Yesterday’s 12-3 shellacking at the hands of the Angels was ugly with no two ways about it. Jeff Niemann had his velocity back but his control was still missing. The good news is the velocity is back which means his shoulder is feeling better but the spotty command speaks to the fact he may have been better served doing a rehab start somewhere before making this start and letting Andy Sonnanstine has one last go around in the rotation with Dale Thayer handy to take over if Sonnanstine suffered the fate Niemann did yesterday.
Moving on to more positive news, that was the last regular season west coast game the Rays will have to play in 2010 and nobody is happier about that than myself. I stay up and watch every west coast game from start to finish and while 2am bed times were early for me in college, they are not so easy to bounce back from as a guy in his late 30’s that has to get two kids ready for school each morning. Needless to say, I was in bed and counting sheep last night at 9pm for the first time in ages.
The Rays went 2-4 on their last road trip after being swept by the Jays and dropping one to the Tigers so it is nice to get back to the winning ways and go 4-3 on a west coast swing that included playing in Oakland and Anaheim – two parks the Rays have never done well in. For all intents and purposes, the Rays could have been 6-1 on this road trip but subpar efforts by the bullpen and the defense in the late innings costs the team wins in the first two games of the Oakland series. Here are some items to take away from this road series and discuss around the water cooler today:
- B.J. Upton came within three feet of hitting three home runs in the game on Monday night and has a .505 slugging percentage over the last month which trails only Longoria and Pena.
- Eight different players in the lineup are carrying double-digit walk rates in the past 30 days: Pena, Upton, Jaso, Joyce, Shoppach, Aybar, Johnson, and Zobrist
- Speaking of Shoppach, his OPS over the past 30 days is a solid .747 or about double what it was in the first half of the season. That’s 105 points better than Carl Crawford in the same time frame and 222 points better than Ben Zobrist’s.
- Zobrist continues to slump at the plate as he owns a very ugly line of .169/.300/.225 in his past 92 plate appearances. His defense and his ability to draw walks is what is keeping him in the lineup these days because he is not offering anything else. In fact, Zobrist is hitting just .213/.353/.287 since June 1st but on the positive side, he has 51 walks compared to just 41 strikeouts and is 14 of 16 in stolen base attempts.
- Wade Davis looked somewhat effective on Tuesday night. His velocity was back, which is the best news of the effort. What I did not like seeing was him allowing the leadoff man to reach base in five consecutive innings. If you remember the Run Expectancy Chart, a team will score 0.953 runs when a runner reaches first with nobody out but will score 0.297 runs if someone gets on with just one out and .117 with two outs. That is why lead-off walks frustrate me the most because it is a free gift to a team that has an extremely high probability of coming back to haunt the team.
- Evan Longoria is as hot at the plate as he has ever been. Over the past 30 days, he is slugging .563 and has 18 extra base hits and 21 RBI. Right behind him in RBI production is Matt Joyce who has 18 RBI despite only starting against right-handed pitching.
- Matt Garza is back on track. He went just 2-2 over the past month, but has a 2.04 ERA and has permitting 34 baserunners in 35.1 innings while striking out 30. He, Shields, , Price, and Hellickson all had strikeout rates of at least 7.6 in that same time frame.
- James Shields bounced back with another impressive outing in Oakland pitching to — Kelly Shoppach. I mentioned this earlier this month – Shoppach needs to be Shields’ personal caddy. I don’t care who the opposing pitcher is, James Shields does his best work when he is not pitching to John Jaso.
- I look for Jake McGee to be called up to the team before 9/1 so he is post-season eligible. I have a larger piece on him going up at BHSN.com later today that explains why I believe McGee is a perfect fit for the bullpen for the rest of the season.
- Team wOBA’s over the past 30 days: Red Sox .338, Yankees .338, Twins .337, Rays .323, Rangers .319
- Team FIP’s over theh past 30 days: Rangers 3.51, Twins 3.73, Rays 3.90, Red Sox 4.01, Yankees 4.54
- The Red Sox have shuffled their pitching rotation around so that their three best pitchers, Lackey, Lester, and Buchholz, are going this weekend. The Red Sox recognize the gravity of the situation this weekend and the Rays get to respond with Shields, Garza, and Price. The Red Sox need a sweep this weekend to gain any serious ground and if the Rays can win the series or sweep the series, it puts the Red Sox post-season hopes on life support.
The Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are all off today so enjoy a day off from baseball and rest up for the weekend as it is going to be a wild series!