Previewing the Blue Jays. Yes, Again. | The Process Report

Previewing the Blue Jays. Yes, Again.

The Rays and Jays will square off for the third time this year, and boy, am I sick of this division. The competition is just so RELENTLESS. Ignore their record, the Blue Jays are still a very good team with multiple menaces in their lineup and a couple of very good starters. The Rays are up 4-3 on the season series, which means bupkus. Let’s start by looking at how each team has performed at the dish from a top-down perspective:

The Rays Three True Outcome Mashfense continues to roll on, warts and all. They lead the league in walks, but not everyone in the league has played the Marlins soooooooo. They also lead in strikeouts and have hit slightly below average on balls in play. Toronto, home of feared sluggers and poutine, is barely ahead of the Rays. They’re striking out with aplomb, though not getting nearly the number of walks, and they’re only hitting a little better on balls in play. Neither team should be happy with their placement here, but if you don’t like it, hit better. Let’s move on to the individual actors starting with just balls in play to get a gauge of who has been fortuitous and how hasn’t:

While expected production is fairly similar between these clubs you can see that the results seen by the Rays have dramatically outperformed expectations. The Jays go the other way even harder, and have been missing one of their biggest over performers in Josh Donaldson for some time, including this upcoming series. He isn’t the only one that will miss time, but unlike the others he was at least hitting. Fuckboi Chris Coghlan and corner outfielder Zeke Carrera have been some of their candidates for the most regression, but you can see that Devon Travis goes the other way, and is going to start hitting at some point. I’d expect the same, though to a lesser extent, out of Kendrys Morales and Jose Bautista, two players that always seem to hurt the Rays.

Moving over to the good guys you can see that Dickerson, Souza and Kiermaier have been our biggest over performers now that Sugar Shane is chasing butterflies on a farm somewhere. Longo and Norris have the most to gain assuming they continue to hit the ball as well as they have so far. At the top you see our studly shortstop Tim Beckham and Uncle Rick is right there with him. Add Logan Morrison to the mix and the Rays have some guys that are not only hitting the ball hard, but deserving every bit of it. One issue, especially with the first of those last two names is that they’re having to trade some discipline to get to those prodigious heights. Let’s incorporate those non-balls in play:

The Rays best hitter in both volume and production has been Logan Morrison, but Timmy is giving him a run for his money. Longo and Dickerson round out the guys that have performed like above average hitters and then we get into the malaise of guys that are right around the average. Daniel Robertson is opening eyes for his ability to field competently wherever he is placed, but the stick is doing some barking, too. The solid plate discipline was always his calling card, but we’re also seeing his ability to hit alleys and with some whoop, as well. The bad is mostly confined to Kevin Kiermaier who somehow inexplicably continues to bat in the two-hole despite being one of the very worst hitters in the game this year. He’ll probably get it going at some point, but for now he’s barely getting the ball out of the infield, and while the walks help he’s having to take out a boatload of strikeouts to get there.

The Jays are somewhat similar with two feared sluggers then a bunch of guys in the middle. They don’t have the soul crushing detractor, but that is only because they let Salty dog off the leash. Carrera is doing a fine impression in his stead. There is a lot of mediocre floating around so the Rays priority should be not letting Morales or Smoak beat them. Put those guys on if you must, but then you better go get the next guy. Let’s move on to the pitchers:

The Rays saw some considerable upward movement over the night as previously worst pitcher on the staff Matt Andriese threw an absolute gem. Toronto stays better, however. While their hitting has left much to be desired, and a couple of pitcher injuries haven’t helped, the Jays continue to piece together some competent if not better pitching. Both teams walk too many batters, but the Jays also get strikeouts where the Rays are attempting to leverage their good defenders more often. Tampa Bay has given up weaker contact, but weak contact is still worse than the punch out. Something to keep an eye on this series.

Boxscore watchers might have been disappointed with the debut of Jose Alvarado, but I assure you, he looked pretty good. He garnered soft contact, and showed real athleticism on the mound. I don’t think it is coincidence that he wasn’t immediately sent down to bring up a fresh arm. Hu can tell the same story, but he is probably only hear until proud papa Erasmo Ramirez gets back from paternity leave. On to the stalwarts where you see Jumbo, Whitley and Colome forming an excellent back end of the bullpen. The Rays appear to be making a conscious effort to avoid the damage of extra base hits as shown in the previously linked piece, but also in the table below. Their defense can help explain some of the luck they’ve seen on balls in play, but not all of it. I think at some point they’re going to get taken to the woodshed, but we haven’t seen much of that yet.

The worst ball in play guys for the Jays are either no longer with the team, no longer in an important role, or on the disabled list. The rest that remain have been quite good this year. Liriano will make his third start against the Rays this year (we’re a month in for crying out loud that’s crazy), and both clubs have seen him at his best and worst in the prior starts. I don’t believe that he will perform to the middle here as I’d expect him to be pretty tough on this Rays lineup.

Marco Estrada has been the best pitcher for either stable, and I have him as the seventh best pitcher in all of baseball this year. He’ll go Saturday against Jake Odorizzi so get your popcorn ready. The Jays have amassed a pretty good bullpen, too, as long as you’re not talking about Jason Grilli. Biagini, Barnes, Leone, Osuna, Loup and Smith have combined different looks from different sides in doing a good job of controlling the mid to late innings. The Rays have seen all of them, and more importantly hit all of them before, but that should not be the expectation as they each have been quite good so far.

Compare them to the Rays very good trio of Colome, Jumbo and Whitley and we’ve got the makings for some boring baseball at the end of games. However, the Rays just don’t have that guy that can match up with Estrada. Odorizzi has been quite good, but only in three starts, and ace Chris Archer is still rounding into form always the victim of the one bad inning. With those two going the first two games, unrespectively, and a bullpen that verges on downright rested considering the rigors of the schedule the Rays might be able to close the gap between their bottom third staff and the top third one featured by Toronto.



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