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A Tampa Bay Rays Blog: Ball on a Budget



Updated: 2017-07-24T17:45:43-04:00

 



Series Preview: Orioles come to the Trop

2017-07-24T17:45:43-04:00

Let’s start with the good news. The upcoming series against the Orioles can’t be worse than the recently completed series against the Rangers. Only way to go is up! Yes, our Tampa Bay Rays come into this series off a disappointing [ed. note: soul-crushing] sweep by the Texas Rangers. The Orioles come after losing two of three in a series against the Houston Astros. The Matchups: Monday 7:10 PM: Kevin Gausman vs Blake SnellTuesday 7:10 PM: Wade Miley vs Jacob FariaWednesday 12:10 PM: Ubaldo Jimenez vs Alex Cobb If Dennis Eckersley saw the stats of the Baltimore rotation it would definitely cause him to say “Yuck!” The Orioles starting rotation has an ERA of 5.98 and has a 5.49 FIP. They combine a 17.9% strikeout rate with a 9.9% walk rate. That usually doesn’t lead to good results. Kevin Gausman hasn’t seen his successful 2016 transfer to 2017. His ERA is up 2.50 to 6.11. FIP isn’t much better at 5.05. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts, but walks almost 10%. This year left handed batters have hit .311/.402/.508 and put up a .390 wOBA. In his last start he allowed one run in six innings to the Texas Rangers. At the beginning of July he held the Rays scoreless for seven innings. Wade Miley has a 5.58 ERA and 5.36 FIP. He has struck out 18.8%, but has an elevated 12.8% walk rate. The left-handed Miley has been lit up by opposing right handed bats to the tune of .317/.403/.501 and a .387 wOBA. He has done a really great job neutralizing left handed bats with a .200/.333/.300 line and .292 wOBA. In his last start he gave up five runs in five innings to the Rangers. In April he held the Rays to two runs in seven innings. Ubaldo Jimenez is putting up the worst season of his career. His 7.19 ERA and 6.02 FIP is easily the worst of his career that includes spending four years with the Rockies. He combines a moderate 18.7% strikeout rate and 10.4% walk rate. In his last start the Astros put up six runs in 5.1 innings. In two starts against the Rays this year they combined to score 12 runs in 5.2 innings (3.1 and 2.1 innings outings). Left handed batters have teed off with a .297/.381/.665 line and .428 wOBA. The Orioles bullpen is the best part of the team Looking at the Orioles rotation, it is no surprise that their bullpen has been asked to pitch a lot of innings. They have been up to the task. Zach Britton has spent a large part of the season injured. He’s now back and although he hasn’t matched last year’s dominant season he still has a 2.65 ERA and 3.03 FIP. His last blown save came against the Rays on September 20, 2015. Britton is joined by Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Donnie Hart. All have ERAs below 3.00 and FIPs in the mid threes. The bullpen comes in heavily worked over the past few days. They had to use four pitchers each day. Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens have worked the last two games. Clearly, teams hoping to defeat Baltimore need to strike early and often. The Orioles offense has to put up big numbers for the Orioles to win The Orioles have been scoring a lot. When your starting rotation has an ERA around 6.00 you will need to put up crooked numbers to win some games. That said, in some ways their offense, which has been their strength in their winning-est years, has been disappointing this year. They are hitting .258/.314/.432 and have a 95 wRC+. They hit a lot of homers and strikeout a lot. Unlike the Rays they don’t walk that much. Jonathan Schoop has been the leader of the offense. Schoop has broken out hitting .307/.353/.552 and 136 wRC+. He leads the Orioles with 21 homers. Trey Mancini has had a great rookie season hitting .304/.350/.524 and 130 wRC+. He’s hit 15 homers. I’m a big fan, but probably am biased since he went to Winter Haven High School, which is known for producing really awesome graduates. Manny Machado has had the most disappointing year of his career. He’s hitting .238/.310/.434 and has a 94 wRC+. He has hit 18 homers. Mark Trumbo is also putting up a disappointing season. When the Orioles re-signed him this off-season I’m sure they expected mor[...]



Game Preview: Blake Snell vs Kevin Gausman

2017-07-24T17:18:51-04:00

The Rays look to snap a four game losing streak behind their former top prospect The Tampa Bay Rays are reeling, but haven’t lost to much ground in the standings. They have now lost four games in a row, falling back into third place in the AL East and into a tie for the second Wild Card spot. The Rays will now look to right the ship tonight as they welcome the Baltimore Orioles into town to begin a three game series. The Orioles are still within reaching distance of the playoffs, but it take a major run for them to be able to pull it off this late in the season. Heading into play tonight, they are 47-51, three and a half games back of the second Wild Card spot, while they’re seven games back in the division, sitting in 4th place. Starting Pitchers Blake Snell goes for the Rays as he looks to put his past performances behind him. Snell shows his potential at least a couple of times throughout each outing, but eventually he unravels and things go badly in hurry. His last time out came on the 18th in Oakland where he allowed three runs on three hits — one homer — and he also picked up six strikeouts, but walked three and lasted just four innings. Kevin Gausman has had an up and down year for the Orioles in 2017. When he’s bad, he’s really, really bad. But, when he occasionally is able to figure things out, opponents have a real tough time hitting him. His last start was one of those good time as he held the Texas Rangers to just a run on four hits — the run came from a solo homer — while he walked two and struck out eight over six innings pitched. Regarding flyball/groundball rates, Gausman is around the league average in each batted ball category with his HR/FB% being slightly more inflated. Whether you’re a lefty or righty, you’ve probably hit Gausman well in 2017 as both sides of the plate have a .370 wOBA or above against him. If you had to pick a side that was better a the plate, lefties dominate him, despite being a reverse split guy throughout most of his career. Gausman features a mid 90’s fastball and sinker, tending to mostly rely on his fastball, throwing it over 60% of the time. He’ll back those pitches up with a slider and splitter combo, with the splitter being his most effective pitch that opposing hitters need to watch for. He’ll throw it a bout a 1/5th of the time, but still generates a swing and a miss 23% of the time he throws it. Starting Lineups Today's Lineups BALTIMORE ORIOLES TAMPA BAY RAYS Adam Jones - CF Steven Souza - RF Manny Machado - 3B Corey Dickerson - LF Jonathan Schoop - 2B Evan Longoria - 3B Mark Trumbo - 1B Logan Morrison - 1B Trey Mancini - LF Wilson Ramos - C Welington Castillo - DH Brad Miller - DH Caleb Joseph - C Tim Beckham - 2B Ruben Tejada - SS Mallex Smith - CF Joey Rickard - RF Adeiny Hechavarria - SS Kevin Gausman - RHP Blake Snell - LHP [...]



Tampa Bay Rays activate Sergio Romo, release Rickie Weeks, and option Andrew Kittredge

2017-07-24T16:33:21-04:00

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The Rays have replaced a veteran position player with a veteran bullpen arm

Prior to tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Rays have announced that they have activated Sergio Romo, whom they acquired following Saturday night’s game.

In order to clear room for him on the active and 40-man roster, the Rays have optioned Andrew Kittredge to Triple-A Durham while they have released Rickie Weeks Jr.

The Rays tried to sign Romo during the off season, but he chose to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite being offered a lesser amount. During his half season tenure with the Dodgers, Romo produced a disastrous line as struggles with command and the home run ball plagued him, ultimately leading to him being designated for assignment.

On the bright side of things, opponents only hit .240 off him this year and he is still striking out opposing hitters at a solid clip of 28.7%, he’ll just need to harness control in order to be effective for the Rays.

Rickie Weeks Jr is one of the big disappointments for the Rays thus far in 2017 as he was supposed to help support the team against left-handed pitching, however, he struggled to put the ball in play, striking out over 40% of the time and eventually landed on the disabled list in early June. Rickie Weeks’ final line with the Rays will be .216/.321/.340 with 2 HR over 37 games.




Blake Snell compares favorably to a Rays legend in his first 30 starts

2017-07-24T14:30:06-04:00

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We all need to cut Blake Snell some slack

Tonight’s game against the Orioles is a Snell Game, where the Rays will hand the 24-year-old former first-round pick (52nd overall) his 12th start of the 2017 season.

By many metrics, it has been a less-than-ideal season for Blake Snell. He is winless on the season, and his ERA (4.98) has jumped nearly a run and a half from his rookie 2016 season. Considering his reputation (Snell was the no. 1 Rays prospect after the 2015 season, according to Baseball America), his starts lead more to frustration than anticipation these days.

I have been as guilty of this as anyone. I rated him the least-fun player on the Rays, and that ranking originally had a joke that was (correctly) deemed too mean and ended up cut from the article. It’s easy to pile on Snell. He doesn’t go deep into games, he seemingly doesn’t care when he takes another loss, and he seemingly hasn’t shown any signs of growth in his 30 career starts.

It’s time to pump the brakes.

Snell is, again, a 24-year-old who has made 30 career starts. And now I’m going to blow your mind: Snell has been eerily similar to David Price over his first 30 career games.

Don’t believe it? He’s a comparison of their numbers:

Price had a slightly lower ERA, but Snell has him beat by FIP, and the command issues that Snell has had don’t look as bad when put next to Price in terms of strikeout-minus-walk rate.

Now, Price has four relief appearances in those first 30 games, and he still managed more innings pitched, but Snell had an innings cap towards the end of last season, and the game is changing towards shorter and shorter outings, anyway.

Not being able to get into the sixth should no longer be considered as big a deal, especially with bullpens the size they are today.

Snell certainly hasn’t blown the doors off this 2017 season, but it’s time to take a step back, realize that we are still dealing with quite a small sample size when it comes to Snell’s potential career as a whole, and cut the guy some slack.

David Price blossomed into the best pitcher in franchise history despite a rookie season in which he posted an ERA of 4.42 and had a K:BB ratio under two (1.89 to be exact). Great things are still possible for the young lefty.

Blake Snell deserves our patience right now.

Hattip to fellow DRB writer JT Morgan, for this observation.




Game of Thrones 07.02 Recap: Stormborn

2017-07-24T13:27:21-04:00

Size matters. As the most expensive and expansive series on television, Game of Thrones is nothing if not HUGE. With its expansive cast, numerous locations, and epic battles, the show succeeds at scale. And as Game of Thrones accelerates towards the finish line, those set pieces (and dragons) become larger with each passing episode. Odd, then, that it’s the smaller moments that resonate most in the season’s first and second episodes. “Stormborn,” written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Mark Mylod, acts as another piece-setting episode, wherein alliances are forged, hardened, or threatened in all corners of the Seven Kingdoms. But even with an impressive battle-at-sea climax, it is the tiny character beats along the way that are most enriching. Be it Grey Worm and Missandei finally seeing each other, Dany playing off Olenna and Varys, or Jon choking Littlefinger in the Winterfell crypts, “Stormborn” provided many minor, human moments that help round out these characters ahead of the oncoming spectacle. There is no better example than the battle itself. Charged with picking up the Dornish army and depositing them at Cersei’s doorstep, Yara Greyjoy leads her Iron Fleet to Sunspear, with Theon, Ellaria Sand, and the Sand Snakes in tow. It’s a moment to unwind for them; within days, they expect to be laying siege to King’s Landing. Yara and Ellaria even find a moment of intimacy before Euron Greyjoy’s ship Silence comes crashing down. Performing his own version of the “superhero landing,” Euron descends on to Yara’s deck with kraken axe in hand, instantly starting to cleave her men in half. Yara’s entire fleet is besieged; in the distant night, flames rain down on her ships from all sides, with dying soldiers littering the water. Yara knows the truth before her sword is even drawn; Daenerys’s fleet has suffered a devastating blow. Angered, the captain launches into battle, alongside her brother and the Dornish retinue. Euron Greyjoy is too much, however, enduring blow after blow while hysterically butchering Yara’s men. He dispatches the Sand Snakes (much more compelling in these moments than any prior), and finally disarms and captures Yara, then calls to Theon. It is in this moment, where the battle at large seems to fall away, and the audience is frozen in time with the three Greyjoys. Theon, surrounded by death and pain, starts to slip back into his Reek persona. His eyes and neck start twitching as fear returns to his eyes. Completely breaking, Theon launches himself into the sea, much to Yara’s dismay and uncle Euron’s delight. Game of Thrones excels in its depiction of trauma and the permanence of violence. Humans don’t follow neat character arcs, and an act of heroism or justice doesn’t suddenly make a broken character whole. Be it Sansa or Cersei or Theon here, the horrors they’ve suffered are not inescapable. Alfie Allen does tremendous work, quick to draw steel but incapable of looking past the violent scene around him. Ramsay Bolton may be dead, but the damage done to Theon never died, rising to the ultimate breaking point. Gemma Whalen’s performance as Yara here is more profound than it seems; her disappointment is not in Theon’s flight, but her own realization that she was unable to save her baby brother. To a man of Euron’s worldview, Theon’s escape is little more than cowardice. But the truth is more tragic for the Kraken’s son. At the age of ten, Theon was taken from his family due to a war his father and uncle waged, a war that caused the death of Theon’s two brothers. Raised at Winterfell, Theon found a home with the Starks, but never belonging. And when finally given a chance to make either of his families proud, he caused a chain of events that could have landed both in eternal ruin. This all before Ramsay flayed away the choice bits and left behind a sniveling Reek. Alfie Allen carries the weight[...]



MLB trade deadline: Tampa Bay Rays must act now to secure the postseason

2017-07-24T12:07:53-04:00

History suggests the Rays won’t buy, but maybe 2017 will be different. The Tampa Bay Rays have never made that huge, franchise-altering deal at the trade deadline, at least not as buyers. The deals that could have been There have been a few times when, at least according to the folks who report on these things, the Rays have been on the precipice, but somehow never made it over the edge. It’s possible that the failure to complete key deadline trades has cost them at least one World Series title. Most notable was the time at the 2008 when they acquired Jason Bay. At least it was reported that they had acquired Jason Bay. But instead it was the rival Red Sox who had secured a deal for the outfielder, who then provided them with 1.2 fWAR and a 130 wRC+ down the stretch. He went on to hit for a 1.105 OPS in the postseason. That offensive production would have been mighty nice in the Rays lineup, and perhaps a difference maker in the final results. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images In 2009, the Rays were rumored to be heavily in on Victor Martinez as well as Cliff Lee. Again, Boston came in and swiped another Rays trade target off the board as they acquired Victor Martinez, who would go on to enjoy a fantastic season and a half with them (5.2 fWAR). Cliff Lee would be dealt to the Phillies and helped lead them to another World Series (they’d lose to the New York Yankees). In 2010, Cliff Lee’s name was back out there as another popular trade target for the Rays. With the taste of the previous years’ deadlines still fresh on the tongue, surely the Rays would manage to consummate this deal. After all, it was clear to many that 2010 was “the year.” The Rays were the best team in the American League, on the verge of losing several of their core players during the off-season. This was their time to make something happen. They didn’t. Instead, Cliff Lee went to the Texas Rangers and as fate would have it, the Rangers and Rays faced off in the ALDS. Cliff Lee would make two starts during that five game series during which he absolutely dominated the Rays. In his first postseason start he pitched 7 innings of one-run ball, striking out 10. In second start he pitched a complete game, striking out 11. In a five game series, having a dominant pitcher able to start twice can completely alter the outcome. Thanks to Cliff Lee the best Rays team ever made a quick exit from the play-offs. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images The Rays contended as well in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and at no point did they improve their chances with a key deadline trade. The 2011 team was practically duct-taped together and still managed a Wild Card slot; in 2012 they competed despite needing to resort to the likes of Rich Thompson and their “big” move move was acquiring Ryan Roberts to replace the injured Evan Longoria; in 2013 their major move was signing Jesse Crain who was injured and never pitched for them (they also got David DeJesus post-deadline). But you gotta keep your prospects...or do you? Of course, those teams who “buy” at the deadline are forced to pay a high price with prospects, right? So perhaps the Rays are better off holding on to future wins rather than paying top (prospect) dollar for pennant race rentals. But you know what they say — “prospects will break your heart” — and as proof let’s look at the can’t miss prospects who were dealt in the deals discussed above: Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Justin Smoak, Nick Hagadone, Justin Masterson, Bryan Price, Bryan Morris (the three way Boston-Pittsburgh-LA trade also involved major leaguers, including Manny Ramirez). Of those prospects, only Carrasco has emerged as a stand-out; Masterson and Smoak have at least had a few decent seasons, and the remainder have contributed little or nothing to major league baseball. [...]



MLB Standings Update: The Trade Deadline is a week away

2017-07-24T10:53:39-04:00

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How do the standings around baseball shape up with the trade deadline fast approaching

We are a week away from the Trade Deadline and these next six days will play a crucial in the shaping of several franchises as they’ll wager whether to buy or sell at the deadline alter the course of their next few years.

In the American League East, the Boston Red Sox lead shrunk, but just by a half game. The New York Yankees took back control of the top Wild Card spot, as well as second place in the division, sitting two and half games back of the Red Sox. The Tampa Bay Rays have lost four in a row, and are now three and a half games back in the division. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays sit in 4th (7 games back) and 5th (10 games back) respectively.

Over in the American League Central, the Cleveland Indians still hold the division lead, but the Kansas City Royals have been surging -- five straight victories — and are now in second place, a game and half back. The Royals are also tied with the Rays for the second Wild Card spot as well. The Minnesota Twins meanwhile are 3rd in the division, but still just two and a half games back of the Indians and a game back of the Royals and Rays for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Detroit Tigers could make a run (only five games back in the Wild Card), but they seem certain to sell while the Chicago White Sox have already begun to sell and actually haven’t won a game since trading Jose Quintana.

Houston has won the American League West, they have a 17 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners, all of whom are tied for second. Those three teams however, are just two and a half games back in the Wild Card chase, so there’s hope for them yet.

On the National League side of things, the East and West Division are pretty much decided with the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are running away with the titles (both have 10+ game leads).

The Nationals are the only team in the NL East that are above .500 with the Atlanta Braves in second place at 47-50, with the rest of the division not following too closely behind, this is easily the worst division in baseball.

The Central is a nice battle as the Pirates and Cubs have been hot as of late while the Milwaukee Brewers have been reeling. Last Monday, the Brewers had a four and a half game lead over the Cubs. Now, the Cubs have tied them for the division lead, while the Pirates (three games back) and St Louis Cardinals (four and a half games back) are both within reach.

The three top teams in the NL West continue to dominate as they possess three of the top five records in baseball. The Dodgers of course are running away with the division as they have 10.5 game lead over the Colorado Rockies (despite them being 58-42). The Rockies and Diamondbacks control the top two Wild Card spots though, with who ever the second place team in the NL Central (Brewers or Cubs) trailing 4.5 games behind them.




Tampa Bay Rays News and Links: That was just an awful weekend

2017-07-24T09:00:11-04:00

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Rays swept, Romo to the Rays, and a possible trade with Philadelphia

The Tampa Bay Rays and reeling and need to right the ship immediately.

After taking control of the Wild Card lead and seemingly in a position to go after the division lead, the Rays have now lost 4 in a row, sinking back now into a tie for the second Wild Card spot, a game back of the Yankees for the top spot, but still are three and half games back of the Red Sox in the division.

The loss yesterday afternoon was more of the same as Jake Odorizzi struggled to pitch deep, the bullpen couldn’t hold the late lead, and the Rays couldn’t deliver the big hit when needed.

The Rays will now welcome in the Baltimore Orioles for a three game set as they hope to snap out of their funk.