Series Review: #4 Chicago White Sox
For the first time in 2016 the Rays can honestly make the claim that they won a series. Despite getting demolished by Chris Sale in the first game the Rays hit their way to a win in game two and then pitched their asses off to take the rubber match. The Rays probably won’t face three lefty starters again this year as the White Sox rotation is pretty unique, but for the fourth straight series the Rays got incredible pitching from their starters and bullpen.
Coming into the series the tool saw these teams as essentially even. That’s kind of encouraging since the White Sox were 7-2 and the Rays 3-6. Our pitching was just too much for them. One note is that Sale was so freaking good that the Rays wOBA to runs conversion was actually -1 in the first game of the series, but that broke the pythag calculation so I set that to zero. If he’s not the best pitcher in the American League then he’s close enough for government work. Tampa Bay lit it up in game when they saw their best matchups of the series and then dominated game three on the backs of their pitching.
The pythag win expectencies are fairly interesting as the Rays blew it out in the second game to score their most runs of the year, seven, but it was game three that actually had the highest win probability. Matt Moore, Enny Romero, and Alex Colome were every bit as good as Jake Odorizzi, Xavier Cedeno and Colome, again, was in game one. Despite basically coin flip expectations the Rays went out and achieved anyway. Here’s why:
Over the course of the series the Rays held the White Sox to nearly nine and a half runs fewer than the average team would have produced. They were led by staff ace Jake Odorizzi who is putting together quite the resumé to start the year. Unfortunately, he ran into the aforementioned Sale. Erasmo Ramirez received the spot start in game two and did not disappoint as he pitched almost as well as Jake, albeit, facing five less batters. Erasmo can really get through a lineup twice, which makes him a real weapon.
Then we get to the game three starter Matt Moore who you’re going to start hearing about a ton from the mainstream media. It looks like he is back to showing the promise and the pitches that had all of us so excited before he pitched through his injury and eventually succumbed to the knife.
Outside of Steve Geltz who continues to battle homeritis the pen was as lockdown as you could ask. Alex Colome had the small hiccup in the first game when the margins were razor-thin, but bounced back nicely in the finale to record five outs for the save. Most folks are aware of Colome, but the less heralded lefty arms of Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero continued to impress. Neither of these guys is just a LOOGY as they can get all batters. These two are a big reason why I wasn’t panicking when the team traded Jake McGee and the industry consensus stated that the Rays pen was a problem. It’s not. It won’t be. They’re really good and they’re backed up by a small army of arms on the way. Let’s switch over to our sticks:
It shouldn’t be a surprise that in a series where the Rays faced three southpaws we saw good contributions from Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings. These guys really hit lefties and they put the team on their back this series. More surprising is the relative lack of offense from Evan Longoria or Steve Pearce who both gobble lefty fastballs like it’s Thanksgiving. Longo put up three singles so the traditional numbers aren’t as sour on him, but he was expected to be our best hitter this series and that didn’t happen. He has been more good than great, but hasn’t had an awful series yet. While his contributions were meager he wasn’t a huge detriment to the offense like Curt Casali. Unlike all the dim folks that saw Casali’s homers last year I wasn’t sold on his ability to hit big league pitching. Hopefully he can come around or he’s going to be added to the Browns quarterback-esque list of Rays catchers that didn’t amount to a whole lot. Here’s a big reason why most of the team struggled:
After getting smited by Sale the Rays did pretty well against the rest of the rotation and bullpen as only Zach Duke was better than average in this series. Avoiding David Robertson and Nate Jones is a good strategy that we should try to employ the next time we play them! Jose Quintana pitched pretty well, though the numbers show him being worse than average, while John Danks and Zach Putnam were a nightmare for the Southsiders. Here are their bats:
No matter where he goes Brett Lawrie always seems to find a way to stick it to the Rays. He had a very good series ending up as the second best hitter for these three games trailing only our own Brandon Guyer. Melky Cabrera also lit the pyre, but not nearly as brightly. Coming into this past weekend there was one name circled, highlighted and underlined. Jose Abreu was the one guy that we could not let beat us. He had the worst series of any batter. Great job, Rays. They also did a good job with new slugger Todd Frazier who can kill you with the longball, but doesn’t do a whole lot else. Always great when the guys that get the most plate appearances are their worst hitters. Let’s keep that going as we roll into Shitston.