Archive for Tampa Bay Rays

Escobar and Loney. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Escobar and Loney. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

This had the potential to be a huge, season-defining series. Instead, the Yankees have lost six of their last nine games and are holding onto a microscopic chance — 0.3% according to Baseball Prospectus — of making the postseason. Their tragic number is three meaning they could be eliminated this series even if they sweep.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just buried the Orioles by sweeping a four-game series in Tampa. That series included two walk-off wins, one of which came in the 18th inning. Tampa has won nine of their last 12 games and is 87-69 with a +42 run differential. They are two games up on a wildcard spot and five games up on New York.

Offense
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+, the Rays have their best offensive team in a few years now. The days of scratching across a few runs and relying on the pitching are over, for at least one year. OF Desmond Jennings (111 wRC+) is nursing a minor hamstring injury and may sit out a few games as a precaution. Other than that, Tampa’s healthy.

Myers. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Myers. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

As usual, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup revolves around 3B Evan Longoria (128 wRC+). 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (114 wRC+) always seems to punish the Yankees and OF Wil Myers (131 wRC+) has proven to be a tough out in his relatively young big league career. OF Matt Joyce (115 wRC+) and 1B James Loney (116 wRC+) have both been productive this year while 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (104 wRC+), OF David DeJesus (100 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (108 wRC+), and SS Yunel Escobar (101 wRC+) have been closer to average.

The Joses — Lobaton (109 wRC+) and Molina (76 wRC+) — split catching duties while OF Delmon Young (93 wRC+) and UTIL Sean Rodriguez (106 wRC+) will see time against lefties off the bench. OF Sam Fuld (52 wRC+) is more of a defensive replacement than anything. Maddon’s bench also includes C Chris Gimenez, IF Tim Beckham, and OF Freddy Guzman thanks to September call-ups. Remember Guzman? He was on the Yankees playoff roster in 2009 as a pinch-running specialist. Only appeared in two games though, both in the ALCS against the Angels.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
You’d never know it based on win-loss record and ERA, but the 24-year-old Moore has pitched almost exactly the same this year as he did during his rookie season last year. Here, look:

2012 2013
W-L 11-11 15-4
ERA 3.81 3.34
FIP 3.93 3.94
Strikeout Rate 8.88 K/9 (23.1 K%) 8.68 K/9 (22.8 K%)
Walk Rate 4.11 BB/9 (10.7 BB%) 4.31 BB/9 (11.3 BB%)
Homer Rate 0.91 HR/9 (8.6% HR/FB) 0.90 HR/9 (8.8% HR/FB)
Ground Ball Rate 37.4% 39.1%

The rate stats are essentially identical. Kinda neat. Also goes to show how much a 36-point drop in BABIP can help a pitcher’s record and his ERA. Anyway, Moore has seen his fastball velocity drop off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his two and four-seamers. His low-80s slurve — it’s more slider than curve at this point — and low-80s changeup are both legit put-away pitches. The Yankees have seen Moore a whole bunch of times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including four times this year. The good news is that each of those four starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, three runs in six innings in June, and five runs in five innings July. Would be cool if that trend continued.

Wednesday: TBA vs. LHP David Price
A triceps problem earlier this year really hampered the 28-year-old Price, but he’s been excellent the last three months and has a 3.43 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 25 starts overall. Both his strikeout (7.33 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and ground ball (45.0%) rates have taken big step downs this year, but his walk rate is a career-low (1.37 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%) and his homer rate is in line with his career norms (0.79 HR/9 and 8.8% HR/FB). Price is still the same fastball-heavy guy he’s always been, using mid-to-high-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter approximately 70% of the time combined. He’ll backdoor that cutter to righties for called strikes and there’s nothing they can do about it. Unhittable pitch. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball round out his arsenal. The Yankees and Price have seen plenty of each other over the years, so there are no surprises.

The Yankees have yet to announce their rotation problems for the rest of the year in the wake of CC Sabathia‘s season-ending hamstring injury, hence the TBA.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb, 25, is in the process of emerging as the next great homegrown Rays ace. He’s got a 2.90 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 21 starts while missing a whole bunch of time after taking a line drive to the head. You probably remember that. Scary stuff. The combination of his strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.5 K%), walk (2.84 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), and ground ball (56.0%) rates is elite, and he’s pretty good at keeping the ball in the park too (0.86 HR/9 and 15.9% HR/FB). Cobb is a changeup master, using low-90s two and four-seamers to setup his fading mid-80s put-away pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball that can be absolutely filthy when it’s on. That pitch has really helped him this summer. Cobb has faced the Yankees a few times since breaking into the league three years ago and he tends to pitch very well against them — they’ve scored four runs in 22.1 innings against him this season (1.61 ERA).

Bullpen Status
Maddon had to really work his sore relievers hard during the Orioles series, and not just because of the 18-inning game. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (2.85 FIP) was off yesterday but pitched in three straight and four of five days before that, including two innings on Friday. Setup man RHP Joel Peralta (3.66 FIP) has pitched the last two days, three of the last four days, and four of the last six days. LHP Wesley Wright (4.05 FIP) and RHP Jamey Wright (2.99 FIP) have appeared in each of the last two days and three of the last four. Wright is just a lefty specialist though, so he only faced a batter or two each time out.

Rodney. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

Rodney. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

Setup LHP Alex Torres (2.40 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.41 FIP) both had two straight days off before pitching yesterday. RHP Roberto Hernandez (4.59 FIP) has taken over as the long man while LHP Cesar Ramos (3.96 FIP) is more a multi-inning lefty than a specialist. Trade deadline pickup RHP Jesse Crain (1.52 FIP) was just activated off the DL yesterday — the trade was structured so that the more he pitched for Tampa, the better the player to be named later would be — and has yet to appear in a game for Tampa. LHP Jeff Beliveau, RHP Brandon Gomes, RHP Jose Lueke, and RHP Jake Odorizzi round out the expanded roster bullpen.

The Yankees were off yesterday and are in fine bullpen shape. They haven’t used a single reliever other than David Robertson or Mariano Rivera since Thursday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, I recommend The Process Report and DRays Bay.

Categories : Series Preview
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Zobrist. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Zobrist. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

After sweeping the lowly Blue Jays in the Bronx, the Yankees now head out on the road to play a division rival and playoff caliber team on their own turf. Literally. They’re going to play three games on the turf at Tropicana Field this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays had yesterday off and although they dropped Wednesday’s game to the Orioles, Tampa has won six of their last eight games. Playing the Mariners and Blue Jays has its perks. Joe Maddon’s squad is 72-53 with a +56 run differential overall, one back of the Red Sox for first place and five up on the Yankees.

Offense
At 4.5 runs per game with a team 110 wRC+, the Rays are one of the best offensive teams in baseball. This isn’t the same club we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in recent years. They can score plenty of runs. DH Luke Scott (116 wRC+) is on the DL with a back problem and won’t return for this series. Otherwise, Maddon’s squad is perfectly healthy on the position player side.

Loney. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Loney. (Bob Levey/Getty)

As usual, the Tampa offense is headlined by 3B Evan Longoria (135 wRC+), who now has a running mate in RF Wil Myers (136 wRC+ in limited time). 1B James Loney (125 wRC+), OF Matt Joyce (122 wRC+), 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (116 wRC+) and 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (116 wRC+) have all been well-above-average contributors. OF Desmond Jennings (108 wRC+), C Jose Lobaton (104 wRC+ in limited time), and SS Yunel Escobar (102 wRC+) are closer to average but still solid. That’s an awful lot of players on the right side of a 100 wRC+.

The Rays acquired OF David DeJesus (99 wRC+) from the Nationals today and he is expected to be in uniform tonight. The rest of Maddon’s bench is filled out by OF Sam Fuld (56 wRC+), OF Jason Bourgeois (86 wRC+ in very limited time), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (98 wRC+), and pitch-frame king C Jose Molina (74 wRC+). Bourgeois is likely to be taken off the roster for DeJesus. You probably know this, but expect Maddon & Co. to employ some wacky platoons and shifts and all that. The Rays don’t steal as many bases (62) as they used to, but they do hit plenty of homers (133).

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Chris Archer
Thanks to yesterday’s off-day, the Rays were able to rearrange their rotation and line up their three best starters for this weekend. Thanks, schedule-makers. Archer, 24, has a 2.95 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 15 starts with okay peripherals since being called up: 6.32 K/9 (17.3 K%), 3.06 BB/9 (8.4 BB%), 1.02 HR/9 (10.4% HR/FB), and 46.3% grounders. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the high-strikeout, high-walk guy he was in the minors. Archer has big time velocity, sitting in the mid-to-high-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs while backing them up with a mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. He uses the slider a lot, like 31.4% of the time. It’s worth noting Archer has a massive platoon split, holding righties to a .213 wOBA while getting tagged for a .337 wOBA by lefties. Huge. The Yankees have seen the young righty twice this year and he’s shut them down both times, including a complete game two-hit shutout last month. That was before the lineup cavalry arrived.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price
This has been a tale of two seasons for the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Price, 27, pitched to a 5.24 ERA (3.91 FIP) in nine starts before landing on the DL in mid-May and missing a month and a half with a biceps problem. Since returning early last month, he’s put up a 1.89 ERA (2.76 FIP) in ten starts and been just dynamite. Only twice in those ten starts did he allow more than two runs. Price’s strikeout rate (7.26 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and ground ball rate (45.3%) have both dropped off this year, both before and after the injury. They haven’t ticked back up at all. His walk rate is miniscule (1.30 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%) and his homer rate (0.96 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) is in line with his career norm. Price is still the same fastball monster as always, using mid-to-high-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter approximately 70% of the time combined. That cutter is lethal, he backdoors it to righties for called strikes and there’s nothing they can do about it. Unhittable pitch. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball round out his arsenal now that he’s basically scrapped his mid-80s slider. He’s used the pitch just 0.9% of the time this year for whatever reason. There’s no mystery here — the Yankees and Price have seen plenty of each other over the years. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb took a line drive to the head back in June, sidelining him the 25-year-old for exactly two months with a concussion. He rejoined the rotation two starts ago and has managed a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 15 starts overall this summer. Cobb is missing bats (8.27 K/9 and 22.5 K%), limiting walks (2.76 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%), and getting ground balls (56.4%), which is pretty much all you could ever ask a pitcher to do. His homer rate (0.95 HR/9 and 17.2% HR/FB) isn’t all that great considering how few fly balls he allows. Cobb is a changeup master, using low-90s two and four-seamers to setup his fading mid-80s put-away pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball that was just filthy in his last start. Here, look. Ridiculous. Cobb has faced the Yankees a few times since breaking into the league three years ago and he tends to pitch very well against them.

Peralta. (J. Meric/Getty)

Peralta. (J. Meric/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Thanks to the off-day, Tampa’s bullpen is pretty fresh coming into the series. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (3.01 FIP) is setup by RHP Joel Peralta (3.54 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.22 FIP), though LHP Alex Torres (2.16 FIP) sees plenty of important innings as well. RHP Jamey Wright (3.07 FIP), LHP Cesar Ramos (3.34 FIP), and LHP Wesley Wright (4.35 FIP) round out the bullpen. Lots of lefties.

The Yankees bullpen, meanwhile, is worn out and overworked thanks in part to Tuesday’s doubleheader. They do have an extra arm after calling up Preston Claiborne to replace the injured Jayson Nix yesterday, but long men Adam Warren and David Huff figure to be out of commission for another day or two after tag-teaming Wednesday’s spot start. Our Bullpen Workload page has the full reliever usage breakdown. Check out DRays Bay and Process Report for everything you need to know about the Rays.

Categories : Series Preview
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(J. Meric/Getty)

(J. Meric/Getty)

The Yankees aren’t on the road anymore, but that doesn’t mean the second half schedule gets any easier. The Rays are the hottest team in baseball and they’re in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. New York and Tampa have split ten games this year with the Yankees outscoring their division rivals 44-38. No, really.

What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, the Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now. They were rained out yesterday, but they took two of three from the Red Sox in Fenway Park before that and have won 19 of their last 22 (!) games overall. At 60-42 with a +68 run differential, Tampa is a half-game back of Boston in the AL East with the fourth best record in baseball.

Offense
Unlike the last few years, manager Joe Maddon has an above-average lineup at his disposal. The Rays average 4.7 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+, the seventh and second best marks in baseball, respectively. Tampa is perfectly healthy on offense, not a single regular position player on the DL.

Myers. (J. Meric/Getty)

Myers. (J. Meric/Getty)

As usual, the focal point of Maddon’s offense is 3B Evan Longoria (140 wRC+). He’s a monster. 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (113 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (135 wRC), OF Wil Myers (134 wRC+ in limited time), 1B James Loney (130 wRC+), 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (121 wRC+), OF Desmond Jennings (118 wRC+), and OF Matt Joyce (112 wRC+) are all above-average contributors as well. That’s eight players as good or better than the Yankees second best hitter (Brett Gardner has a 112 wRC+).

The rest of the roster includes SS Yunel Escobar (90 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (100 wRC+ in limited time), OF Sam Fuld (55 wRC+ in limited time), and the tandem of C Jose Molina (73 wRC+) and C Jose Lobaton (98 wRC+). They split time behind the plate almost 50/50. Tampa is a top ten homer-hitting team (seventh with 115), but they’re just middle of the pack with 56 steals. These aren’t your older brother’s Rays anymore, they can hit.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
The Yankees caught a bit of a bad break with Tampa’s rainout yesterday, because instead of facing the eminently beatable Roberto Hernandez on Sunday, they will instead face the 26-year-old Hellickson tonight. He’s got a 4.62 ERA (3.85 FIP) with solid peripherals: 7.34 K/9 (20.0 K%), 2.13 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), 1.17 HR/9 (11.1% HR/FB), and 40.8% grounders. The one they call Hellboy outperformed his peripherals the last two years, but now he’s underperforming them for some reason. A 68.2% strand rate (78.9% career) will do that to a guy. Hellickson’s top pitch is a fading upper-70s changeup that he throws nearly 30% of the time. Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs set it up. He’ll also throw a mid-to-upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen Hellickson a few times over the years and he’s generally handled them well.

Archer. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Archer. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer
Another year, another Rays pitching prospect emerges at the big league level. This year it is the 24-year-old Archer, who has a 2.76 ERA (4.29 FIP) in ten starts. He is getting grounders (46.2%) and limiting homers (0.77 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), but his strikeout (6.29 K/9 and 16.9 K%) and walk (3.84 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) numbers leave something to be desired. Archer has shown four pitches this year, though his mid-90s four-seamer and wipeout mid-80s slider are his calling cards. He’ll also throw a low-to-mid-80s two-seamer and a low-to-mid-80s changeup. It’s worth noting that Archer has a massive platoon split this year, holding righties to a .223 wOBA while lefties have tagged him for a .321 wOBA. He started against the Yankees late last month and held them to one run in six innings.

Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore, 24, has a 3.17 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 20 starts this year but he’s been dynamite of late, allowing four total runs in his last five starts (35.2 innings). His strikeout (8.66 K/9 and 23.1 K%) and homer (0.62 HR/9 and 6.2% HR/FB) rates are very good, but the walk (4.33 BB/9 and 11.5 BB%) and ground ball (39.0%) numbers leave something to be desired. Moore’s fastball velocity has dropped off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his twojust and four-seamers. His low-80s slurve — it’s more slider than curve at this point — and low-80s changeup are both legit put-away pitches. He’s got nasty, nasty stuff. The Yankees have seen Moore a few times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including three times this year. I suppose the good news is that each of those three starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, and three runs in six innings in July. Hopefully that trend continues.

Torres. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Torres. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Maddon’s bullpen is very well-rested coming into the series. Not only were the rained out yesterday, but David Price threw a complete-game on Wednesday and Moore threw a complete game on Monday. Their relievers have only had to work in just one of the last four days. Lucky them.

RHP Fernando Rodney (3.21 FIP) is the closer and has settled down after a rough start to the season. RHP Joel Peralta (3.55 FIP) is his primary setup man, and the Rays have an excellent pair of power southpaws in LHP Jake McGee (3.49 FIP) and LHP Alex Torres (1.70 FIP). Torres has been close to unhittable. RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.60 FIP), LHP Cesar Ramos (3.19 FIP), and the steady RHP Jamey Wright (3.09 FIP) round out the relief corps.

The Yankees are in decent bullpen shape. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched yesterday, but everyone else should be good to go. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for a look at the team’s recent … bullpen workload. DRays Bay and Process Report are my go-to Rays blogs.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

After two series in Tampa earlier this year, it’s time for the Rays to come to New York. They’re in town for four pretty important games this weekend, at least important by mid-June standards. The Rays have a chance to climb back into the AL East race and the Yankees have a chance to push their division rivals even further out of the picture.

What Have They Done Lately?
Although they beat the Red Sox last night, Tampa Bay has lost six of their last eight and eight of their last eleven games. Every time it looks like they’re ready to go off a little run, they run into a wall and slump for two weeks. At 37-35 with a +13 run differential, the Rays sit in fourth place in the AL East, three back of the Yankees in the loss column. So yeah, kind of an important series this weekend.

Offense
Joe Maddon’s club averages 4.7 runs per game with a team 110 wRC+, both of which are a top-six mark in baseball. When was the last time Yankees fans were jealous of the Tampa offense? Never, right? Anyway, Maddon’s lineup is perfectly healthy. They don’t have any position players on the DL.

Myers. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Myers. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

As always, the Rays’ attack starts with 3B Evan Longoria (150 wRC+). He’s the centerpiece. OF Matt Joyce (141 wRC+) and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (116 wRC+) have been a nice supporting cast, ditto 1B James Loney (132 wRC+) and 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (117 wRC+). Loney has cooled down following the ridiculously hot start, thankfully. That’s five well-above-average hitters in the everyday lineup.

Tampa just called up top prospect OF Wil Myers (9 wRC+ in very limited time), which theoretically gives them another above-average bat. Of course, he’s a rookie and we need to see him actually do it first. DH Luke Scott (103 wRC+) and CF Desmond Jennings (108 wRC+) have picked it up of late, and IF Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) has done well in a platoon role. C Jose Lobaton (119 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (80 wRC+) split time behind the plate, SS Yunel Escobar (84 wRC+) stays in the lineup because of his glove, and OF Sam Fuld (44 wRC+) is the grittiest little fifth outfielder in all the land. The Rays can score runs, this is a very good and very deep lineup.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Matt Moore
Remember when Moore was in the middle of breaking out as one of the best pitchers in baseball a few weeks back? The 24-year-old has allowed 20 runs in his last three starts (12.1 innings) to raise his season ERA to 4.12 (4.32 FIP). His strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 20.8 K%) is very good and his homer rate (0.97 HR/9 and 8.7% HR/FB) is fine, but he walks too many batters (4.72 BB/9 and 11.9 BB%) and doesn’t get many ground balls (36.3%). Moore sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his two- and four-seam fastballs, backing them up with mid-80s changeups and low-80s sliders. Unlike last season, he doesn’t have a platoon split in 2013. The Yankees have seen more twice this year and scored one run each time, first in eight innings and then in six innings.

Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Robert Hernandez
Hernandez, 32, is the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona. He owns a a 5.02 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 13 starts this year, though he is very homer prone (1.43 HR/9 and 20.0% HR/FB) despite a very good 50.0% ground ball rate. The strikeout (7.77 K/9 and 19.6 K%) and walk (2.39 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) rates are better than average. Hernandez lives and dies with his low-90s sinker, though the Rays have him throwing his mid-80s changeup more than ever before. A low-80s slider is his third pitch. The Yankees saw Fauxto a few weeks ago and hung five runs on him in four innings.

Colome. (Marc Serota/Getty)

Colome. (Marc Serota/Getty)

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. TBA
This rotation spot belongs to right-hander Alex Cobb, but he was placed on the DL a few days ago after taking a line drive to the head. It was a scary scene. The Rays are expected to called up 24-year-old right-hander Alex Colome to make this start, which would be his second as a big leaguer. He struck out seven Marlins in 5.2 innings of one-run ball at the end of last month. Colome is a three-pitch pitcher, sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball and the upper-80s with his slider. He did throw a curveball once upon a time, but the slider is his go-to breaking ball now. A mid-80s changeup rounds out his power repertoire. Colome has never faced the Yankees, obviously.

Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Chris Archer
Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price has been on the DL for more than a month now, and the 24-year-old Archer has laid claim to his rotation spot. He was acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade a few years back, and this year he has pitched to a 5.03 ERA (5.50 FIP) in four starts. Archer has piled up some strikeouts (8.24 K/9 and 19.8 K%) and gotten some ground balls (44.8%), but he’s walked way too many batters (6.41 BB/9 and 15.4 BB%) and given up a bunch of homers (1.37 HR/9 and 17.6% HR/FB). His four-pitch mix includes two mid-90s fastballs (two- and four-seamer), a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s changeup. Having seen his recent starts, I can tell you Archer is a very emotional guy on the mound with body language that will let you know how he feels after every pitch. It’s tiresome. He’s never faced the Yankees before.

As for New York, they will need to dig up a starter for this game thanks to Tuesday’s rainout. They could start Hiroki Kuroda or Phil Hughes on the three days’ rest, but that seems unnecessary in the middle of June. Maybe in September when the games mean a little more. Brett Marshall is scheduled to start Sunday for Triple-A Scranton, but he’s been a disaster this season. Ivan Nova is scheduled to start Friday, so I’m guessing they’ll just push him back two days and call him up for the spot start.

Farnsworth. (J. Meric/Getty)

Farnsworth. (J. Meric/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Maddon’s bullpen is a little taxed thanks in part to Tuesday’s doubleheader, but nothing crazy. RHP Fernando Rodney (4.23 FIP) has turned it around following a real rough patch a few weeks ago, and setup men RHP Joel Peralta (3.44 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.46 FIP) have been solid of late as well. Former Yankees RHP Kyle Farnsworth (5.34 FIP) joins LHP Cesar Ramos (3.11 FIP) and LHP Alex Torres (1.25 FIP in limited time) in middle relief. Both Ramos and Torres can throw multiple innings, they aren’t just specialists. The perpetually solid and under-rated RHP Jamey Wright (3.41 FIP) rounds out the bullpen. Peralta is the only guy to have pitched in each of the last two days.

The Yankees meanwhile, are in decent shape following yesterday’s doubleheader. Adam Warren probably needs a day or two of rest following his three-inning, 37-pitch relief outing last night, but otherwise everyone is well-rested thanks to Monday’s off-day and Tuesday’s rainout. You can see the recent reliever usage at our Bullpen Workload page. Check out DRays Bay and Process Report for the latest and greatest on the Rays.

Categories : Series Preview
Comments (38)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

For the second time this year, the Yankees are at their home away from home in Tampa. They lost two of three to the Rays at Tropicana Field about a month ago, the only other time these two teams have played in 2013. Believe it or not, this is a pretty important series for both clubs. Important for late-May, anyway.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays kinda stink. They just lost two of three to the Blue Jays to drop their season record to 24-22 with a +11 run differential. Before the Toronto series, they won nine of eleven. Tampa currently sits in fourth place in the AL East, four games back of the Bombers for the top spot.

Offense
Believe it or not, the Rays are one the top offensive teams in baseball. They average 4.8 runs per game with a team 110 wRC+, and both rank as top-six marks in all of baseball. Tampa’s offense is healthy outside of OF Matt Joyce (130 wRC+), who is day-to-day while nursing a hamstring issue. He could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

As always, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup is anchored by 3B Evan Longoria (171 wRC+) and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (105 wRC+). This year they’re getting a lot of help from 2B Kelly Johnson (128 wRC+), who plays primarily against righties, and 1B James Loney (150 wRC+). Yes, Loney is really hitting .350/.405/.497. And you thought Lyle Overbay was exceeding expectations. DH Luke Scott (149 wRC+) has performed well since coming off the DL a few weeks ago.

OF Desmond Jennings (92 wRC+) hasn’t been any good as the leadoff man, but UTIL Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) and IF Ryan Roberts (94 wRC+) have done fine in their limited platoon roles. SS Yunel Escobar (76 wRC+) and OF Sam Fuld (42 wRC+) have been terrible. Former Yankee C Jose Molina (69 wRC+) and C Jose Lobaton (88 wRC+) sharing catching duties. The Rays don’t steal as many bases as they once did (only 21 this year), but they don’t need to because the lineup is deeper and more powerful.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Roberto Hernandez
The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona has been predictably awful this year, pitching to a 5.24 ERA and 4.98 FIP in eight starts. His underlying performance has actually been outstanding — 8.46 K/9 (21.2 K%), 2.62 BB/9 (6.6 BB%), and 53.3% grounders — but he’s insanely homer prone (1.81 HR/9 and 25.0% HR/FB) and has been a few years now. The 32-year-old Hernandez lives off his trademark low-90s sinker and the Rays have him throwing his mid-80s changeup nearly 30% of the time, way more than he ever has before. A low-to-mid-80s slider rounds out the repertoire. It’s worth noting Fauxsto has a massive platoon split, holding righties to a .268 wOBA while lefties tag him for a .400 wOBA. That’s good for the Yankees, who have seen Hernandez plenty over the years.

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore, 23, is starting to live up to the hype as the next great Rays pitcher by going 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA in his first nine starts. Of course, his FIP sits at a much less impressive 4.20 because he walks a ton of guys (4.25 BB/9 and 11.6 BB%) and will serve up the long ball (1.15 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). In fact, when you add in his strikeout (8.84 K/9 and 24.0 K%) and ground ball (36.0%) rates, basically all of his peripherals stats have taken a step back from last season. The joys of a .197 BABIP, eh? Moore is a true-three pitch pitcher who uses a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer to set up mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. He will beat himself with walks if given the opportunity, but this Yankees lineup is one of the least patience in the game. They’ve seen Moore a few times since he broke in late in 2011, and they actually roughed him up good last summer.

Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Alex Cobb
This spot was supposed to belong to rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi, but the Rays took advantage of yesterday’s off-day and flipped him with the 25-year-old Cobb. Cobb has been very good this year, posting a 2.73 ERA (3.78 FIP) in nine starts with greatly improved peripherals: 8.19 K/9 (22.3 K%), 2.12 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), and 54.4% grounders. He is pretty homer prone (1.21 HR/9 and 19.5% HR/FB) like most of the Rays pitchers this year. I guess that’s the extra 2%. Cobb is a mid-80s changeup specialist, though not as extreme as former Ray Jamie Shields. He’ll set the change up with low-90s two- and four-seamers while backing it up with an upper-70s curveball. Cobb is pretty darn good, and he’s pitched very well against the New York every time he’s faced them.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Bullpen Status
As I mentioned, the Rays were off on Thursday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be. RHP Fernando Rodney (5.38 FIP) has been dreadful this year, so much so that he was yanked from his last appearance mid-inning before things could really spiral out of control. He hasn’t officially lost the closer’s job yet, but it won’t be long at this rate.

RHP Joel Peralta (2.62 FIP) is the backup plan at closer, and he has been Maddon’s most (only?) consistently reliable reliever this season. RHP Kyle Farnsworth (6.88 FIP) is cooked and LHP Jake McGee (5.15 FIP) has been unable to repeat last season’s success. RHP Jamey Wright (4.07 FIP) is his perpetually solid but unspectacular self while LHP Cesar Ramos (3.03 FIP) has done a nice job in a matchup role. Rapist RHP Josh Lueke (5.11 FIP) rounds out the bullpen. As a unit, the Tampa bullpen is a bottom-three unit with a 4.81 ERA (4.18 FIP).

The Yankees, meanwhile, are pretty well set in the bullpen outside of Adam Warren, who threw 60 pitches in long relief in Thursday and still needs at least one and probably two more days of rest before he’s available again. David Robertson and Boone Logan have both pitched in three of the last five days but should be fine for tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out DRays Bay and Process Report for the latest and greatest on the Yankees’ division rival to the south.

Categories : Series Preview
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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
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11:30pm: It’s Shields, Davis, and either a player to be named later or cash for Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and infielder Pat Leonard. That one has “Royals GM Dayton Moore is trying to save his job” written all over it.

11:09pm: The exact details are still trickling in, but the Rays and Royals have agreed to a trade that will send both James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City for top prospects Wil Myers and others. Shields will be next to impossible to replace as a proven above-average AL East workhorse, but if anyone can do it, it’s Tampa Bay. Myers is one of the five best prospects in baseball and gives them a big bat to pair with Evan Longoria for the next six years. The 2013 Rays likely got worse, but the 2014+ versions got a lot better.

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The Rays felt flat on their face in Baltimore. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Just three more games and the Yankees are done, done with their primary competition for the AL East crown. They played their final games against the Orioles last weekend, and this weekend they’ll wrap up the season series against the Rays. Every game is important these days, but Tampa is likely to come out with a major sense of urgency this series.

What Have They Done Lately?

Get swept by the Orioles, that’s what they’ve done. The Rays needed to win two of three this week to really get back in the AL East race, but they instead come to the Bronx four games back of a) first place in the division, and b) the second wildcard spot. They’re 77-66 with a +76 run differential on the season.

Offense

(Charles Sonnenblick/Getty)

Tampa continues to be a slightly below average offense at 4.1 runs per game overall and 3.5 runs per game in their last 15 contests. Evan Longoria (131 wRC+) has been off the DL for a while but still gets regular reps at DH as he recovers from a bad hamstring injury. Jeff Keppinger (128 wRC+), Ben Zobrist (128 wRC+), and Matt Joyce (121 wRC+) provide plenty of support, though Joyce can be neutralized by left-handers. B.J. Upton (111 wRC+) has been scorching hot of late (six homers in his last nine games) and rounds out the offensive core.

The big name among the rest of the offense is Carlos Pena (91 wRC+), who is having a down year but will almost certainly hit a homer at some point this weekend. The Yankees always struggle to get him out. Desmond Jennings (106 wRC+), Sam Fuld (103 wRC+ in limited time), and Luke Scott (88 wRC+) all take regular at-bats, as does Ryan Roberts (77 wRC+). Roberts fouled a ball off his ankle yesterday and is day-to-day. If he can’t go, expect to see Elliot Johnson (88 wRC+) take his spot on the infield. Ben Francisco (81 wRC+) provides some pop against lefties, the Joses — Lobaton (86 wRC+) and Molina (63 wRC+) — do the catching, and the crop of September call-ups includes speedy outfielder Rich Thompson, slick-fielding infielder Reid Brignac, corner guy Stephen Vogt, and catcher Chris Gimenez.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price
Price, 27, will be pitching for the first time in 12 days tonight after missing his last start with a sore shoulder. He was performing like a legitimate Cy Young candidate prior to the injury, with a 2.54 ERA (3.20 FIP) and gaudy peripherals — 8.72 K/9 (24.3 K%), 2.69 BB/9 (7.5 BB%), and 51.7% grounders — in 27 starts and 180.2 innings. Price is all about the fastball, sitting in the mid-90s with the two- and four-seamer and right around 90 with the cutter. He just added that last pitch not too long ago and will backdoor it to righties all day long. An upper-80s slider, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball are his three scantily used offspeed pitches. The Yankees have seen plenty of Price both this year and in the past, the good and bad versions.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jamie Shields
The Yankees got their latest look at the 30-year-old Shields in St. Pete a week ago, when he held them to three runs in eight innings. He’s pitched very well of late, allowing no more than three runs in any of his last eight starts and dragging his season ERA down to 3.71 (3.56 FIP). His strikeout (8.55 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and ground ball (52.3%) rates are career highs, the walk rate (2.35 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) a career worst (but still really good). Shields is a six-pitch, backwards-pitching machine. He’s in the low-90s with three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) and backs them up with one of the best changeups in baseball. An upper-80s slider and an upper-70s curve round out his arsenal. Like Price, the Yankees have seen plenty of both the good and bad versions of Shields throughout the years. There’s no mystery here.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
It’s been a good but not overwhelmingly great season for the 23-year-old Moore, who owns a 3.68 ERA (3.87 FIP) in 28 starts and 166.1 innings. His strikeout rate is excellent (8.93 K/9 and 23.2 K%), but the walks (3.95 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and ground balls (37.8%) leave a lot to be desired. Moore throws easy mid-90s gas, both two- and four-seamers, and complements it with mid-80s sliders and changeups. I still don’t understand how left-handed hitters have a .324 wOBA against him; he should be eating same-side hitters alive with his stuff. The Yankees hung six runs on Moore in 6.1 innings last week after he held them to three runs in seven innings earlier this summer.

(J. Meric/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Rays played 14 innings yesterday, running through their entire regular bullpen as well as September call-up Chris Archer (2.83 FIP). He threw 3.2 innings and 79 pitches in relief, so don’t expect to see him at all this weekend. Super-closer Fernando Rodney (2.22 FIP) threw just one inning yesterday after having four days off, so I have to think he’ll be available all three games this weekend given the circumstances. This is probably also four- and five-out save territory as well. The Rays really need these games.

Setup right-hander Joel Peralta (3.08 FIP) and setup left-hander Jake McGee (1.95 FIP) have both appeared in two straight games, ditto Kyle Farnsworth and Wade Davis (2.97 FIP for both). Second lefty J.P. Howell (4.58 FIP) and ground ball man Burke Badenhop (3.72 FIP) have only appeared in one straight game. Aside from Archer, the other call-ups are right-handers Brandon Gomes and Dane De La Rosa, plus left-hander Cesar Ramos. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen has been worked hard of late, so make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. DRays Bay is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the Rays.

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Categories : Series Preview
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(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Yankees will begin an important series against the Red Sox tonight, but another really important series will open some 400 miles south as well. The second place Orioles are hosting the third place Rays for three games this week, a series that will have a big impact on the AL East race one way or the other. Those clubs will also end the season with three games against each other in St. Pete. As I mentioned yesterday, both teams can’t win those games, and that’s good for New York.

Under the old playoff system, I probably would have rooting for either the Rays or Orioles to sweep all those games. It really wouldn’t have mattered who, the important thing would have been creating separation between the top two teams and the third team in the division. There wasn’t a significant enough advantage to winning the division over skating into the postseason as the wildcard under the old system, so just getting in was the focus. Clinch a postseason berth then worry about the division title was the annual mindset.

That isn’t the case anymore. Capturing that AL East crown is so much more important under the two wildcard system because no one wants to play a do-or-die, win or go home game to decide the season. That means the Yankees absolutely want both the Rays and O’s as far back as possible. Since both teams can’t sweep, the best thing for the Bombers would be for one of those two clubs to take two of three this week. Since Baltimore is one game back and Tampa two, it seems that the Rays taking two would help the Yankees the most. However, since most of us consider Joe Maddon’s club to be the bigger threat, maybe it would be better if the Orioles won the series. There’s no clear right answer here.

Either way, this is all predicated on the Yankees taking care of the Red Sox and everyone else they play from here on out. They have to start winning games consistently to maintain their slim lead. It just so happens that their top two competitors play more than one-quarter of their remaining games against each other, and they’ll theoretically hold each other back for the top spot in the division. The Yankees can only focus on winning their games, but us scoreboard watchers should be hoping that the neither the Rays or Orioles decides to whoop the other this week.

Categories : Musings
Comments (32)
Sep
06

Poll: The Biggest Threat

Posted by: | Comments (51)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Despite last night’s win, the Yankees are still in the middle of a borderline disaster ten-game stretch that has seen them go just 2-4 in the first six games. Their big and comfortable AL East lead has disappeared and right now they’re just one game up with 26 to play. We’re used to the Yankees battling the Rays for the division crown, but the Orioles are new to the mix this season after 15 years of being non-competitive. Because of that recent history, it’s easy to write them off. Heck, I did it pretty much all season up until about two or three weeks ago.

In a lot of ways, these current Orioles are similar to the 2008 Rays, who just snuck up on everyone and became good all of a sudden. I think the young talent on that 2008 Tampa team — Evan Longoria, Jamie Shields, David Price, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford , etc. — is way more impressive than what they have going on in Baltimore, but Buck Showalter has his team in the race in early-September and they deserve a ton of credit for that, even if Nate McLouth is batting third.

It’s obvious this four-game weekend series with the Orioles has enormous division title implications, but we can’t forget that the Rays are right there as well. They’re three back in the division, one good weekend from taking over first place. All three of the AL East contenders have different strengths and weaknesses, and yet they’re all essentially in the same position with roughly four weeks to go. The Yankees are fortunate that because they’re currently in the lead, they control their own destiny and theoretically don’t need help from anyone else.

Anyway, with a few hours to go before first pitch tonight, I figured it was a good time to see who you folks consider to be the biggest threat to the Bombers in the division race. Both the O’s and Rays are dangerous but I personally believe one of those two clubs is more dangerous than the other. You might feel differently, so let’s find out…

Who is the biggest threat to the AL East crown?
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Categories : Polls
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