Friday, September 25, 2009

Absentee blogging

It's pretty obvious by the summaries by month to the right that I've neglected the blog this month. This is a function of three things 1) Things to do at work, 2) The Rays shitting their pants (and not just a little, it was full blown diarrhea), and 3) College Football starting (with most of the discussion organically taking place through emails)

With ten games to go on the Rays season, I wanted to weigh in before shifting into offseason/post season mode for baseball.

  • I think the 2009 Rays will ultimately be one of the most under-rated teams in Tampa Bay sports history. Yesterday I was listening to local radio here in Miami. The Dolphins are 0-2. A comment was made that Tony Sparano would have been better off if this year happened last year and last year happened this year. I think the same thing could be said for the Rays. With ten games remaining and a 78-74 record, the Rays will likely finish with a winning record. Second best season ever Rays fans. Nothing wrong with that. Yea, no World Series (or playoffs for that matter), but cmon we entered September with hope.
  • Our rotation for next year looks like it can be pretty good (Garza, Shields, Niemann, Price, Davis). All these guys have question marks. Shields was especially bad in the second half of the season, but I think that was an exception and not the rule. Young guys like Niemann, Price, and Davis will come with question marks but ultimately this is a nice staff at a very reasonable price. As stated earlier in this blog I think Kazmir had to be moved at some point (you can question the timing), but his salary along with more to come had to get moved.
  • John Romano wrote a column recently that stated one or two of either Crawford, Bartlett, or Pena would be traded this offseason. If that happens the outrage will be immeasurable. The Kazmir trade was palatable because you just assumed it would free up money to retain quality players already on the roster.
  • I'm eagerly awaiting to see what becomes of Aki. It doesn't make sense to bring him back into the fold considering money constraints, Brignac's presence, and Zobrists too. Brignac isn't ready to play everyday. So Zobrist probably gets the job at 2nd with a different platoon in right that would include Rodriguez and Joyce in some capacity. Rodriguez probably takes on that super-utility role once occupied by Zorilla.
  • God help our bullpen. I know 90% of all baseball teams have bullpen problems, but it's hard not to cry about it when you see it happening to your favorite team
  • Offseason stadium bickering will surely happen. The Times had a piece last Saturday about the mayoral candidates, the lease, and the possibilities of breaking it. Not a fun topic

I would post thought on college football here, but it seems like that banter is more of an email thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A look at Starting Pitching during the losing streak

So, I post about how the season isn't lost, and the Rays promptly lose eight games in a row.

Lets look at starting pitching in that period

Sep 3 - Price 5.1 IP 4 ER (I believe he left the game when it was a tie ball game)
Sep 4 - Niemann 7.2 IP 1 ER (duel with Verlander, no decision)
Sep 5 - Shields 6.1 IP 6 ER (no decision, Rays put up 6 runs)
Sep 6 - Davis 7 IP 1 ER (no decision, blown save by the pen, Jackson gets the W)
Sep 7 - Garza 7 IP 0 ER (no decision, duel with Sabathia)
Sep 7 - Sonny 2.2 IP 8 ER
Sep 8 - Price 6 IP 2 ER
Sep 9 - Niemann 7 IP 1 ER

Of these 8 losses, starting pitching gave us the opportunity to win 6 of these games. If there is a silver lining to any of this, that would be it. I know it is way too soon to get excited about Wade Davis, but hey, nice MLB debut there for him. If we go into next year with a Shields/Garza/Niemann/Price/Davis rotation, that gives us a solid 5 man rotation that you could argue gives you a chance to win any given night regardless of the opponent. Garza did not meet expectations this year coming off his 2008 post-season but he seems like a prime candidate for a bounce back season next year in that regard. Shields just needs to keep his cool and hope for better run support next year. That ERA of his isn't indicative of the number of quality starts he put up this year that didn't yield wins because of poor run support or blown leads from the bullpen. Many of the media outlets covering the Rays have done some "what went wrong" pieces over the last week, and chief among the reasons were 1) unexpected dip in fielding, 2)Bullpen troubles, 3) Lack of production at the plate in situations that killed late inning rallies. That's the difference. But when you lose 8 games in a row to start September it is worth noting that starting pitching did come to play in 6 of those games. One of the two poor starts came from Sonnanstine who really shouldn't be occupying a starting rotation spot in the future.

Offseason personnel decision should be interesting. Particularly with the bullpen. A month ago there was probably consideration being given to JP Howell as full time closer, but you have to think that if they were considering that as an option, it is now being reconsidered. Speaking of reconsidering, how long before Grant Balfour isn't on the team? I could be wrong, but this guy doesn't seem to do well with inherited runners. I guess that could be said for a lot of the bullpen guys lately though.

Monday, September 7, 2009

OK Then...

Since that last post where I discussed how great we've been since April, the Rays have promptly lost 5 straight and now this afternoon we learn that Pena is out for the year with a broken hand.

At least we can say that the Rays kept our hopes up into September (just barely). Thats baseball. There's a 1970's Reds post lurking in here. Look for it in the near future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rays / Red Sox Comparison again

I kind of feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but I felt compelled to look at the trend of this season again.
I don't have the email to back it up but midway through last season, even though we were positioned for a division title, Jon and I both were thinking about how we were going to get the wild card. A big reason why that turned into a division title is the Yankees downfall. Had the Yankees performed the way they have in recent years, (which is what they are doing this year), our 97 win season would have earned us a wild card in last year's post season.
To most people that would paint this September in a much different light. Currently Boston's winning percentage is right at where it was for the 2008 season as a whole. So really what we are seeing from Boston isn't much different than what we were up against last year. Yes there is a different mix of productivity (Ellsbury and Bay are a little better this year, Pedroia and Ortiz are a little worse), but the end result on the field (SO FAR) doesn't appear much different.
Take a look at the records by month this season. Toss April aside and the Rays and Red Sox are dead even. Exact same number of wins from May on.
But this year we are seeing lower draws at the gate for critical late season games, the press bitching about it, and our owner talking to media in tones that suggest we're inadequate this year.
Really what it comes down to is that ridiculous April that we had. Many attributed it to all the October baseball from last year. I don't have the evidence to prove it but theories abound regarding World Series teams and slow starts the following year. In our division that is crippling. The guy we just traded which has caused so much uproar had a lot to do with that slow start.
I honestly don't know what my point is, but it seems like everyone is acting like this team is a shadow of itself from last year, when in reality, it probably isn't much different. Our real problem happened in April, which depending on who you want to believe was bound to happen. It is just really irritating to hear gasbag announcers on ESPN talk shit about the Rays, ESPN showing "Red Sox stock up, Rays plummeting", and other nonsensical bullshit that is being shoveled our direction. Last night I heard Rick Sutcliffe going on and on about how Carlos Pena would have been cut by the Rays if his contract wasn't so big. I turned to the local broadcast to hear Dwayne Staats answering a viewer question about team MVP by saying "Well Bartlett, Crawford and Zobrist are the three front runners, but you can't really ignore the huge contribution from Pena this year". The guy leads the league in home runs, and walks but Rick Sutcliffe's sorry ass wants to cut him. It's been pretty fucking even since May 1, and the Yankees are having a more realistic season this year. That is why we are 5 back, (4 if things go our way tonight).
Smart baseball fans weren't hitting the panic button in April when the Rays went 2-5 in their first home stand of the season (which ironically included a big fucking pregame celebration before every game for something that happened last year), and followed that up with the turd sandwich road trip in which we went 3-6 against the A's, Twins, and Mariners. But looking back, that may have been when we killed our chances. We're keeping pace, but the competition isn't the Marlins and Braves. Life in the AL East.
Folks, I'm sorry but this is about as good as it is going to get.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PTBNL is Sean Rodriguez

The Times has a nice rundown of his stats

So we get a pitcher, a corner infield prospect, and a super-utility type in exchange for Kazmir. It seems like the addition of Rodriguez opens up the door for the Rays to pass on the option for Aki, which was $4.25 million. The Rays paid Aki $3.25 million this year, and Rodriguez will make the minimum next season, so that is a decent amount of money made up to help retain some other players. The two Gabe's have club options for next year and Willy Aybar is signed through next season. I wouldn't have a problem with the Rays giving Aybar more time on the field along with Rodriguez and passing on the two Gabes. Perhaps giving Brignac a ML roster spot too if need be. I browsed through some Angels boards and they seem pretty upset over losing this Rodriguez guy, but Jon maybe you can enlighten us.

Pretty disappointing about last night's attendance. I was under the impression that we were still in a playoff chase. I know we've kind of started getting the label of a front running town, but apparently that means the team has to literally be in the front. I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around the low attendance for last nights game, which turned out to be a giant turd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Win Tracker - September 1

I think we all feel the panic beginning to fill the air. Boston looks like they're not letting up. This past road trip was actually a success when you compare it to others from this season. The Rays went 4-3. The annoying part is that it could have easily been 6-1 had it not been for late inning bullpen collapses, leaving the Rays three back for the Wild Card, with a chance to tie Boston after our series with them at the Trop which begins tonight. If the Rays fate hasn't already been determined, the next two weeks might just do that. Six of our next twelve games are against Boston. After that no more Red Sox games this season. If we blow their doors off, then we might be back in this thing, but holding steady only helps Boston, because time is not on our side.

Pitching matchups

Sonnanstine (6-7) vs Lester (10-7)

Garza (7-9) vs Beckett (14-5)

Price (7-6) vs Buchholz (3-3)

Wednesday's game is on ESPN for you out of market folk.