The Rays have shown a preponderance to guess wrong on coin flips thus far as evidenced by their record in tight games. Some might call that clutch, and maybe some of that comes down to strategic decision-making, but ultimately tight games come down to luck as much as talent or choice. The Rays have no won one series out of five earning them their own carved out corner of the AL East basement. Here’s a look at how our batters and pitchers performed in this most recent series:
Starting with the pitches that each batter saw a couple of things pop out. First off, pitchers continue to not have to offer the fastball to the Rays best hitters. Joyce, (46%), Zobrist (50%), and Jennings/Longoria (56%) have all seen less than 60% of fastballs, overall. The Orioles had tremendous respect for their power so mostly went with offspeed or breaking stuff whenever possible. They can do this because it doesn’t matter if they walk a guy or two in the top to middle of the order as long as they get a favorable matchup later on as the bottom of the order has been mostly dreadful.
Another point is the high level of fastballs to Yunel Escobar. This works in the opposite way, in that, pitchers are going to continue to feed him fastballs until he gives them a reason not to. Escobar has been swinging a better bat, but extra base hits have been non-existant so far and that needs to change.
Matt Joyce saw 25 pitches against lefties to lead the team this series. The (slim) majority of those pitches were breaking balls and we’ll want to pay attention to how he did by the run values. If Joyce can be even a league average hitter against lefties it allows Maddon to keep a good bat out there without being handcuffed by the matchups quite as much.
Checking on Joyce we see that he was still below average against lefties, though it was the fastball that gave him the most trouble. He did a good job of taking balls for balls, and avoiding negative outcomes against the breaking ball. It’s not a lot, but it is progress from a guy that has looked infantile against lefties for most of this season. Believe it or not the best hitter in the series was James Loney who’s only even slight weakness was against the righty change up. He handled everything else pretty well. Next best was Kelly Johnson who did all of his damage against righties while being a liability against same-handers. As an aside, I really like his approach. It’s very similar to Ben Zobrist’s where the batter is looking for a certain pitch that they can drive. This elevates the pitch count leading to walks (and of course strikeouts), but also allows for aggressive swings at hittable pitches. Power and patience is a great way to be and Kelly Johnson has mostly shown that this year when he’s not being asked to bunt. Duncan, Longoria, and Jennings were the other positive bats in this series with all three showing power on pitches in the zone and not chasing those outside the zone.
Ben Zobrist was the worst batter in the series, which shouldn’t come as a complete surprise since pitchers are obviously focusing on him. Lobaton, Roberts, Fuld, and Rodriguez continued to show that they’re here for gloves as the bats have been mostly non-existant. On the series the Rays scored around five more runs than an average offense with all of that coming against righties. They were negative against the lefties, but really exciting to see this team take the Oriole righties behind the woodshed, for the most part.
Here’s a look at what the Rays pitchers threw in this series. Mostly we’re trying to look at sample sizes, but it can also be useful to get a feeling for how well the Orioles were able to platoon against each pitcher. David Price saw mostly lefties, while Matt Moore didn’t have quite as one-sided, and Roberto Hernandez faced a similar breakdown of same-handers. Hernandez continued to flex his change up throwing it even 32% overall with slightly more against lefties. Hernandez is basically throwing the James Shields arsenal right now with change ups to both hands and around 50% fastballs. David Price threw his secondary stuff nearly 40% of the time, which we like, but he’s still waiting for better results, which we’ll touch on shortly. The middle starter was Matt Moore and he was a revelation again. He continues to be a two-pitch pitcher against lefties leaning heavily on the heater, but if you’re a righty I don’t know how you stand a chance. He threw the breaking ball a third of the time and the fastball basically half with plenty of change ups making up the difference. He’s just a joy to watch right now.
As for the bullpen, we see that Brandon Gomes only through one breaking ball to a righty which is dumb, while throwing his slider a ton to lefties while the slider has a pretty significant platoon split, even a good one. Cesar Ramos assumed LOOGY duties (doodys?). Jamey Wright and Joel Peralta each threw 30 pitches. Wright saw mostly lefties going mostly with the fastball while upping the breaking ball a bit higher against righties. While Peralta threw a ton of breaking balls to lefties and an even non-fastball mix to righties. Note that I classify the split-change as a change up. Fernando Rodney also saw work mixing the change and fastball with aplomb. Jake McGee continued to attempt to mix in the occasional breaking ball with one each to lefties and righties while seeing a ton of the latter.
Overall, the Rays were slightly worse than average on the series. They did a great job against righties, while allowing a ton of damage to lefties. There were some individual bright spots so let’s touch on that first. Matt Moore was the best pitcher in the series with his fastball killing lefties, though proving human against righties and vice-versa with his breaking ball, while his change up was pretty solid against righties. Joel Peralta had a pretty good series destroying righties while being around league average against lefties. Rodney and Hernandez also both had strong run values and Jamey Wright was a bit better than average.
Everybody else was mostly terrible. Brandon Gomes was the goat of goats being slightly less awful against righties, but dousing himself in gasoline against lefties. Jake McGee was also pretty bad, but we shouldn’t let the bad of the dinger outweigh the good that he did over his other appearances. Cesar Ramos was in a similar boat though only threw four pitches so whatever, which brings us to David Price. His breaking ball and change up were both pretty solid against righties, but his fastball was exposed against righties and handled by lefties whom also did work on his breaking ball. Price might still be building arm strength, but right now he’s having difficulty getting his fastball by these hitters at a slightly reduced velocity.
That’s it for this series. For once the bats were better than the arms despite the outcome being essentially the same. This team could really go for some meatloaf right now, but I’m sure they’d settle for a game without an obviously missed call at a crucial moment. Ultimately, they need to make their own luck by making plays in high leverage. You can call that clutch, but I’ll stick with luck. With basically half a month of the season gone it would be nice to see some of these bright spots expand to full on sunny days. Per usual my heart will cook my brain. Go Rays.