Thank You Sir May I Have Another

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What happened to the sucky C.C. Sabathia that we usually see in April? Yesterday, he completely dominated the Rays up, down, and sideways until Shoppach correctly guessed fastball and ran into the pitch with his at bat thus saving the Rays the humiliation of being no-hit for the second time in less than 80 games.  In fact, it would have been the third time since April 27, 2002 that the franchise would have been no-hit as Derek Lowe was the first pitcher to do it followed by Mark Buehrle last season. In fact, had the Rays been no-hit again yesterday, it would have been the shortest time between no-hitters for any franchise since the 1965 White Sox who were no-hit twice within seven games in September of 1965.

Sabathia threw 111 pitches pitches in the contest yesterday, 69 of them, 71 of them for strikes. He was still hitting 95 at pitch 100 yesterday and his changeup was averaging 87 mph yesterday. Sabathia looked so nasty yesterday, the Rays might have been lucky to plate a run had they been swinging with the same red jumbo bat we all used as toddlers with our dads in the front yard. Maddon did the best he could by stacking the lineup with all righties save Carl Crawford but it did not matter.  Some guys like Upton and Bartlett had balls that would have been hits on most days but Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira pulled off a couple of web gems to extend the no-hit bid by Sabathia.  The only positive spin that a Rays fan can put on this game is that it is over.

Wade Davis went 105 pitches into the contest too throwing 62 for strikes. The pitch-plot shows a very similar plan of attack that Price used the previous night but the execution of the plan was much different.  Davis was very reliant on his fastball yesterday as 78 of his 105 pitches  (74%) were from his fastball and he only had five swinging strikes on the day as a result of that.  Compare that to Price on Friday who threw 67% fastballs and had 10 swinging strikes on the night. Price fell into trouble last year when he threw too many fastballs in games and Davis did the same yesterday. He has that great curveball – he should use it more often than the 11 times he did yesterday.

Lastly, the Pat Burrell show is quickly getting ugly. If you count his Spring Training stats, he is hitting .167/.324/.300 on the season in 60 at bats. That includes five doubles, one homer, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts. He has become a hybrid of the three true outcome player: Walk, Strikeout, or infield out. Unless I am missing an at bat, the only ball he has hit out of the infield all season was the double he had on opening night to right-center field.  Even Marc Topkin wrote about it last night – which echoed my statements from late January:

Pat Burrell currently fills the DH spot but I maintain that his $9m contract should not prevent the Rays moving him off the roster whether it be through some deal in which they eat a majority of the contract (Omar Minaya, are you listening?) or just flat out designating him for assignment. That $9m is a sunken cost into a part on the team that is not functioning well. Some may just call it simple regression but old man skills are tough to deny and if the Rays have a chance to upgrade the DH position with Damon, they should do it. The Rays are never going to get that $9m back for Burrell and they might even call it a success if he earns even half of that contract this year should he stay with the Rays.

I contend the Rays can act like a big market team and eat Burrell’s contract if they can sign Damon

Obviously, Damon is off the market but once Matt Joyce is ready to come off the DL, a roster spot will need to be created. If Burrell does not get his act together in the remaining 19 days of Joyce’s rehab assignment, the Rays would be best served letting him go. He is a detriment in the field, on the basepaths, and at the plate. I would rather pay him $9m and call the move addition by subtraction.  Whether he likes it or not, the general fanbase equates him with the 2009 failures and he has quickly become public enemy #1 for fans so far since B.J. Upton now apparently seems to be back in their good graces with his hitting and fielding so far.  In his Rays career, Burrell now owns a .217/.314/.361 slash line which is only slightly better than the .243/.272/.340 line that the last aging slugger the Rays overpaid, Vinny Castilla, had in 2000 and 2001.

Castilla is an interesting comp here because the Devil Rays released Castilla in 2001 after he got off to a .215/.247/.344 start in his first 93 at bats. The Astros picked him up five days later and Castilla went on to hit .270/.320/.492 for the Astros hitting 52 extra base hits in just 445 at bats in cozy Minute Maid Field. Could unfortunate lightning strike the franchise twice like that? I don’t know, but that is a chance I am willing to take.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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