ALDS Thoughts: Rays v. Red Sox | The Process Report

ALDS Thoughts: Rays v. Red Sox

On the eve of the American League Divisional Series between the Rays and the Red Sox, here are some things to ponder…

10 Pitchers or 11?

The Rays carried nine pitchers during the Wild Card “series.” They’ll carry at least one more for the potential five-game set against the Red Sox. The easy call is dumping the third catcher, Chris Gimenez, for David Price, who starts game two. From there the Rays could operate with a four-man rotation, six-man bullpen, and 15 position players. Or they could go with a traditional seven-man bullpen and drop a bench player.

That decision likely comes down to carrying an emergency arm – perhaps an additional starter – who would be used in case of injury or prolonged game or an extra left-handed outfielder. Tampa Bay had five left-handed outfielders on the Wild Card roster: David DeJesus, Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld, Kevin Kiermaier, and Kelly Johnson. There also have swingman Ben Zobrist. If the Rays decide to go for the 11-man staff, the extra spot is likely to come from this group.

Delmon The DH

Joe Maddon turned some heads by inserting Delmon Young as his designated hitter against right-handed Danny Salazar in the Wild Card game. As mentioned above, Maddon had plenty of left-handed bats available – including Luke Scott who was left off the roster – but decided against the platoon split with Young. The right-hander rewarded his manager with a huge solo blast that broke a scoreless tie.

Small samples sizes are dangerous, but the playoffs are a small sample size. Since joining the Rays, Young – and his revamped swing – has produced a reverse split, feasting on same-side fastballs. The alternatives – Scott and Joyce – did not play well down the stretch even with the platoon split in their favor. Over the course of a full season, both lefties would almost certainly out hit Young versus right-handed pitching, but the Rays aren’t concern with long-term success right now. Don’t be shocked if The Delmon Theory continues testing throughout the ALDS.

Longoria versus Lester

In his Thursday press conference, Red Sox manager John Farrell noted that Evan Longoria has been going to the opposite field a bit more these days. Longoria has 32 hits in his last 30 games including the Wild Card. He has 11 hits to left field, 11 hits to center field, and 10 hits to right field.  Most of his opposite-field hits have come fastballs on the outer half.

Jon Lester tends to pitch right-handed batters away with his fastball and changeup. Meanwhile, he has a cutter and a breaking ball to come inside against righties. Longoria should be prepared to see a steady diet of the inside pitches as the Sox look to limit his damage to one portion of the field.

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