The key to the success of both teams has been an unusually high usage of relief pitchers, or maybe more accurately, a minimized usage of starting pitchers. However, unlike the trend in recent decades of using starting pitchers less in an attempt to avoid injuries, the Rays and Royals are not limiting the number of pitches being thrown, but rather, they are limiting the number of batters the starting pitchers are facing to in order to increase their effectiveness…..
The starters for the Royals and the Rays both average fewer than 90 pitches per game. That’s a number that would seem absurd to those baseball traditionalists who lament the loss of an era when starting pitchers regularly threw 110+ pitches and 130-140 was not unheard of.
Again, these are not starting pitchers who are being taken out of games early because they are getting shelled. Rather, they are pitching well and are still being taken out early. These are two of the best pitching staffs in the AL on two teams leading their divisions.
So far in 2015, there have been 209 games in which a starting pitcher has completed fewer than 6.0 innings despite giving up two or fewer runs. Of those, 37 (18%) have been by Rays (25) or Royals (12) starters.
Robothal is hitting .500 in yesterday afternoon’s columns.
The point is, Tampa Bay is competing, as Tampa Bay always competes, even as Rays owner Stuart Sternberg describes the team’s current run as “beyond improbable.”
Sternberg, in speaking to reporters, was referring to all of the injuries, all of the rookies. But really, the Rays expected to be good last season, when many of us picked them to win the division, if not reach the World Series. Injuries and poor performance in high-leverage situations—some of which was attributable to poor luck—sunk them to 77-85.
Maddon left for the Cubs, Friedman for the Dodgers. The Rays reconfigured their front office, shifting Matt Silverman from team president to president of baseball operations and promoting Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander to VPs. The new group then hired a first-time manager, Kevin Cash, and at some point made the decision that defined their 2014-15 offseason.
They still liked their team.
So, rather than simply acquire future pieces, the Rays also traded for present value—similar to what Friedman did when he sent David Price to the Tigers and acquired Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin and shortstop prospect Willy Adames.
Jaso came back in the deal that sent Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics, a deal in which the Rays also landed shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and outfield prospect Boog Powell.
More telling, the Rays acquired outfielder Steven Souza from the Nationals for two prospects, shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Joe Ross, whom they landed as part of the Wil Myers trade.
While the futures of both Turner and Ross are bright, the Rays wanted Souza’s immediate 25-homer potential. Good call—Souza leads the club with 13 homers, eight stolen bases and 30 walks.
Not every move is proving as fortuitous—Asdrubal Cabrera, signed to a one-year, $7.5 million free-agent contract, is playing above-average shortstop, but batting only .204 with a .547 OPS. But the Rays’ pro scouting director, Matt Arnold, has helped the team succeed on the margins. Butler, Elmore and reliever Ron Belisario signed as minor-league free agents. Ramirez arrived in a trade from the Mariners for lefty Mike Montgomery. ...
No Maddon, no Friedman, and the Rays march on.
It’s not beyond improbable. It’s typical Tampa Bay.
So, it comes with little surprise that the Rays and markerless bio-mechanics company KinaTrax have announced a deal that will allow the Rays to keep track of their pitchers’ form. The two organizations released a statement today, saying that KinaTrax will install a software-hardware product suite in Tropicana Field for use in the 2015 MLB season.
The system will be able to track a pitcher’s mechanics in real-time during a game. It does not use any sort of device that a pitcher must wear, but will be able to capture a pitcher’s “joint angles, bone displacements and velocity metrics” from afar.
Then, the system will use motion capture analytics to ascertain whether or not a pitcher’s form will make him prone to injury. The suite in Tropicana field will also be able to tell whether a pitcher’s form is hurting his performance.
The pressure comes AFTER the draft, if the players you picked don’t produce.
“I’ve never felt pressure in this job in that regard. If you start looking at it in that regard, you start making decisions for the wrong reasons. And we’ve never done that here in the 10 years I’ve been in this position with this group.”
If Balfour’s career is coming to a close, he’ll finish with a 30-23 record, 84 saves and a 3.49 ERA in 539 2/3 innings. The hard-throwing righty averaged 9.5 strikeouts and 4.2 walks per nine innings over a 12-year big league career split between the Twins, Rays, Athletics and Brewers.
Tell us how you really feel, Kevin. Fine in 10…9…8…7…
“Terrible. Terrible. It’s embarrassing,’’ he said. “We spend so much time on pace of play, let’s just the damn call right on the field. It’s terrible. They ought to be embarrassed. Feels like we got beat twice tonight.’‘
Actual salary: $30.5 million / Translated salary: $35.4 million
Highest-paid player: Miguel Cabrera / $7.5 million
Players over $1 million: four
Best position player: Ramirez / 5.3 WAR / $0.4 million
Best pitcher: Sergio Mitre / 2.3 WAR / $0.38 million
It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially Marlins team. Okay, actually, it’s not—you’ll see a few Marlins teams that are even more Marlin-y down below. This team, though, certainly looked like it had the young core of a perennial contender: Ramirez, Cabrera, Johnson, Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, all 24-and-under. It’s hard to imagine a core this great getting away from any team other than the doggone Marlins.
Also only 25 at the time, with a ceiling as high as the sky and 16.2 career WAR under his belt before this season started was Dontrelle Willis. Oh Dontrelle, how we miss you. This would be the last season that Willis would throw 100 major league innings — plus he was fifth on the whole team in wRC+.
4. 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 66-96
Actual salary: $24.1 million / Translated Salary: $28 million
Highest-paid player: Crawford / $4.12 million
Players over $1 million: six
Best position player: Carlos Pena / 5.5 WAR / $0.8 million
Best Pitcher: Kazmir / 5.1 WAR / $0.42 million
This isn’t the only year this is the case, but in 2007, Florida’s two teams barely combined to create the salary of a single mid-market team. In Tampa, this was the last year that the team was called the Devil Rays and it was also the last time they weren’t the coolest doggone team around, what with their storming into the 2008 World Series the next year.
In case you forget why that 2008 team was so surprising, things were still pretty rowdy with this 2007 version. Breakout contenders do not, for instance, tend to have players like Elijah Dukes taking hundreds of plate appearance. They tend to not have 5.53 staff ERAs. But, doggone it, that’s what happened. By 2008 Opening Day the Rays’ payroll nearly doubled, up to $43.7 million, with the team paying (comparatively) big bucks for Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd in free agency.
The Rays don’t seem to be attracting much notice this season and I wanted to highlight them. They lost their GM and manager during the offseason, traded away various players including ones who had been a key component of the team in the past, and didn’t make any big splashy free agent signings (as usual). Things haven’t been easy during the season either as Alex Cobb went out for the year without throwing a pitch, Drew Smyly only made three starts before going on the DL and is out for at least two more months, and Matt Moore won’t be back until sometime in June. Despite all this they’re in first place by a game and a half a little more than 1/4 of the way through the season. Whether they can keep it up remains to be seen (I’m guessing Logan Forsythe won’t keep that 136 OPS+ going) but so far they’re doing pretty damn well and deserve some notice.
With the help of savvy scheduling, the Rays are hosting the Yankees mid-week, and normally that’s a strong draw, but it’s supposedly a doubly-strong draw with A-Rod in the house and the Yankees leading the division. The Tampa Bay community is saturated with Yankees fans of old, so the numbers were anticipated to be decent this week. Instead, the opposite has happened:
- Attendance was at it’s lowest ever in franchise history for a Yankees game on Tuesday night, at 10,619.
- Then last night, the attendance was announced at 10,417 for the new all-time low featuring New York.
Of course, last night’s number was surely compounded by the Tampa Bay Lightning hosting Montreal and winning their division in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the number is still rather close to Tuesday’s figure when the hockey team was travelling. Unless fan interests intersect directly with the NBA playoffs, of which the closest team playing is 500 miles away, then there’s not a good excuse.
Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld told a St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd Tuesday that baseball is the only sport that can create “its own sense of place” due to its 81-game home schedule.
“No other sport can do that,” Auld said.
Auld touched briefly on the long-running stadium impasse between the team and the St. Petersburg City Council, repeating the Rays’ mantra that a new stadium has to be good for the team and the region.
A new stadium could spark development, help solve the Bay Area’s mass transit quandry and create jobs, he said.
The City Council has scheduled a workshop to discuss the stadium situation for May 28. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Mayor Rick Kriseman, who saw his attempt to ink a deal scuttled by council in December, say they’re not likely to negotiate during the regular season.
The Rays have long said they need to evaluate possible stadium sites in Tampa and other parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. They have a use agreement to play at Tropicana Field that expires in 2027.
“This is the time in the process when I’d get a little more excited and start to focus on maybe a mid-June-ish or what part of June (to return),” Moore said. “It feels good. It’s nice to come to the park and have days like this.”
Cobb received PRP therapy, in where platelet rich plasma is injected to speed healing, during a visit to see noted specialist Dr. James Andrews.
Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said the team was still in “a wait-and-see mode’’ and it was “premature” to speculate about surgery. “He has had some tests performed and we’re awaiting results,’’ Silverman said.
I wonder if they’ll play “Seven Nation Army” every five minutes to make Orioles players feel at home.
Moving the series was a monumental task, but one the Rays have been able to execute under the leadership of VP of Operations Rick Nage, team President Brian Auld, and VP of Sales Brian Richeson. Nafe said the air has been like post season play, with sudden mobilization to make the series happen.
Tickets are general admission for the weekend, lower-bowl only, and according to Brian Auld the Rays will not make any profit off the series. There are no fees to purchase online for this series.
All revenue for the 18,000 tickets made available per game will first pay off the 700 staff it will take to run the series, then all profits will be given to the Orioles. Special offers have also been made to season ticket holders to the O’s Spring Training facility in Sarasota. Ticket prices were set by the Orioles in cooperation with Richeson.
Each team will have their mascots on hand this weekend, supposedly to create a more neutral environment, but I smell shenanigans!
“You’ll see us being really respectful of the fact that these games belong to Baltimore,” said Auld.
Before and after throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, with gusto, on Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn chatted with team president Brian Auld and other Rays officials.
That level of banter is about all they can do for now, at least until St. Petersburg and the Rays work out a deal for them to discuss stadium sites on the other side of the bridges. Those talks are on hold, likely until after the season, after the St. Pete City Council rejected the last proposal.
“We still are willing to talk when they get the opportunity,’’ Buckhorn said. “We just want the Rays to be able to stay in this area. Until the city of St. Petersburg and the Rays come to an agreement, we truly are in the dugout. But when that day comes, I think the entire community will say, “Okay, let the Rays look, let them make the appropriate decision.” The decision may be Pinellas County, it may be Hillsborough. But they’ve got to have the ability to look.’‘
And though Jeff Vinik’s master development plan doesn’t include a stadium, Buckhorn said he was confident there are good options in downtown Tampa.
Former Devil Rays infielder Julio Lugo (2003-2006) has been charged in court with kidnapping, according to multiple reports out of the Dominican Republic.
Lugo last professionally played baseball for los Leones del Escogido, and last played stateside for the Braves in 2011.
Lugo’s arrest warrant was issued in the cities of La Romana and Santo Domingo for kidnapping and the posession of fire arms. According to the paper, Lugo and four men held their hostage and his girlfriend at gunpoint, demanding money that had allegedly been invested in a business venture.
A rough translation of the article includes how Lugo had, “always been willing to talk about it, assuring him that the money invested in the company, as well as that of other investors, was sure.”
This unconventional strategy is emblematic of the cutting edge of modern, in-game sabermetrics. With every team from the small-market Rays to the moneyed Dodgers now employing a host of analysts, all the obviously beneficial tactical techniques are already in use. All that remains are the scraps. So even as the tactics have become unconventional, the margins have become thin and the advantages minute. For clever front offices like the Rays, negotiating the brave new world of saber-equality may mean relying on subtle, trifling tweaks like reliever-first outings.