them (six runs in five innings) and the other didn’t (two runs in seven innings).


Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
After a very rough start, the 24-year-old Odorizzi has turned his season around of late, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts. He owns a 4.14 ERA (3.16 FIP) in 16 starts and 82.2 innings with a very high strikeout rate (10.56 K/9 and 25.2 K%). His walk rate is kinda high (3.70 BB/9 and 9.5 BB%), his ground ball rate is low (35.6%), and his homer rate is probably a touch low as well (0.76 HR/9 and 7.4 HR/FB%). Righties (.318 wOBA) have been a bit better than lefties (.297 wOBA). Reverse platoon splits seems to be a trend on Tampa’s staff. Odorizzi uses a four-seamer right around 90 mph to set up his mid-80s slider, which is his top secondary pitch. He’ll throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and rainbow upper-60s curveballs per start. The Yankees scored three runs in four innings the only time they saw Odorizzi earlier this year.

Bullpen Status
Because RHP Grant Balfour (4.27 FIP) had some big time meltdowns earlier this year, Maddon has been using a closer by committee system in recent weeks. Balfour, LHP Jake McGee (1.58 FIP), RHP Joel Peralta (4.22 FIP), and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (4.50 FIP) have all grabbed saves at one point or another. McGee in particular has been fantastic and is not just a lefty specialist.

Peralta, RHP Brad Boxberger (4.27 FIP), RHP Kirby Yates (4.52 FIP in very limited time), and LHP Cesar Ramos (4.46 FIP) all pitched in yesterday’s game. Ramos threw 45 pitches and probably won’t be available tonight in anything other than emergency. Everyone else threw only one inning and should be good to go tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen and then check out The Process Report for everything you need to know about the Rays.

Yankees continue to prioritize rotation help in trade talks
Yankees offered to eat $4.5M of Ichiro's salary in trade with Astros
  • Derek Jeter

    Let’s do this… 3 more losses!

    • trr

      C’mon now…

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Nice marquee start on Tuesday. Looking forward to what could be the last time we face Price on a regular basis.

  • No 2013 again

    Every single pitching matchup favors the Rays. Hopefully we still can’t predict baseball and we win this series, but it sure looks like we’ll be swept

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      You actually cannot, in fact, predict baseball. I offer up the following longitudinal study of Eddard series thread predictions as proof, plus a purely qualitive study of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman comments.

      • trr

        Glad you’re doing those studies and not me

  • Kosmo

    26-28 since May 1st. 3 with the Rays at home and then an 11 game road trip ending at the ASB. 8-6 WL to close it out ?

  • the Other Steve S.

    What the hell is Longoria looking at in that picture. It sure isn’t the ball.

  • Mikhel

    The Rays are so bad right now that they could end up sweeping the Yankees to send them to a losing record.

    Talking about records, 2014 Yankees have a worse record in 80 games than 2013 Yankees:

    2014: 41-39
    2013: 42-38

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      One game. Come on now.

      • Mikhel

        Yup, but still this team acquired a better OF than Vernon Wells, a better C with McCann, has had more production from their 3B, has had more production from their 1B and SS… they have Tanaka and… still!

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Saying something to the effect of “their performance isn’t much better than last year’s despite what they felt was addressing multiple holes” is a much better phrased argument than “they have a worse record than last year!” in this case.

        • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

          This team had so much turnover over the winter I don’t think it’s a fair comparison

    • MB923

      The 2013 Yankees won 85 games which might be enough to win the AL East this year.

      And the NL East is just as bad.

      • Mikhel

        Not to mention the NL West, the Giants have been awful this month. Well, the teams that have won the most in the past 20 days: Dodgers (14 games), Padres (8 games), and i think the Rockies (7 games).

  • Mikhel

    Ciriaco was just DFA’d along with former Yankee Justin Maxwell… this reeks to a classic Cashman acquisition, seeking help in the thrash other teams do not want instead of promoting somebody from the farm, because youngsters need to accumulate 5 years in the minors before they can be promoted, you know, one of those rules like the one stating to never using the closer when you need him unless he is going to save a game, and if you use him I think he gets measles or something bad like that.

  • Mikhel

    Holy shhh….iiii….

    Longoria in the past 39 games vs Yankees: 0.362 AVG and an OPS superior to 1.100

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Oh come now on, part deux.

    Either one is MiLB fodder, and I can’t see how anyone would have a problem with an MiLB flyer on either.

    Remember when getting rid of Maxwell was an act of pure, unadulterated Cashmanfailed? Of course not.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Reply to my Latin brutha, Mikhel.

      • Mikhel

        Maxwell was not as bad at the time he was let go by the Yankees (but it wasn’t a “cant miss” type of player), but as I remember his only upside was speed and fielding, a so-so arm, no power, and about average tools for hitting.

        Ciriaco was reeaaally bad with the Padres after he “destroyed” the Yanks a few times with the Redsox, but Pedro is a bad infielder, and besides speed I don’t see anything.

        I can see a team picking them up to bolster their minor league teams, but besides that… na-ah.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          That was exactly my point before you equated Nick Swisher with Fukudome and Chris Schwinden below.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      Eh, MiLB all day, sure–but replacement level depth isn’t helping this team today.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        It’s not really meant to. I’m fine with a flyer, even though they are who we think they are.

        Mikhel seems to think that adding guys like this to help the MLB team is some sort of recurrent theme, when it’s just not.

        • Tom K

          Every team in baseball has filler sitting in Triple-A. With Garcia on the DL, the Yankees have been using Dugas and Almonte in center in Triple-A. Maxwell can help the organization right there…center field filler for Scranton.

        • Mikhel

          “guys like this”

          Yoy mean like:

          Chris Stewart
          Vernon Wells
          Lyle Overbay
          Jayson Nix
          Travis Hafner
          Brendan Ryan
          Brent Llilibridge
          Chris Nelson
          Reid Brignac
          Travis Ishikawa
          El Cochito Cruz

          Not to mention that even those who were helpful came when their careers were in a hole: Swisher, Eric Chávez, Ibáñez and Andruw. And that’s just the past 3 seasons including the current one.

          Acquisitions in July with a myriad of prime MLB players, when you know the team needs help and are about to embark in the final stretch:

          2011: JC Romero, Kanekoa T., Marcus Thames

          2012: Chad Qualls, Darnell MacDonald, C. Schwinden, Fukudome, Ichiro, McGeehee

          2013: Luis Cruz, Ishikawa, Brendan Harris, Soriano.

          Second half W-L
          2010: 39-35
          2011: 44-30
          2012: 43-34
          2013: 34-33

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            You cannot be serious.

            I’m not going over every single one of those games with you, but you’ve just grouped in MiLB fodder, legitimate journeyman fodder every franchise utilizes throughout the course of a season, and low-cost veterans brought in because they were most prudent choice at the moment, in one swooping generalization.

            Choose love, Mikhel.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I forgot.

              …….and Nick Swisher?

          • OldYanksFan

            I could say the exact same thing for 1/2 the teams in MLB.
            What’s your point?

  • Robert

    Refsynder has better stats than Mookie Betts both 2B yet Ref is stuck in the minors!!
    Trade value of Ref is ???
    Trade value of Brian Roberts is ???

    Also for those who say he cant field Ref has 0 errors in AAA.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      You’re sounding more Wayne-like by the second.

    • Mikhel

      Scrap from other organizations is more valued than guys on the NYY farms having a good season.

      • Old Man Time

        Why don’t you spout off something factual.

  • Mark Teixeddarda

    This is the turning point in the season. Win this series and go all out for the division. Lose it and I would sell. All 3 of these Rays pitchers can shut us down. Sox are coming. Os and Jays have much better offenses.

    • Mikhel

      “All 3 of these Rays pitchers can shut us down”

      So, if they know at least two of them are very very good vs the Yankees, losing the series wouldn’t be more or less expected? And if so, why would they sell if it happened as they expected in this series?

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

    btw, the Yankees are only 2-8 in their last 10 at home against the Rays, so that makes two AL East teams that, at the present, routinely come to the Bronx and whip the home team around.

    Good luck changing the tune on that one.

    • TheRealGreg

      Who’s the other?

      • TheRealGreg

        If you mean the Red Sox, I think the opposite of that is that we’ve beaten them at Fenway alot (except for last year, because we only beat them 6 times last year)

        • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

          Red Sox at Yankee Stadium since 8/8/2010:

          2010: 3-1
          2011: 7-2
          2012: 3-6*
          2013: 7-3
          2014: 3-4

          *three losses at the end of the season with a completely decimated roster; barely should even count IMO.

          Add those up, and they are 23-16, or, as I see it, 23-13 at Yankee Stadium in that time. Against competent Red Sox teams in that time, the Yankees win percentage is .361. That’s pathetic.

      • TheRealGreg

        We had a winning record against the Orioles last year, so I don’t know if you mean them.

        • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

          Glad you mentioned the Orioles.

          2012: 5-7
          2013: 6-3
          2014: 2-4

          13-14 since 2012 at home against them. Stellar marks.

          The Yankees home record vs. AL East teams since 2011 was .592 as of the end of the Baltimore series last week. Take Toronto out of the mix (27-4), and that mark, when adjusted to this Boston series, is .500 . The Yankees are 51-51, at home, against the Orioles, Red Sox, and Rays in the past four seasons. Surely I’m not the only one who finds that record pretty frigging terrible.

          And, before you ask, their road record against those teams in that time is around 42-49, so they aren’t atoning for their home woes at all.

          • TheRealGreg

            So 51-51 at home and 42-49 on the road against the Rays, O’s and Red Sox.

            That makes sense given the uptick for the Orioles and Rays and the Yankees declination.

      • TheRealGreg

        And it’s certainly not Toronto

  • TheRealGreg

    People said that we would know what this Yankee team is about after this fifteen game stretch against AL East competition.

    Their record so far? 6-6. Mediocrity in a division full of mediocrity.

    They entered this stretch 4.5 games out. Right now, they are 2 games out.

    • Preston

      This team has plenty of ability to improve. If one of CC or Pineda gets back healthy and one of Beltran McCann started hitting the team would look a lot different. Refsnyder is looking like he’ll force his way onto the roster fairly quickly, and if we can make a trade then the division is for the taking.

  • trr

    And I’d say it’s going to stay that way all season long.
    I don’t get the people who already yelling to sell at the trading deadline….not that the Yanks would ever be sellers anyway. I think we’ll make a few sensible pick ups over the next month, maybe wave goodbye to one or two unproductive veterans and find ourselves right in the mix come September. You’re right Greg, this is a wholly mediocre divison, any team (OK,maybe not TB) that gets hot at the end could steal it-

  • fred robbins

    I hope David Price has the worst game of his life.

  • commonsense

    Yankees need a 2B,3B,RF,SP I don’t think they are going to be able to come close to filling any of those gaping holes. No matter what anyone says this team is not playoff bound and even if they are they ain’t going no place in the post season. Their lineup is horrible and the way this team has been constructed the past few year leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They became nothing more then a group of platoons and over the hill .200 hitters with no steady lineup.

    • WhittakerWalt

      You must not have watched a lot of games in 2012 if you think that lineup had a lot of problems.

  • WhittakerWalt

    “Imagine if McCann and Beltran start hitting like… McCann and Beltran!”

    He says this EVERY GODDAMN GAME.