My weekend or the Rays’ weekend. As I shared on Saturday, I have a nasty case of tonsillitis which makes talking and eating less than enjoyable experiences. On top of that, I had to travel back and forth to Dallas where I spent all of my free time in my hotel bed. To make matters worse, after I posted the last blog post here, my laptop suddenly lost the ability to authenticate me to the domain so I could not even log in to watch the Rays play on Saturday and Sunday. After looking at the box scores, I apparently did not miss much as the Rays dropped two of three to the Orioles and failed to gain any ground yesterday as both the Yankees and the Red Sox lost.
It was nice to see some of the long balls the Rays hit over the weekend from Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and particularly B.J. Upton and Rocco Baldelli. Upton’s homer was an absolute blast to left-center and any doubts about his ability to sustain his second half production have to be waning. He has a .237/.343/.441 line over the past 30 days with a .357 wOBA that trails only Longoria, John Jaso, and Matt Joyce. If you want to worry about someone, worry about Carlos Pena. He is hitting just .167/.320/.367 with a .301 wOBA over the past month which is better than only Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist; it appears Pena is in one of his funks again at a very unfortunate time.
Since I did not get to see yesterday’s game, I can’t fully comment on how the bullpen performed but it does sorely miss Grant Balfour. At this point, only Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, and yes, Randy Choate, can be trusted. Over the past 30 days Chad Qualls is walking as many as he is striking out,Dan Wheeler has a walk rate of 5.4 and a home run rate of 1.3, and Lance Cormier’s statistics are just too ugly to mention. Even Jeremy Hellickson has been infected as his first bullpen outing was not pretty as seven of the twelve batters he faced reached base. These struggles lead me to ask – is Jacob McGee going to be called up at all in September?
McGee threw once again for the Durham Bulls last night striking out three batters in 1.2 innings pitched. In his last 15.1 IP for the Bulls, he has permitted twelve baserunners while striking out 22. In 2010, he has faced 137 left-handed batters and has held them to a .205 batting average while striking out 47 of them, walking 14, and not allowing a home run. His services would be a perfect fit for the series in Boston this week to face David Ortiz and J.D. Drew in situations since Choate can only handle one of them at a time but given the fact he pitched last night, it is doubtful McGee comes up in this series.
The club has one pitching move to use with J.P. Howell’s 60 Day DL stint but I am not certain Hellickson is a lock for the spot at this point if he doesn’t take to the relief effort. He had one ugly line in his one relief appearance in the minors and another in his first relief effort in the major leagues. The Rays need to see whether Hellickson can handle the switch and working from the stretch more often than not before making that final roster call.
Lastly, just to revisit the John Jaso Effect with James Shields, when is enough going to be enough for Joe Maddon? After Saturday’s ugly effort, Shields now has a 6.86 ERA when throwing to Jaso and 67% of his home runs have come in those games. I am aware of the body of work that speaks to the unreliability of catchers’ ERA with pitchers but I can see the difference in how Shields pitches with my own eyes as I watch his games, especially in his body language on close pitches Jaso does not frame well. It looks as if his next start will be in Toronto against Brett Cecil so look for Shields to be paired up with Shoppach once again giving those of you who watched Saturday’s debacle and chance to look for what I am talking about.