In human years the baseball season is about 5.3 years old, so far. It can’t drive. It barely speaks intelligible English. It can barely feed itself, though it can wipe it’s own ass. It’s early. Still, even parents in denial see signs that their five year old isn’t exactly going to grow up to be president. Maybe it’s the constant nose picking or the inability to get a passing grade in the subject of napping these parents have a pretty solid idea that they can go spend the little tyke’s college fund on booze and cigarettes, though birth control might be a better idea.
And so that brings us to the Rays. More specifically, the Rays offense. The pitching has been good so far. Not great, but good, and that’s better than most. The offense, on the other hand, has been an abomination. You’d like to lock this mutant in the basement, but you know that it will just piss all over itself and you’ll end up having to be the one to clean it up. So instead you yell at it. Maybe threaten to beat it with a rubber hose until it learns how to hit. To those folks I would like to remind the offensive offenders that it’s
not ALL your fault.
Herein you will find the pitch mix and accumulated run values for each player thus far. Let’s start with the pitchers since that’s a prettier tale:
This is more to help you see what sort of sample sizes we’re dealing with here. Bigger is better, obviously, but since we’re looking at what has happened with no thought of tomorrow then who cares about sample size. For the pitch breakdowns I’ve made this chart that makes it a little easier to see everything:
The bottom half of the chart shows each pitcher’s mix versus lefties and the top half shows the same versus righties. I’ll leave it to you to go through and find things you think are interesting, but one thing I would like to point to is Jeremy Hellickson throwing 70% fastballs to lefties. That’s 58 fastballs over two starts, but like trying to date two people at once, it’s more complicated than you’d think. Jose Molina called for 27 out of 33 (82%) pitches to lefties to be fastballs, meanwhile Jose Lobaton only called for 31 out of 50 (62%) in the form of the heater. Not only does Molina put down one finger more often, but it’s been much less effective. With Lobaton the fastball has been worth a positive .95 runs (not good), but with Molina the fastball has been worth 2.52 runs (much worse). Per 100 pitches this breaks down to +3.08 and +9.34 runs, respectively.
Ok, so it’s one start for each guy, but it echoes a similar trend that we saw last year. In 2012 Lobaton caught roughly 579 pitches to lefties and called for 348 fastballs (60%), while Molina called for 434 over 643 pitches to lefties (67%). Additionally, Hellickson amassed a total run value of -1.92 (-0.55 per 100 pitches), and Molina totaled 5.44 (1.25 per 100 pitches). For all pitches against all batters last year Hellickson put up a Run Value per 100 of -0.90 when paired with Lobaton, but that figure ballooned to 0.66 when Molina was behind the plate. Both catchers caught a similar number of pitchers, but it’s readily apparent that Molina calls too many fastballs, incidentally Hellickson’s worst pitch, and doesn’t call nor catch as good of a game for Helly as Lobaton does. The fastball might be easier to frame, but it sure as hell doesn’t do any favors for Jeremy Hellickson.
So even in a small sample we can pick up on things that show a continuing historical trend. Two games is not nearly enough data to make a decision, but when it furthers the idea that Jeremy Hellickson is at his best when not pitching to Jose Molina then it’s easy for me to continue to rail that he shouldn’t have Molina as his receiver, and that doesn’t need to be a slight on Molina. These guys are a bad combination, but that doesn’t mean they’re individually bad. Hopefully Joe Maddon realizes that oil and water is only really good on salad, not a one-size-fits-all condiment. Let’s move on to run values for pitchers this year:
Green is good, red is bad. The top table shows the raw run values thus far while the bottom table translates this into per 100 pitches. Each starter has now made two starts with only David Price having three under his belt. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have been very productive amongst the starters and Roberto Hernandez has, also, been better than average. Hellickson and Price are the guys dragging their asses across the carpet right now, and that’s something that you would expect to change as both are very good. In fact, Price is coming off his best start of the year after a couple of real bad ones so you would think it’s only a matter of time before he gets those numbers turned around.
Digging in you can see that Price’s issue has mostly been with righties feasting on his breaking ball and fastball. Hellickson is showing the exact same thing with opposite-handed hitters feasting on everything but his change up. Meanwhile, Matt Moore has been a God against all batters and Cobb has struggled slightly with same-handers. Hernandez has pitched really well against righties and not bad against lefties either, though his fastball is rather pedestrian against opposite-handed hitters. This is why I cannot wait until Chris Archer comes up and moves Hernandez to the pen. He’s going to make an extremely good reliever in all sorts of leverage against any batter in the game. We can rank all pitchers by their accumulated run values per 100 pitches thus far:
This might be an easier way to see how everyone compares before we start talking about the bullpen. As a staff the Rays have been better than average overall. Let’s take this a step further and break it down by handedness while looking at the raw run values:
This lays bare just how wide the splits have been for a lot of these guys. It’s wild to think what Matt Moore will look like when he’s unafraid to throw inside to lefties and it’s plain to see just how good Alex Cobb has been so far. Likewise, you can see just how bad Hellickson and Price have been to opposite-handed batters and the same for Rodney, more or less. Jamey Wright has been pretty platoon neutral and the same for Joel Peralta. Nice signings, so far. Brandon Gomes looks like he will have a place on this team as long as he can keep killing righties as well as he has thus far.
With Farnsworth’s fastball not getting by anybody any longer it’s a wonder how long the Rays will keep running him out there. He should mostly be used as a ROOGY at this point since his slider is still pretty good, but Gomes looks like he can do that even better and you have Josh Lueke marinating in Durham who looks like a real menace to society with his 90 degree slider and powerful fastball. Farnsy has been a joy to have on the team, but the clock is sitting at quarter to midnight for him at this point. Plenty more to take in, but this is already running long so let’s move on to the abomination known as the offense. Let’s start sifting through the rubble at ground zero by looking at total RV/100 thus far:
Overall, the Rays offense has been worth -1.4 runs per 100 pitches compared to a league average offense. That’s bad. Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria have been the only productive hitters thus far. Desmond Jennings comes close, but then you get into a rapidly declining scale of terribleness. Sam Fuld has no business in a starting lineup, yet here we are. A dead cat bounce out of Yunel Escobar was hoped, but instead he’s just been playing pepper with his opposition shortstop. Matt Joyce should and could be the power threat against righties that this offense craves, but instead we get excuses about how he got whiplash looking like a candy ass in the outfield while generating enough wind to earn the trusted Sustainable Energy sticker from (Thanks) Obama. Some of these guys weren’t expected to hit all that much and they haven’t disappointed, but it’s the guys we counted on to be around league average or better that are the real frustrating tale. Let’s look at this by handedness:
Here we see that Zobrist has really made hay against righties while not slouching against lefties. Longoria has been off to a similar start without the magnitude and it’s only a matter of time before he mashes lefties (or hits a double for that matter). Jennings has been held back by his (in)ability to hit righties while Sean Rod and Kelly Johnson have actually been positive in that regard, though their performance against lefties leaves much to be desired. Shelley Duncan has struggled with lefties, surprisingly, though as a fastball masher it’s likely the change up gives him fits. We’ll break that down further in the next section. The rest of these guys do a good job making every righty look like Roy Halladay in his prime. Great job, offense! Let’s take a look at what these guys have been thrown:
Use the top table to keep sample size in mind, though the bottom one does an adequate job of showing how pitchers are attacking our hitters. I’m not going to go through everything, because the reader should have a handle on how to interpret this stuff now, but if we’re going to get on Matt Joyce let’s at least point out that pitchers are really isolating his weaknesses. He’s not seeing a ton of fastballs while seeing the second most change ups on the team. He’s going to have to pick up pitches better and get away from trying to pull everything out of the park. At least until pitchers start throwing him more fastballs, then he can get back into power mash mode. Zobrist as a lefty has also seen a ton of junk. Same with Longoria. They’re seeing 56% and 54% fastballs, respectively, though it’s most likely out of respect, as well. Zobrist is getting the change a bunch while Longoria is seeing 42% breaking balls from righties. Until he shows an ability to consistently hit that pitch or lay off and have somebody step up behind then it’s going to be more of the same. Difficult in either case since he’s obviously pressing trying to carry the team. Get on base, get over, and get in and it’s just as good as a dinger. I could go on all day, but let’s look at the run values here:
Green good, red bad, and not a whole lot of green. As a team, they’ve only hit lefty breaking balls and righty change ups better than league average. They lefty change up has been a real riddle so far with Escobar swinging like he didn’t even know this trick pitch was allowed. Sean Rod, Jennings, Zobrist and Lobaton are also faring very poorly while seeing it a decent amount of time. I’m going to have an aneurysm if I try to explain any more of just how truly bad this offense has been. Righties are serving up a ton of breaking balls and both have no problem throwing offspeed and junk. Professional hitters can pick up these things and either take them for balls or mash mistakes. So far we haven’t seen a lot of either and it makes you wonder if you can still call someone a professional strictly because they’re being paid like one.
Again, the season is 5 years old in human years. It’s still rocking baby teeth and occasionally wets the bed. Hopefully, as the page turns we’ll see more of the irascible teenager that hates his parents and slams the door on victories in the coming weeks. As the old adage goes, you’re not going to win a pennant in April, but you can sure as shit lose one. Go Rays!