Through 12 Games
With the off day today the team gets a chance to collect their breath and we, the fans, get a moment to reflect on what we have seen so far. With five wins and seven losses and coming off their first series win the Rays are starting to show why their was so much optimism to start the year. Sure, we haven’t hit as well as we would like, but the pitching has been even better than we thought with one rather large exception. Additionally, the bullpen looks like a real strength with multiple options that can get out batters of both hands and get four plus outs when needed. This underrated facet has allowed guys to get plenty of rest between stints, but it also allows Rays Manager Kevin Cash the opportunity to not have to show a guy multiple times in a series. If the idea is that batters get better the more they see a guy then only letting them see each reliever one time per series is a great opportunity to shield a potential opposition advantage. Let’s start with these pitchers since it has been such a bright spot:
I have broken this out a couple of different ways in an attempt to gain a little clarity. The “Actual” column shows wOBA allowed by each pitcher using The Book’s linear weights, while the “Matchup” column shows what the Matchup Tool expects each pitcher to have yielded based on career park-adjusted platoon splits and Zips projections. Keep in mind these are super small samples, but that’s kind of the point. It will be interesting to keep revisiting this stuff to watch as players regress or defy the projections. Overall, the Rays have been death to righties, while ceding league average production to opposition lefties. Tampa Bay has been roughly seven and a half runs better than average as a unit.
Enny Romero is off to a blazing start having pitched basically half of a perfect game to start the season leaving him around three and a half runs better than the average pitcher to date. He has basically been worth a third of a win already. On the starter-side we see Jake Odorizzi basically right with Romero giving four times the volume even if he has allowed the occasional base runner. He has owned lefties and still been better than average against righties. Xavier Cedeno has been almost as good as Romero out of the pen as he continues his evolution into being more than just a LOOGY. Then we get to Matt Moore who the system doesn’t like as much due to struggles over his most recent stretches prior to this season. He has been very good despite facing lineups that are stacked to the gills with righties. Swingman/Spot Starter Erasmo Ramirez has been up to the task no matter his role, though you can see that he does show a pronounced split so far. One that nearly mirrors Odorizzi’s own reverse split.
Moving to the bottom we see what would have been a surprise three weeks ago, but is anything but after watching the Rays over these first contests. Chris Archer has been our worst pitcher. In a way, that’s amazing. The team has pitched this well despite their workhorse true ace who should be more of what we think going forward. Let that seap in. Our worst starter is probably going to be our best one going forward. That’s a heck of a problem. I don’t have quite the confidence in Steve Geltz to make that turnaround. With each big fly landing amongst the populace he gets closer and closer to riding the Durham shuttle as the Rays have many options on the farm that are itching to get big leaguers out. New additions Danny Farquhar and Ryan Webb have also been below average with most of Farq’s trouble coming against lefties and Webb showing a reverse split in a laughably small sample. With a bevy of options it might make sense to start using the Little Lord in more of a specialist role.
The table above has a lot going on and I realize, like myself, many folks are visual learners so here is a pretty chart showing each pitcher’s actual wOBA allowed with the dashed line indicating league average:
I have ordered these by wRAA allowed, overall, so that you can get a sense of who has been the best and the worst and the bars should give you a good idea of how that breaks down versus lefties or righties. Let’s move on to the batters:
As a whole, the team has been much better against righties, which is a reversal from last year, but nearly a quarter of the lefties they have faced have been named Chris Sale. The team has been around ten runs worse than the average with a huge chunk of that coming from those last two names on the list. Logan Morrison has been beyond bad at the plate. He has seen the fourth most northpaws and been by far the worst hitter on the team against them. That should change, maybe, going forward. It certainly looks like he won’t hurt for opportunity. Despite a career platoon split that makes him a borderline platoon guy, and certainly if he played anywhere other than shortstop, Miller has had a nice little start against southpaws. The production against righties will come even if the same-hander success falls off. I’d expect Miller to move up this list as the year moves along.
The next time that Curt Casali reaches base against a lefty will be his first, but he has shown a little bit against righties. I don’t want to write him off completely, I mean he’s a catcher, but I expected him to be not all that exciting and that’s what we have seen so far. Fortunately for him it looks like he will continue to see all lefties as Hank Conger has been heavily hidden from them. Speaking of, Conger has been a little worse than we expected against lefties, and I would expect that to continue. I’d like to see Steve Pearce get some more consistent playing time to see if that could get him going. He is better than he has been, but much like Logan Forsythe, I think he needs to play a lot to feel comfortable at the plate. Kevin Kiermaier has been worse than expected against righties, but right where we thought against lefties. I think he’ll get a little better.
At the top, where it is a little lonely, we see Steven Souza leading the way with great production against lefties and very good stuff against righties, as well. He is joined by Brandon Guyer who is coming off his first series of sustained production where he put up the majority of his offense. Another guy that should probably be pretty strictly platooned is Corey Dickerson who hasn’t done anything in eight plate appearances against a lefty, but has scorched righties even better than we expected. Finally, the Rays again have a guy who makes you stop what you’re doing to really watch him work, because at any moment you could see fireworks. Desmond Jennings rounds out the group of guys that have been better than average despite having some very difficult matchups so far that see him having the lowest expectations. Here’s a look at their actual wOBA produced by handedness:
I think this really helps put things in context to show where guys are excelling and where they are struggling. Just wait until Longo gets going against lefties and Brandon Guyer is continuing to make his case to be an everyday player. I like him in his current role and wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart, but if he is able to continue what he has done against righties so far, in a fairly meaningless five plate appearances, then it’s going to be awfully hard to not try to get him in the lineup more often.