Reviewing the Series: #7 Baltimore Orioles
Another series won by the Rays even if last night’s performance leaves a sour taste in your mouth. The Orioles have staked their claim early as one of the best offenses in the game, but could muster little offense against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. It is debateable whether Tampa Bay is the outright winner of the MLB arms race, but they’re certainly making a bid. U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A-G-E Full disclosure, I’m neither scientist nor doctor, but if the Rays keep taking every series they play then they’re going to get to stay out later than most of the other kids.
I’m struggling to fix a small issue when both teams have very low, similar, wOBA values in the conversion to wRAA and eventually pythag. It’s a small thing, but note that the Rays should have been a very small favorite to win that last game in addition to the first two. Baltimore may have come in leading the division, but the Rays played well enough to take two out of three even with a bit of poor luck. You can see that offense was nearly non-existent in this series with only the Rays in game 20 managing to hit at an above average rate. They didn’t need to in the first as the Orioles mustered practically no offense and were at a similar rate in the last game. Unfortunately for the Rays, you can’t just pitch your way to victory. You still have to hit a little. Here’s how our bats performed on an individual level:
Forsythe continues to be on some sort of run as he was the best hitter in the series when taking into account production and volume. Brad Miller joined him atop the leaderboard after spending most of the season at the other end of the table. He has hit the ball hard for most of the season without the results to match so it is encouraging to see these things start to reconcile themselves. We want more Steve Pearce! The guy that offers the most resistance to nightly Lakeland Launches, Logan Morrison, also had his best series of the year even with being robbed of a walk towards the end of game 21. Getting Miller and Morrison going, wherever they are in the lineup, will be key for an offense that has struggled against opposition righties for a good chunk of the season.
More on this in a separate post later, but for now let’s go to the bottom of the list. There we find Desmond Jennings who did nothing outside of a sacrifice fly. Only slightly better were two guys that are counted upon to carry this offense. Dickerson had a bad series, but has been so good it is easy to forgive. Evan Longoria, on the other hand, has swung at 110% of pitches thrown this year regardless of whether or not they are in the same county. I like the aggressive, pull-centric approach, but at some point he’s going to need to tighten it up so that pitchers will be forced to offer competitive pitches that Longo can actually do anything with. Here are the Oriole arms:
Chris Tillman continues to flummox the Rays with his brand of refusing to throw pitches out over the plate. In last night’s game he nibbled and stayed out of the zone until he was forced to come within, which wasn’t often. The Rays did him many favors swinging outside of the zone. This is the downside of the aggressive approach. I’m all for being aggressive, provided, the heavy, hard swings come on fastballs up and out over the plate. Swinging at every piece of trash thrown up there should never be a serious option. Kevin Gausman was very good, though his inability to throw strikes with his secondary stuff caught up to him in the later innings as the Rays did just enough. Ubaldo Jimenez was dodging trouble left and right until it finally caught up with him to the tune of a Kevin Kiermaier go ahead and never turn back homer.
Their bullpen is pretty good even if Buck Showalter’s reluctance to dip into it in the second game probably cost them the series. That second place guy Brad Brach gets almost no credit, but he is extremely good. It’s a testament to how lockdown their pen is that he gets almost no mention amongst baseball die hards as a very good reliever. Unlike Brian Matusz who isn’t even a good LOOGY anymore. Here’s the Rays version of pitch-thrower guys:
The starters of the first and third games for the Rays were as good as ever. They both pitched deep into their starts while offering very little to the opposition. When they did come out we got to see some of the No Name bullpen that is going to get credit for their ability at some point. I have no idea where the Rays would be without Erasmo Ramirez, but he’s not alone. This is a very solid pen that gets even better when Mr. Kevin Cash can use them in a matchup role as he did in the later innings of the games that mattered. Eveland and Webb are the low leverage guys, but the team needs them to keep the better arms from getting worn out. Lastly, Jake Odorizzi was pretty bad in his latest start. Much like Tillman, he refused to come into the zone until the count dictated he must. This works well against an aggressive lineup, but when they show patience it means lots and lots of pitches from behind in the count. Jake seemed to be pitching very carefully, and I can’t say that I blame him all that much after getting ripped by the O’s earlier in the year. Here are those bats:
Pedro Alvarez was an absolute machine against our righties with multiple extra base hits to go with good at bats even when it didn’t work out. Between him and the game-winning homer from Joey “Rabbits” Rickard the O’s tried to keep pace, but you can see why they mostly failed. The Rays did an outstanding job of limiting the best bats the Orioles have to offer. Not only are these guys the best hitters on their team, but they’re three of the best hitters in all of baseball. Machado didn’t touch first and both Davis and Jones had a miserable series. Usually, that will be enough, but you’re not going to win many games when you score zero runs.