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A Tampa Bay Rays Blog: Ball on a Budget



Updated: 2017-08-21T15:47:51-04:00

 



Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 6 Recap: Beyond the Wall

2017-08-21T15:47:51-04:00

ZOMBIE POLAR BEARS ARE A THING NOW??? At this point, what Game of Thrones does and does not do well is widely known. On the positive end, Game of Thrones is an expansive vision with a deft hand for spectacle built upon the strength of its ensemble cast. At the other end, there are logical gaps, incoherent storytelling, and uneven characterizations that occasionally loses the thread of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Both the good and bad were on display in “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate installment of season seven (directed by early series alum Alan Taylor). This hour plus of television was chock full of epic high fantasy, incredible set pieces, and earnest bits of acting by an infinitely talented cast. Unfortunately, choices by both characters and showrunners undercut the virtues of this episode, resulting in plot contrivances both beyond the Wall and at Winterfell. The duality of quality shows up in spades at Winterfell, as the manufactured rift between Arya and Sansa further entrenches. Credit where due, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner act the seven hells out of these scenes, and their conversations are laced with some genuine moments. Sansa noting that Arya would not have the temperament to have survived the court at King’s Landing is valid, as is Arya throwing Lyanna Mormont back in her sister’s face. But these moments of insight are few and far between. Arya’s hostility is not earned, especially after seemingly warmer moments this season with Nymeria and her Winterfell homecoming. Too, her travels should have hardened her to the realities of this world, the complications of court, and the compromises of honor. Arya still may be a child, and half beast at that, but years spent with the Hound and Faceless Men feel wasted if Arya falls back into season one prejudices. Arya getting under Sansa’s skin leads to the elder sister taking confusing actions herself. She gives the lords of the North no credit, unwilling to confront them with the meaning and context of this years old letter. Sansa has been depicted as an able leader, but not being able to reckon with your vassals (who are pleased with her work!) betrays that. And sending Brienne of Tarth away is folly even if it keeps Brienne out of Littlefinger’s games; there’s no person more capable or willing to protect Sansa. And in all this, Brienne has sat around doing little this season, a monumental waste of Gwendoline Christie’s talents (though hopefully she’ll get some dialogue opposite Jaime in the finale). My prevailing theory is that this entire subplot is a ruse, a feint to make the audience believe that Arya and Sansa are about to come to blows only to end in Littlefinger’s demise. But achieving this through a fake rift between the sisters is weak writing; more true to the Stark sisters would be to see them in full cooperation, using their complementary skills of court and sword to take down Littlefinger while keeping the Knights of the Vale loyal to Winterfell. This would pay off Arya and Sansa’s journeys, showing that their arcs have made them into a force to be reckoned with (no longer bickering siblings) and make the overthrow of Littlefinger more rewarding. Inconsistencies are abundant north of the Wall too, as Jon’s traveling band heads towards the arrow-shaped mountain in Sandor’s vision (the same mountain appears in last season’s episode “The Door,” when the Children are shown creating the White Walkers). The leadup to the climax is all gold, a series of intimate character moments discussing the history shared between them. Jon and Jorah Mormont’s reminiscing about Jorah’s father was the strongest of these, which had the benefit of centering Jon’s Valyrian steel sword Longclaw in the audience’s minds. And Tormund’s ribbing of the Hound while hopelessly pining for Brienne was a genuinely endearing moment, as was Gendry dealing with winter for the first time. The initial confrontation with the undead bears worked also, a brief horror [...]



Tampa Bay Times: Ybor City, Channelside likely Hillsborough stadium sites

2017-08-21T15:32:49-04:00

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Much work remains to be done, however, before plans can move ahead

Today’s Tampa Bay Times reported on latest developments in the Rays efforts to find a site, either in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Pinellas, for a new baseball stadium. Although Pinellas County locations are still very much in play, most speculation on a future site has focused on Hillsborough County, which is the primary subject of this article.

The TL;DR version: Nothing new to see here! There is of yet no official announcement of a selected site or financing plan. However, the Times does offer a few interesting observations, based on their review of public documents and the statements of public officials.

  • Thanks to Florida’s Sunshine laws, all County financial documents are available for public viewing, as are a variety of meeting records. As a result, the Times knows that the law firm retained by Hillsborough County to address potential stadium development issues did a great deal of work earlier in 2017 but much less lately. This could mean that the momentum toward stadium development has slowed, or that many questions have already been answered, even if decisions have not been made public.
  • Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has acted as the primary point of contact for the Rays on this issue, expresses frustration that the Rays have not been more aggressive in securing sites. According to owner Stuart Sternberg, several of the Rays’ preferred sites were already unavailable as of early 2017; Hagan seems to believe that quicker action on the part of the team would have kept more options open.
  • Hagan also notes that the development of Suntrust Park in Cobb County, the new home of the Braves, is viewed as a great model to emulate. Some, however, would see this as more of a cautionary tale than a case of best practices. You can look here for an analysis by typically critical Neil deMause; here for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on unresolved stadium-related transportation problems in Cobb County (and who will pay for them). Reviews of the stadium itself have been mixed. The stadium does feature a great deal of auxiliary development, which figures in its urban design impact as well as its financing, which could be important for the Rays.
  • The focus of the site search, according to Hagan, appears to have narrowed to sites in the Channelside and Ybor City areas, with the western gateway to Ybor, around Nuccio Parkway, getting special mention. Any of these choices would involve some delicate negotiation with a range of public and private landowners.
  • You can see DRB’s analysis of potential Channelside sites here, and of a likely Ybor City site here. You can also read more about the issues afflicting Tampa Park Apartments, which would likely need to be razed to make way for an Ybor stadium, here.



Exploring Normalized Spin Rates

2017-08-21T10:40:26-04:00

Using a funny sounding metric While spin rate is a seemingly simple tool for evaluating pitches, the complexity of it and its relationship with other measurements makes it challenging to use effectively. All pitches have a spin rate measurement attached to them from Statcast, but only the spin where the spin axis is orthogonal (perpendicular) to the path of the ball contributes to the movement of the pitch. For example, we know that the backspin of a fastball contributes to its vertical movement, but for a slider, any “gyrospin”, or side spin, doesn’t contribute to the ball’s movement. But, research done by Driveline Baseball has shown that fastball spin rate is strongly correlated with velocity for an individual pitcher. As a pitcher adds velocity to their fastball, we would expect the spin rate on the pitch to increase as well, which makes comparing spin rates on fastballs with different velocities challenging. Meaning, a fastball with 2400 rpm at 90 mph is much more impressive than a fastball with 2400 rpm at 100 mph. Looking at exclusively spin rate, however, makes them seem equally impressive. In 2016, Driveline published two articles exploring the relationship between spin rate, velocity and pitch performance using both publicly available MLB data and data collected from their labs. From this study, they introduced the idea of "Bauer Units", or a velocity-normalized spin rate metric, which is calculated by dividing a fastball’s spin rate by its velocity. In doing so, this allows us to effectively remove the impact that velocity has on the spin rate, and focus purely on the spin itself. In their study, they had a former professional baseball player take swings in a batting cage against fastballs with different spin rates while researchers recorded a variety of biomechanical measurements, including the area of the ball the batter made contact with. They concluded that the spin rate impacted performance as we would theoretically expect — the batter swung under the pitches with higher spin, and the point of contact rose on the ball as the spin rate decreased. In a game setting, having an average contact point closer to the bottom of the baseball would mean more fly balls, pop ups and whiffs. While this relationship has been observed in a lab, I was interested in looking to see if the same relationship was present in data collected during actual games, and whether Bauer Units (BU) was a better measurement of fastball spin than spin rate alone. To do this, I looked at the relationship between both fastball spin and Bauer Units and various batted ball performance metrics. While some impact would be expected on pitches across all locations, I suspected that the benefits would be most pronounced on pitches at the upper third of the strike zone. Using 2016 data, I plotted the relationship between each pitcher's spin rate/Bauer Units and their fly ball rate, whiff rate and pop up rate in the upper third of the zone. Let’s break down the relationship between the spin metrics and each performance metric one at a time to see if Bauer Units gives us a better understanding of how a fastball would perform than pure spin rate. Flyballs Here, we see almost no correlation between BU or spin rate and fly ball rate in the upper third of the strike zone (U3 FB%). Looking at these small r-squared values, they suggest that BU explains U3 FB% ten times better than simply spin rate alone. I’m hesitant to conclude that Bauer Units is a great indicator of expected fly ball rate, but it appears to be significantly better than just spin rate. While being able to identify which fastballs can generate fly balls is helpful, knowing how far these fastballs are expected to go is important as well. I think I could probably get on the mound and generate a lot of fly balls, but these fly balls would undoubtedly be landing far into the seats. However, as discussed on the July 14th episode of the Statcast MLB podcast, exit velocity is ~82% hitting and ~[...]



Tampa Bay Rays News and Links: Happy Solar Eclipse Day

2017-08-21T09:00:09-04:00

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Rays shutout Mariners, MLB at the LLWS, and one of the best catches you’ll ever see

Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays avoided a sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners behind a wonderful performance from Blake Snell. The Rays ended the week on a good note, after having lost five of their past six games as well as 12 of their last 15.

The Rays are off today, but on Tuesday, they’ll welcome in the Toronto Blue Jays for a three game set.

The prolonged losing has shaken up the Rays playoff aspirations as they are now over 11 games back in the division. Meanwhile in the Wild Card chase, the Rays are 4 games back with five teams ahead of them in the race.

Some highlights to point out from yesterday’s game was Blake Snell’s performance as he worked seven shutout innings, delivering an efficient outing as he used just 101 pitches, walking one and striking eight, yielding just two hits. Kevin Kiermaier led off things for the Rays with a solo homer.




Rays prospects and minor leagues: Shut down pitching duo in Hudson Valley

2017-08-21T07:00:05-04:00

The Brendan McKay - Jhonleider Salinas pitching tandem is working out well for the Renegades. The 2017 fourth overall draft pick Brendan McKay continues to dominate New York Penn League hitters on any given Sunday. However, with an apparent 3.0 inning limit per game, most hitters are only getting one look at him per game. If that inning limit sticks, we won’t see how he holds up against line ups as they see him multiple times and make adjustments. This is something to consider when looking at his so-far pristine pitching statistics. Triple-A Durham Bulls (77-49) Yonny Chirinos appeared to be in control of the game, allowing 7 singles across 5 innings on just 64 pitches, but the one run he allowed was enough to earn the loss as the Durham bats could not get anything going. Focusing on the positives, Chirinos dropped his season ERA back below the 3.00 threshold to 2.98 and currently holds an incredible 1.68 DRA, according to his Baseball Prospectus profile. The Rays clearly have Chirinos on an innings limit and/or pitch count now that he is well over his 2016 total with 157.1 IP. Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (69-56) Jose Mujica led the Biscuits through 7 great innings, but as soon as he was lifted Birmingham came roaring back with 6 runs to take the game. Rehabbing Jonny Venters was responsible for half of the runs, while the other half, along with the blown save and loss, came from Mike Franco. Mujica needed just 86 pitches to complete 7.0 IP because he induced plenty of weak contact and allowed just 4 base runners. Joe McCarthy reached base 3 times, including his 31st double of the season. Class A-Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs (63-61) The Stone Crabs needed only 3 pitchers to take a 12 inning overtime game from the Clearwater Threshers on a Peter Maris walk off single. Brock Burke’s 6.1 innings of 1 run ball gave him his third straight quality start and it looks like he’s starting to figure out the Florida State League now after dominating the Midwest League earlier this season. The hitters reached base 16 times, but Lucius Fox contributed the only extra base hit with his 5th inning double, his first in the FSL. Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods (67-56) Fact: A position player was the only player to not give up a run while pitching for Bowling Green on Sunday. It wasn’t pretty. The pitching side was a complete mess, but there were some bright spots on offense. Josh Lowe reached base 4 times and collected his 23rd double and 22nd stolen base of the year. Newly acquired Luis Rengifo reached base twice while leading off and playing short stop. Catcher Rene Pinto went 2-4 with a double, and Jim Haley went 3-4 with a double as well. Short-Season Hudson Valley Renegades (32-25) Brendan McKay and Jhonleider Salinas didn’t give Aberdeen a chance in their 7-0 victory. McKay completed 3.0 innings of 1 hit baseball on just 38 pitches, then Salinas pitched the rest of the game with 6.0 innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk. The bats contributed 5 extra base hits and 10 overall, with enough clustered in the 3rd, 5th and 8th innings to put 7 runs on the board. Rookie Princeton Rays (20-34) The Princeton bats contributed only 2 extra base hits on Sunday, but one of them came when they really needed it, in the top of the 14th inning to drive in the winning run. Devin Davis provided the RBI with his 18th double of the season while going 3-7 on the night. Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez reached base 4 times and knocked his 4th home run of the season. Click here to see all of yesterday’s minor league box scores, and then go to this milb page to see today’s match ups. [...]



Tampa Bay 3, Seattle 0

2017-08-20T19:50:32-04:00

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Rays avoid sweep with Snell’s shutout of M’s

Today we saw the Blake Snell we’d been dreaming of as he rose through the prospect ranks over the years. Tossing 101 pitches, Snell gave up 2 hits, 2 walks and zero runs while striking out 8 Mariners over 7 frames. He made batters look downright foolish at times. If you missed the game, catching the highlights is worth your time.

Outlaw got Snell some run support early, as he cranked a leadoff homer to dead center field to put the Rays up 1-0. That score would remain all the way until the 7th, when Adeiny Hechavarria lifted Yovani Gallardo’s offering into the right field seats, or more accurately into the concourse leading to Section 148, as the ball appeared to land directly in the entryway. If a surprised fan managed to lose his or her grip on a snack as the ball came flying in, well, maybe Hechavarria should be thanked for this in light of recent events. His shot would score Sucre to put the Rays up 3-0 for good.

Hechavarria wasn’t done with his own highlight reel, though, as he made one of the most incredible plays I’ve seen all season to end the game in the 9th. Nelson Cruz hit a shot between third and short that Hechavarria somehow dove and caught, then leapt to his feet to fire a shot to first base to beat Cruz to the bag.

My jaw is still on the floor, and I still find myself watching the highlights now as I wind down for the evening. This one is a can’t-miss play.

The Rays managed to avoid a sweep by the Mariners with today’s win. The Blue Jays head down to St Pete next week, after the Rays enjoy an off day tomorrow, and it looks like they’ll be met with a battery of Archer, Pruitt and Cobb this week.




Jacob Faria to DL, OF Cesar Puello claimed off waivers

2017-08-20T10:30:31-04:00

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Jacob Faria to DL with ab strain. Rays claim RH bat Cesar Puello.

The Tampa Bay Rays are placing Jacob Faria on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain as part of many announcements the team made this morning.

Kevin Cash also set the rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays series with Chris Archer starting Tuesday, Austin Pruitt on Wednesday, and Alex Cobb will return from the disabled list to make the start on Thursday. With the off day on Monday this will be normal rest for Archer and Pruitt.

The Rays claimed Cesar Puello from the Los Angeles Angels to take Faria’s vacated roster spot. Puello is a 26 year old corner outfielder that bats right handed. Puello had a solid year in the Pacific Coast League split between the Texas Rangers AAA and Angels AAA affiliates. This year he hit .327/.377/.526. He has a history of hitting left handed pitchers well in the minors. This year his split has been neutral though. Puello has four major league plate appearances and has one single, one strikeout, and has stolen two bases. Puello made one appearance on Baseball America’s top 100 list after the 2010 season coming in at #77 while playing in the New York Mets system. He is out of options.




Rays prospects and minor leagues: Myers dominates old organization

2017-08-20T07:00:02-04:00

Tobias Myers has pitched great since joining Hudson Valley Do you think the Rays view Jake Bauers as a first baseman or outfielder? I know he’s played on the grass a lot the last couple seasons, but it seems like late in the year, his development as an outfielder isn’t a high priority. In 2016, once Casey Gillaspie left Montgomery and Justin Williams was moved up to Montgomery in the middle of July, Bauers stayed in the outfield for about a week but closed the season with only two games in the outfield out of the last 21. This season, after Gillaspie’s last game in the organization on July 25, Bauers has only played first base. Maybe I’m reading something into this when there’s really nothing there. Triple-A Durham Bulls (77-48) Durham rallied for six in the eighth to earn an 8-4 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Bulls used an error, a couple hits and a couple wild pitches to tie the game, and Jake Hager’s RBI single gave them the lead. With two outs, Kean Wong socked a three-run homer to extend the lead. Brent Honeywell allowed all four RailRiders runs in six innings but struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone. SS Willy Adames: 2-for-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K1B Jake Bauers: 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 KIF Kean Wong: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 KC Justin O’Conner: 0-for-4, 2 K RHP Brent Honeywell: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (32-22) Jake Cronenworth led off the game with his first Double-A home run, and Montgomery ended up with a 3-1 win over Birmingham. After Cronenworth went deep, Dalton Kelly walked and eventually scored a second run in the first inning. With the early run support, Logan Darnell pitched a very good outing, allowing just a run in 7 2⁄3 innings. OF Justin Williams: 2-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 BBC Nick Ciuffo: 1-for-4, 1 KSS Jake Cronenworth: 2-for-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K LHP Logan Darnell: 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K Class A-Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs (31-24) Charlotte gave up four unanswered runs in a 6-3 loss to Clearwater. With two outs in the seventh, Reece Karalus allowed a pair of inherited runners to score to squander the lead, and a two-run homer off him in the ninth added insurance. Starter Brandon Lawson allowed two runs in six innings with five strikeouts and no walks. SS Lucius Fox: 0-for-2, 1 R, 2 BB3B Kevin Padlo: 1-for-4C David Rodriguez: 0-for-3, 1 R, 1 KIF Riley Unroe: 0-for-4, 3 K RHP Brandon Lawson: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 KRHP Reece Karalus: 1 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods (36-19) Adrian Navas continued his string of nice outings in Bowling Green’s 3-1 win over West Michigan. With his six-inning, one-run start, Navas has only allowed more than two earned runs once in eight starts since the start of July. Robbie Tenerowicz’s RBI double in the fourth tied the game, and he reached on an error and scored an insurance run in the sixth. SS Luis Rengifo: 0-for-4, 1 KCF Josh Lowe: 2-for-3, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BBOF Garrett Whitley: 0-for-3, 1 BB, 3 KOF Jesus Sanchez: 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 K3B Adrian Rondon: 1-for-3, 1 RBI RHP Adrian Navas: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K Short-Season Hudson Valley Renegades (31-25) Tobias Myers got a chance to pitch against his old organization, and he took advantage of it in Hudson Valley’s 2-1 win over Aberdeen. In his third start since being acquired by the Rays, he had his first shot at an Orioles affiliate. He allowed just a run in 5 2/3 innings and struck out eight more batters. Taylor Walls singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth. 2B Vidal Brujan: 3-for-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SBSS Taylor Walls: 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 SB1B Brendan McKay: 0-for-4, 2 K RHP Tobias Myers: 5 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K Rookie Princeton Rays (21-34) Zach Rutherford’s walkoff grand slam gave Princeton a 9-5 win over Burlington. Princeton took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, but Burlington gradually chipped away at that ad[...]