Daily Process: The Rays Drop Game One to Orioles | The Process Report

Daily Process: The Rays Drop Game One to Orioles

David Price pitched well through four. He located his fastball, openly challenging (and winning) hitters over the plate while successfully mixing in his curveball. Speaking of the breaker, he located it for strikes or in the dirt when needed. It’s amazing to think he began to really hone the curve as a go-to pitch only 25-to-26 months ago because nights like this give the impression he’s always had it. For all the talk about a rediscovered slider, I didn’t see it. That comes in the most literal sense, I don’t recall him throwing a pitch I would describe as a slider, but pitchfx data has him tossing a pair, so I’ll defer.

For most of the outing, Price’s only blemish was a poorly executed pickoff attempt at second base (later turning into a sac fly). Price then lost his command in the fifth inning and Brian Roberts got hold of a curveball, sending it into left field. Johnny Damon tried to slide and toss the ball to B.J. Upton (not the worst of ideas, given the considerable arm strength difference), but the ball escaped, allowing Roberts to clear the bases and wind up on third. The Orioles would not score over the final four innings.

I thought Price pitched pretty well. He’ll get charged with a loss and four earned runs, but the Orioles hit few balls had and walked only once. Meanwhile, Price struck out seven and completed seven innings of work on 103 pitches. He’s probably a pitch away from having a no decision tonight and –on most nights—a W next to his name in the box score.

One lefty with an ethereal fastball was replaced by another, as Jake McGee faced Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis in the eighth. Adam Russell faced Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, and Adam Jones before Cesar Ramos got Luke Scott. The fun thing about The Process Versus series is that none of these matchups should’ve come as a surprise. Here’s a clearer look:

McGee (LHP) faced: Roberts (push) and Markakis (matchup favors lefties)
Russell (RHP) faced: Lee (matchup favors righties), Guerrero (push), Jones (matchup favors lefties)
Ramos (LHP) faced: Scott (matchup favors lefties)

The only matchup that was “wrong” by the preview is Russell versus Jones. Maddon opted for the conventional righty-on-righty matchup and it worked. That doesn’t mean it’ll always work, but these are the most basic of platoon splits and it was right five out of six times. Not too shabby.

Oh, and two other notes: 1) Russell looked fine. Whatever velocity issues were there in spring were gone tonight as he averaged around 95 miles per hour and topped out over 96 while really, really riding his slider. 2) Ramos threw two pitches, a first pitch curve then a fastball down and away. There’s a chance he assigns his pitches to random numbers, uses a computer to spit out various integers, then pitches off that sheet.

As for the offense, Jeremy Guthrie pitched quite well. He mixed speeds and seemed to get ahead 0-2 or 1-2 all night. The only walk was by Reid Brignac, which is about as unlikely an outcome as you’ll find for this team on a nightly basis. Conventional wisdom is that the first pitch of the at-bat is huge, but it’s really not. Check the league-wide OPS splits provided below, it’s winning two of the first three pitches that’s more important:

On 0-0: 874
On 0-1: 808
On 1-0: 893
On 0-2: 385
On 2-0: 951
On 1-1: 829

The difference between 0-1 and 1-0 is less than 100 points. The difference between 0-2 and 2-0 is nearly 500 points. By my count, Guthrie got to 0-2 on eight of the 19 batters who saw at least two pitches. As a reference point, Guthrie’s career percentage of plate appearances that reached 0-2 (not ended, but reached) is around 17 percent. Tonight, he was at 30 percent.

Of the three extra base hits for the Rays, Ben Zobrist’s ninth inning home run will be the most memorable, but B.J. Upton’s double will be the most talked about. Not because he hit the ball well (although he did, on a slider) but rather a baserunning mistake that cost the Rays a rare run-scoring opportunity. Upton was on second and Brignac on first. Upton tried getting an early jump on Guthrie, but the pitcher turned and fired to second. Just as he told Tommy a few days ago, he kept running. Eventually he was tagged out (after being pushed to the ground by J.J. Hardy, although naturally interference was not called). At least he allowed Brignac to reach second base, but here’s the thing: I don’t agree with Upton and/or Brignac running in the first place.

The situation was first and second with one out in the eighth with a four-run deficit. In that situation, you’d expect about a run to score. Runners on second and third with one out (the best-case scenario) nets you 1.5 runs. A runner on second with two outs (the worst-case scenario) means a run expectancy of .344. Using break-even point analysis, you have to be safe about 56 percent of the time for the risk to be worth the reward. That’s not an exceptionally high clip, but I’m not sure you aren’t better off letting Jaso and (probably) Johnny Damon get a crack at things with runners on second and first. Upton is scoring on any hit shy of an infield single anyways, and you aren’t playing for a run or two there, but the largest inning possible.

Possibly the best development of the night for the Rays? Brian Matusz will not make his scheduled start. Chris Tillman, Sunday’s planned starter, goes tomorrow night instead.


  1. professortwain wrote:

    I agree that BJ running was a terrible mistake… but he made the best of it, he was motioning Reid to get to second as he tried to extend the run down. But you don’t need to run in that situation.

    Johnny Damon, bless his heart, looks like a 50 year old softball player out in left field, doing his best to get to even the easiest fly balls, but making it look tough… the triple was a shot that Carl Crawford or Desmond Jennings would have caught, and the little flip play to BJ was an embarrassment.

    The Rays hit a lot of balls hard tonight. They will be fine.

  2. I.Welsh-Art wrote:

    Though BJ’s steal attempt was inept, something should of been done the way he was thrown to the ground. It all seemed to fall apart after that pick off attempt and they got flustered. But as you mentioned quickly set the bar straight, but it was too late. It did show that the bull pen can execute, though it was one outing. I was really impressed by Russel and McGee tonight and surprised to see Ramos come into the end of the game, seeing as he was never in the mentioning as a closer. He may have been put in because it was a non save situation, but who knows. They were lights out after those few mistakes.

    I think Dan should be given more credit, that guy had some pop tonight, both him and BJ almost cleared the fence tonight. It looks like these guys have more pop that last year, something I noticed during spring training.

    One thing though, those Orioles didn’t seem all piss and vinegar like August of last year. Anyways, as far as the Rays go, I don’t see any reason to panic, it was a good outing, just some bad luck.

    • Tommy Rancel wrote:

      The tackle was just as bad as the decision to run in that situation, but as you said it’s nothing to panic over. I think the bullpen did well and we got a glimpse of how Maddon will use them. McGee will be eased into facing righties and lefties. Russell and Ramos look to be specialists right now, but that can change with effectiveness.

      It was a close game that really changed on one play (Roberts’ triple).

  3. fryban wrote:

    I also really didn’t like that pickoff attempt at 2nd. What’s the point of that? The risk was just too high that you’d put the runner on third with fewer than two outs and set them up for the sac fly. (Although Markakis actually drove in the run w/ a single.)

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