Through 38 Games
While most folks like to call this the quarter pole of the season they are all wrong. We are not entering the final quarter of this race, but as we wind up the first quarter of the season it does give us a nice mile marker that does seem to carry some weight with folks. I mean we still use a quarter in our currency and that, well, that means something, right? Probably not, but as far as arbitrary endpoints go this is a fine time to review how the Rays and their opponents have looked this year.
Overall, the pitching has been around 16.5 runs better than average, and that goes even higher when taking into account the types of hitters the Rays have faced as they’re beating those expectations by nearly 19.5 runs. The team has owned lefties and righties alike, but special emphasis should be on the latter as it looks like they have faced a well above average complement of right-handed batters.
I don’t think we know what Matt Andriese will be, but so far he has been a Godsend to a starting staff that has had to use one of their better options in the bullpen and seen two stalwarts get exposed. That horse moved to the pen is of course Erasmo Ramirez who has compiled the second most runs better than average despite facing the toughest opposition of any pitcher on the team. He has faced a little over half of the number of batters that the other starters have seen, but coming out of the bullpen he has been everything the team has needed and more providing the ability to cover multiple innings while still providing excellent production.
Smyly has clearly been our best starter by both the eye test and these figures with Odorizzi essentially being league average and then the aforementioned Moore and Archer costing the team a touch higher than 10 runs more than an average pitcher. They have been bailed out by the studs of the pen. I already touched on Erasmo, but you can see just how very effective Romero and Colome have been, and I’m not even factoring in leverage here. The mop up men in Eveland and Webb, however, have proven time and again that they can’t be trusted in a game that matters. Let’s look at this visually:
Collette covered Andriese’s “cut-up”, which is well worth your time and goes a long way in explaining why he has been death to lefties. We see Erasmo and Colome skew the other way with a bit of a weakness against opposite handers so I wouldn’t expect to see less of Xavier Cedeno any time soon. I’m all for the matchup bullpen, but we have seen that when Mr. Cash has already burnt Erasmo and Colome needs to get a lefty that there is little left after Cedeno. Oh, other than that Enny Romero guy who put a wildness blip behind him to return to sustained excellence. More please!
Flipping over to the batters we can see that the offense has been even further better than average than our pretty good pitching at 19.5 runs better despite being expected to be roughly league average. Guyer and Pearce have finally started to see more playing time, which may bring their overall wOBA figures down, but could altogether boost their wRAA from the increased number of opportunities. Time will tell, but it’s nice to see the team being progressive with guys that have done nothing but hit. Alas, we shed a tear for our fallen Frosty. Get well, get well soon, we want you to get well.
The much maligned Longoria seems to have straightened it out of late as he he is joined by Souza at around 4 runs better than average. These two righties have provided a bunch of power while FEASTING on lefties, and each has been a little better than average against their fellow northpaws. We take another step down to round out the above average batter with the lefties Kiermaier and Big Swingin’ Dickerson.
Moving into the underworld we begin to see increasingly shady sprites that have paired moments of greatness with a whole lot of little else. Hard to fault Brad Miller who has hit righties, as expected, and not hit lefties, as expected. His numbers jive with the matchup expectations pretty well, and I have been pleasantly surprised with his defense even if the metrics haven’t caught up yet. Beckham looks like our 25th man who can do a little here and there to pitch in, but might end up being a guy they feel they can upgrade upon, especially if Motter proves he can handle lefties and short. I’m sure the Rays would love to get a Shaffer/Mahtook up to give them a little more with the stick even if it comes with a lot less of the glove.
Desmond Jennings is probably in a similar situation, but he has been a fine defender in LF that has helped prop up the pitchers when he has played. Surely, he can’t hit this poorly going forward, right? Right?!?! The two guys that were brought in based off their past prowess versus righties in Conger and Morrison have started to show a pulse, but they’ve really dug deep holes. The team doesn’t have a tremendous option to replace either in house, but that might not stop them from trying. I say give each a little more rope to see if they can cross the chasm or die trying.
Looking at the chart we see about what you would expect from the top five guys, all righties. They have hit righties at a better than average rate and have obliterated lefties. There is going to come a point where teams start skipping left-handed starters when they see the Rays on the schedule, but that might only amount to a bucket of water on a five-alarm fire as each batter is handling his biz against same-handers.
Dickerson looks fine against righties, which is why he was brought here, and Kiermaier is managing to not embarrass himself against lefties making it even easier to slot his unobtainium glove in on an everyday basis. Continuing down it is really nice to see Casali’s power or pass out approach showing very little platoon split making it even easier to envision him taking the lion’s share of plate appearances at the easiest to platoon position on the diamond. This looks and feels like a team that needs one more good stick against righties. So far that has not been LoMo, but this lineup becomes even more dynamic if he can get it going. Enough about the Rays let’s look at the guys that have been the biggest thorns in the team’s side as well as the guys that have done the least to help their individual teams.
This is more for funsies so don’t expect much analysis here. It is nice to see all the Blue Jays on the bottom-15 especially everyday guys like Pillar and Martin and the mostly everyday guy Goins. We have faced them a ton with the team doing a good job of not letting these guys do virtually any damage. Unfortunately, Joey Bats and Josh Donaldson have absolutely raked meaning it hasn’t been a total whitewash.
The birth of the Rays offense has come at the perfect time as the pitching hasn’t been able to get deep enough into games where the team can avoid using their worst relievers. I don’t know how long it will stick around, but we have a pretty large sample here of a team that has both hit and pitched at a well above average rate. This looks like a team that has played three to four games above average even if the record does not reflect that yet. This offers some solace as the Rays embark on a stretch of 20 games in 20 days that could very well be the most pivotal time of the year. Come out of this stretch (well) above .500 and things look very strong moving forward. Poor performance during this stretch could cause the team to switch gears and start to think about who they can move and for what.