Archive for the ‘AL East’ Category

Cork Gaines of Rays Index visited Mike Silva for his blog talk radio show NY Baseball Digest. This q&a segment titled Outside the Apple Tampa Bay Rays brought up a lot of hot topics about the ball club. Below is a representation of what was discussed.  It is paraphrased  and not word for word:

On the Rays player movement this off season:

Cork : we knew this would happen for a long time . There is still alot of talent here in Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and others.

On Manny Ramirez and what if it does not work out:

Cork:  hard to envision it could be any worse than the 9 million the Rays ate on Pat Burrell. It’s a no lose situation. Manny usually starts off good and its a 1 year deal, well worth 2 million.

On the Rays having to count on that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to be good this year:

Cork:  The Rays need them to score runs. Without these additions there was not a lot of threats in the lineup. Now the Rays can put Manny 4th  or 5th,  with Damon at the top of the lineup. It slots slots everyone better. Matt Joyce  can be 7th hitter and it puts pressure off of him. It’s like getting a closer in the bullpen where it puts people in better places

On losing Pena:

Cork:  Pena will be missed for his tremendous glove, and without the addition of Manny, the Rays would of really missed his presence in the lineup. Pena was what kept pitchers honest. Pena made the infield defense a whole lot better. The Rays will miss Pena in the clubhouse. The fans gravitated towards  Pena. Now the Rays are going with Dan Johnson playing 1st base. Dan Johnson hits lefties well.  May be playing everyday he could be productive. However Maddon likes platoons so he won’t be out there every day.

On Joe Maddon as the manager:

Cork : The expectations have been raised with Maddon as the manager, an old scool type of baseball man, he is a polarizing  figure. The team has been productive with Maddon. Its either Friedman picking the right players or Maddon doing a good job with them. At times he over thinks things but overall he is a good manager.

On the Garza trade:

Cork: Rays said they wouldn’t do it unless they got blown away from an offer. Chris Archer, probably won’t see a whole lot of him this year,  maybe next year.  Chirnos was the key player in deal. As Jaso is not best defense catcher, but gets on base well and is a serviceable catcher. Chirnos was moved from the infield, Rays could move Shoppach and shave payroll.

On Hellickson and the pitching rotation:

Cork: Helickson might be skipped from time to time. Wade Davis and Niemmann are workhorse pitchers, Price is gonna be great, heavy load last year, maybe a tired arm. The key is James Shields, Rays need him to step up, get him back.

On the bullpen and is Farnsworth like putting kersosene on fire?
Cork: Farnsworth has been better the  past few yrs.  The bullpen is a hodge podge.  J.P. Howell will start on the DL and could be back  mid May or early June. Rays have 25 guys in camp which are relief pitchers. Rays need 1 or 2 to relief pitchers to step it up, but it won’t be lights out like last year. The bullpen will be ok, not great.

On Soriano in New York:

Cork: It will be intersting, for the most part ok, wonder if things turn sour, how will he react? He is the temperamental type, on edge and sometimes channels anger in wrong way. However, not looking forward to facing him.

On the Ken Rosenthal contraction/moving the team piece?

Cork:  contracting with less people as part of the game and less sales opportunities is a silly idea. The Tampa market is untapped for baseball, sports fans haven’t latched on, and building centrally located. It is equivalent  of Citi Field being located in the Hamptons. Since the Trop is surrounded by water to get to the games it usually ends up taking most people  1.5 hours to get to the game, its a problem. The Rays will never draw 3million on consistent basis. But, they don’t need to.  They can be an in the middle attendance team. It’s a good sports area. Rays don’t have history. Most  of the long time clubs all have a history that generatons of fans to build on. The Rays don’t have that. They are now experiencing a good run, 10 year from now it will be something look back on.

On Rays as a playoff team:
Cork: The early thoughts is that they can compete, still looking for bullpen help, Yankees will go out and get starting pitcher help. Rays are a 85-88 win team, break well they could win 92 games. If they get off to a bad start selling of pieces,  then a 75 win team.

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Mark Topkin tells us that David Price will start the spring training opener on Saturday. James Shields will pitch on Sunday:

This quote by Andrew Friedman is his spin of saying “what about us in 2011”.

“We did lose a lot, but my goodness, we’ve got a lot here, too.” “As much physical talent in this camp,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, “as we’ve ever had.”

Some might say its a dig on the previous group here in Rays land who are now playing for other teams. However, as I stated previously, the Rays home grown pitching is quite impressive and “the straw that stirs the drink” .

Some Tape Measure Blasts from around the web:

In Major League baseball, there is no salary cap, nor is there a minimum salary a team must spend on their payroll. The contract the owners give out is all guaranteed money.  Now why do you think the big market teams are quite upset about having to pay the small market teams ?

Well, the big market teams spend to compete because they are expected to do so with the  financial resources they have at their fingertips. However what is happening is the small market teams are going out to dinner on the big  market teams tab, and buying the cheapest item on the menu, and writing off the most expensive item on the menu to get reimbursed with. The Yankees owner Hank Sterinbrenner is clearly livid over this practice:

Steinbrenner revealed the team contributed about $130 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax, the most of any team in the league and the most, according to Steinbrenner that the team has ever had to contribute. A few days ago, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino indicated the team contributed $86 million. This is obviously a sore subject for the Yankees and Red Sox.

Now, one of the biggest complaints of the Rays bumbling previous owner Vince Namoli is that he walked around with a fat wallet. It seems the Sternberg ownership walks around with the same type of wallets. But, The intent of the collective bargaining process was allowing for home grown players contracts from getting prohibitive before reaching free agency. The players were to take reasonable pay bumps in accordance of improved performance on the diamond. Instead, what we witnessed this off season from Rays was taking a moderate valued contract in Matt Garza and selling it for future dollars.

I can see why teams do not want to pay to help the other teams in general.  We have seen this in the marketplace even where we want to pay for our own healthcare and not be subject to paying for your neighbors.  It’s obvious the owners had already gone to the commissioner  and slapped the Marlins on the wrist for not spending their revenue sharing dollars on payroll. The result was Dan Uggla spent one year extra in Florida before they deemed him too expensive.

It was a speed bump on the radar and eventually the big market teams will come in greater numbers and show they are serious. Selig can only stall them so long.

In the book that published last year  titled Beyond Batting Average, the author Lee Panas suggests  the Quad is a happy median between traditional stats and sabermetric stats. My Roto site BaseballHappenings.com was even referenced in the book:

David Bloom suggests using OBP/SLG/TOB/TB because it combines both rate measures (OBP, SLG) and playing time statistics (TOB, TB).  However, BA/OBP/SLG is still the most common combination in the sabermetric community

The Quad takes into account both counting stats in Times on Base, and Total Bases and the rate stats in On Base Percentage, Slugging average.

TOB

  1. Miguel Cabrera 272
  2. Daric Barton 265
  3. Robinson Cano 265
  4. Billy Butler 263
  5. Nick Markakis 262
  6. Ichiro Suzuki 262
  7. Mark Teixeira 260
  8. Shin-Soo Choo 259
  9. Jose Bautista 9 258
  10. Derek Jeter 251
  11. Paul Konerko 248
  12. Evan Longoria 246

TB

  1. Jose Bautista 351
  2. Miguel Cabrera 341
  3. Robinson Cano 334
  4. Josh Hamilton 328
  5. Adrian Beltre 326
  6. Paul Konerko 320
  7. Vernon Wells 304
  8. Carl Crawford 297
  9. Vladimir Guerrero 294
  10. Evan Longoria 291
  11. Michael Young 291
  12. Nick Swisher 289
  13. Mark Teixeira 289
  14. Delmon Young 281
  15. Billy Butler 279
  16. Nick Markakis 274

OBP

  1. Miguel Cabrera 0.420
  2. Kevin Youkilis 0.411
  3. Josh Hamilton  0.411
  4. Joe Mauer  0.402
  5. Shin-Soo Choo  0.401
  6. Jack Cust 0.395
  7. Daric Barton 0.393
  8. Paul Konerko  0.393
  9. Billy Butler 0.388
  10. David DeJesus 0.384
  11. Brett Gardner 0.383
  12. Ian Kinsler 0.382
  13. Robinson Cano  0.381
  14. Magglio Ordonez .378
  15. Jose Bautista  0.378
  16. Travis Hafner  0.374
  17. Nelson Cruz 0.374
  18. John Jaso 0.372
  19. Evan Longoria 0.372
  20. David Ortiz 0.370
  21. Nick Markakis 0.370

SLG

  1. Josh Hamilton 0.633
  2. Miguel Cabrera 0.622
  3. Jose Bautista 0.617
  4. Paul Konerko 0.584
  5. Nelson Cruz 0.576
  6. Kevin Youkilis 0.564
  7. Adrian Beltre 0.553
  8. Luke Scott 0.535
  9. Robinson Cano 0.534
  10. David Ortiz 0.529
  11. Vernon Wells 0.515
  12. Nick Swisher 0.511
  13. Evan Longoria 0.507
  14. Alex Rodriguez 0.506

As far as Evan Longoria, the fact he shows up on all these charts gives you an idea what type of player the Rays have on their hands for a long while. Sure, losing Carl Crawford is going to hurt early on, but really the player doesn’t really show up on the all inclusive offensive categories. His value comes more on the base paths and on defense. The fact that Evan Longoria did this all without much protection in the lineup makes it even more impressive. Kudos go out to John Jaso and his impressive OBP in his rookie year. We coud use that type of OBP in the leadoff position.

Using these measures, its clear the troubled 1B Miguel Cabrera was the overall best player in the American League last season. Sure, Josh Hamilton hit the top of the charts in the rate stats SLG and OBP which does not take playing time into account. Whereas, the counting stats which rewards players for playing time and excellence is where Josh Hamilton was not much of a factor.  Did the voters get it wrong with the 2011 MVP?  The numbers here sure seem to indicate that fact.

Unfortunately, my schedule and geography is not permitting me to attend the  2011 Rays Fan Fest today.However, I have done my browsing on the web, and the best way to be there without being there can be found here. If anyone is able to go, let me know how the free new turf  looks and feels. Here are some potential Durham Bulls who will be in attendance:

12:00 J.J Furmaniak, Russ Canzler, Desmond Jennings, Chris Carter

1:00pm Leslie Anderson, Ray Olmedo, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Boothceck, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirnos, Chris Archer

There’s many more, check the schedule for the full list of players in attendance.

We have heard about all the shrewd deals the Rays have made over the past few years. Ben Zobrist came over for Aubrey Huff.  J.P. Howell from the Royals for Joey Gathright. But the heart and soul of this team is the starting rotation that the organization has developed each and every one of them from within. With David Price, James Shields, Jeff Neimann, Wade Davis, and Helickson filling out the rotation it makes it look like its so easy to develop pitchers. However, for every one of the current success cases, there are memories of close to a decade of failed pitchers such as Dewon Brazelton, James Houser to name a few.

The Rays had one hard time before this current group of developing a starting pitcher within the organization. It either was that Chuck LaMar was picking all the wrong players, or there has been a change in philosiphy.  I tend to think its all about picking the talent.  But, part of it is picking winners with not just their arm. We are talking about players with strong work ethics and students of the game. This current crop of Rays starting pitchers has the discipline and are driven by the critics to keep trying to succeed. For example, despite David Price’s success in 2010 he has his sights on becoming an even more complete pitcher.

The Braves built a dynasty with their pitching in 1990s. Why is it that this group is not regarded in the same way Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux and all the other Braves pitchers. I honestly see the Rays starting pitching being a little deeper than those Atlanta teams. 

Guess what? There is even more pitching help on the way. With Chris Archer who came over from the Cubs and Matt Walker the flame thowing pitcher who close to being ready.

Now the starting pitcher to watch this year is James Shields who could be primed for a rebound. At one point Shields was the Ace of this rotation and will have enough motivation this year to get back that impressive K/BB ratio he showed earlier in his career.  It’s no secret he struggled last year.  Also, the second half by Wade Davis might be the same boost that Price showed before his breakout last year. Helickson was a man among boys at Durham last year. I have nothing but good thoughts about him in his first full year. Niemann’s 2010 was not as impressive as the year before.  Honestly, David Price got all the press clippiings last year. This year he might have to share the spotlight.

Put a face and a voice to The Heater’s Mark Topkin with a spring training video from Port Charlotte.  Topkin mentions how David Price says he wants to be more than just the best pitcher in his league, but in all of major league baseball. 

 I am the greatest!!!

Over the past few weeks, we have heard the notion that numbers are indeed facts, and the only way to qualify an opinion is with data.  For example, Rich Lederer had suggested for years that Bert Blyleven is a Hall of fame pitcher.  He used numbers to make his case and in 2011 the voters finally heard the message and voted Blyleven into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of fame voters for years didn’t really take into account that Bert played most of his career on losing teams, and the statistics of our youth do not tell the whole story of what type of pitcher Blyleven was. 

The baseball we grew up on valued numbers. However, home runs and run batted in defined  how good a batter was. Similarly, a pitchers number of wins and his earned tun average indicated what kind of pitcher he was. Today, based on the work of Bill James we take more into account when evaluating a player and projecting his statistics for the upcoming year. We have learned that what type of defense the pitcher has backing him can weigh heavily on a pitchers numbers. This is due in a large part to work of  Voros McCracken and his Defense Independent Pitching Statistic system ( DIPS ):

His studies of pitching statistics suggest that major league pitchers do not differ greatly on their ability to prevent hits on balls in play. The rate at which a pitcher allows hits on balls in play has more to do with defense and luck than to his own skill, and can vary greatly from year to year.

With their propietary baseball metrics, the Rays are a part of the new Moneyball era as an organization that weighs heavily on the statistics . For example, in the 2010 playoffs, the numbers said to pitch James Shields in a crucial playoff game against the Rangers, even though the fans who had watched him pitched lately questioned the move. This goes to show you that sometimes the number crunching works out, sometimes it does not. This idea brings me to the recent work by Rays Country:

Statistics play a more prominent role in the analysis of baseball than any other sport in our country. They provide the historical background upon which modern-day achievements can be assessed in their proper context. They help determine the value of players. Employed fairly and without extraneous agendas, they are quite helpful in forming predictions of future events

The article brings up the notion that statistical analysis can be plenty good, but you must take into context there are a multitude of factors that affect the numbers:

But actual analysis and logical formations of expectations entail not only a measured use of statistics, but much deeper sources to additional information. A hitter’s ability to catch up to a David Price heater on a Sunday afternoon may be more predicated on what he did after Saturday night’s game. A batter’s chances of beating out a worm-killer may be affected by a hammie he’s nursing. A pitcher’s intense focus on each and every one of his pitches could be impacted by some personal issue. The point is, there are a myriad of factors that impact any given moment in a baseball game.

I do like statistics and the new age of thinking. But, I am in agreement on this passage from the article:

Rays Country authors are passionate fans who appreciate the incredible complexity of this magnificent game. Our analyses certainly employ statistics, but we believe it is of paramount importance for us to zealously research the internal validity of the numbers we cite and use reason when predicting outcomes.

Pepper

Joaquin Benoit signed one of the most controversial free agent contracts of the offseason paying him $5.5 for each of the next three years. Benoit gives the Tigers another fireballer in the bullpen and a potential setup man but the contract is in question based not last year’s amazing statistics that Benoit put up but prior years. In total Benoit carries a 31-28 record with a 4.47 ERA and 1.349 WHIP.

(Examiner) : Rays ready to defend East title with new faces – Tampa Bay Sports

For the ladies the day is tied to romance and affection and the guys will get their boxes of candy, a bunch of flowers and a card for their sweetheart. They guys are looking for something else, not wrapped in a bow but it is just as sweet. It’s called “Pitchers and Catchers.”

(Yahoo )

What Friedman has done in such circumstances, however, merits annual mention. He’s always thinking, always maneuvering, always doing something, because the moment he doesn’t, the Rays will sink back to the morass in which they were trapped for a decade.

(NESN)

The combustible Kyle Farnsworth has the inside track for save chances. Joel Peralta and promising lefty Jake McGee are potential setup men. The only holdover is long man Andy Sonnanstine. But there is a chance Lance Cormier returns, and J.P. Howell, who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready in May.

Cubbie Town

Even Garza, who threw a no-hitter during the Tampa Bay Rays’ AL East championship run last season, raised eyebrows with his 1-3, 6.75 ERA finish in his last five starts of 2010.

With the 2011 baseball pre-season just about here, it’s interesting to speculate how the Rays offense will hold up for the upcoming season.  I have started looking at last years batting results for the players who are projected to get the bulk of playing time in the Rays infield.   Now, keep in mind this is 2011 where we have evolved whereby the statistics we grew up on like Batting Average and Home Runs no longer tell you the whole story. As a result, I have brought in some new age statistical numbers such as  Times on Base, and Total Bases and the rate stats in On Base Percentage, Slugging average.

The formula for Times on Base (TOB) is

  • (H + BB + HBP)

The formula for Total Bases (TB) is

  • (Total hits – 2b -3b – HR) + (2b x 2) + (3b x 3) + (HR x 4)

The formula for Slugging (SLG) is TB/AB or

  • ((Total hits – 2b -3b – HR)+ (2b*2)+ (3b*3)+ (HR x 4) )/ AB)

The formula for On Base Percentage (OBP) is

  • ((Total hits +BB+HBP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF)


For starters, let’s take a look at Casey Kotchman. His overall OPS is one of the worst you can find around in baseball. The hope for Rays fans is if you look at his BABIP shows one unlucky hitter.  Similarly, his contact rate is impressive. But, playing at Tropicana field which is a pitchers park, not sure how that will turn out. He does play at a premier offensive position at 1B where defense is said to be not as important.    But, with Manny in fold it might be okay having a 1B who will save the pitchers.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Casey Kotchman 9 37 51 0.217 0 128 139 7.66% 0.280 0.336 0.616 86.23% 0.229 38.697

In Dan Johnson, we have a very small 2010 sample size.  So that BB% is inflated.  This is a guy who put his bulk of his impressive 2010 up at AAA Durham. Overall, not sure what we have here and is one of the big question marks as he is a player that the Oakland Athletics already gave up on.  But, he definitely has some upside potential.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Dan Johnson 7 15 23 0.198 1 48 46 17.86% 0.343 0.414 0.757 75.68% 0.188 16.087

Here we may have found something in Sean Rodriguez. How can we forget the offensive fireworks he put on display in spring training last year. He got off to poor start, and his numbers are a little raw. However, 9 home runs at a middle infielder position is something that he can build upon. The BB% shows he doesn’t walk a lot and his OBP indicates this.  He could either take the next step, or be headed to a seat on the bench.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Sean Rodriguez 9 53 40 0.251 13 115 136 5.63% 0.308 0.397 0.705 71.72% 0.324 40.900

In Reid Brignac, it’s his job as the starting shortstop and one of my personal favorite players. He earned a spot out of spring training last year, and overtook Rodriquez with the extended playing time. I remember when Brignac and Longoria played side by side in the minors at an epic power pace. Let’s see what Reid Brignac can do playing everyday. In the early DRAYS BAY days, this was a player the community was on the fence as a player the team could build around. Several years later he is penciled in as the everyday starting shortstop.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Reid Brignac 8 39 45 0.256 3 100 116 6.13% 0.307 0.385 0.692 74.42% 0.317 34.452

Felipe Lopez bounced around last year and is sure to make the team as he can back up all over the infield. At times, he has shown he can play in the majors. But, at this point in his career he projects as a solid backup.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Felipe Lopez (AL) 1 2 1 0.267 0 5 7 6.25% 0.312 0.467 0.779 73.33% 0.300 2.188
Felipe Lopez (NL) 7 50 36 0.231 8 131 128 10.19% 0.310 0.340 0.651 79.52% 0.272 40.447

Ben will rotate between 2B and RF. He is certainly more valuable at 2B and has shown to be able to play the position effectively. Last year was certainly a down year after 2009. Let’s hope he can pull it together as Rays rely on him even more this season. Despite the off year, his OBP is impressive, but his slugging was in the toilet. His BABIP does not show he was extremely unlucky. This year we will find out if he is more of the 2009 version with an outstanding year, or  more like the player we saw in 2010. He did have a good post season, so lets hope he continues where he left off.

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Ben Zobrist 10 77 75 0.238 24 224 191 14.20% 0.346 0.353 0.699 80.22% 0.273 70.325

What can we say more about Evan Longoria. He means more to his team than almost any player in baseball. I guess we can expect another Evan Longoria type of year. He is an all around player and one of the best in the game. His detailed statistics reflect that

Name HR R RBI AVG SB TOB TB BB% OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP RC
Evan Longoria 22 96 104 0.294 15 246 291 10.89% 0.372 0.507 0.879 78.40% 0.336 109.324