Archive for the ‘Bullpen’ 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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Moving On Up-ton ?

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Bullpen, Outfield, Rays

It’s sure a good thing that B.J. Upton is a terrific defensive center fielder.  Because with his bat, he has never lived up to the 5 tool player he was billed as with the #2 overall pick.  For a player that showed great plate discipline in the minors, it has not traveled with him at the Major League level.

Lets first looked at the power years for  B.J. Upton.  He  slugged at one of his better rates (for him) last season when he was said to be past his injuries. Just like in 2007 , he did have one of his better home run years. But, its came at a cost as he didn’t make good contact. Thus, his batting average took a hit. But, unlike 2007 he wasn’t as lucky when balls went in play. Had he gotten a little luckier, you might have been talking a comeback season. His .304 BABIP really hurt his overall numbers.

B.J. Upton 2010

YEAR HR 2B 3B SB RBI H AVG TOB TB OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP
2010 18 38 4 42 62 127 0.237 196 227 0.322 0.424 0.745 69.40% 0.304

Usually, players with good plate discipline take a lot of pitches, whereby they wait for their pitch, and usually have good overall On Base Percentage (OBP) as a result.  Again, Upton’s best year as a pro was in 2007 where he demonstrated his best OBP .

B.J. Upton 2007

YEAR HR 2B 3B SB RBI H AVG TOB TB OBP SLG OPS Contact% BABIP
2007 24 25 1 22 82 142 0.300 211 241 0.386 0.508 0.894 67.51% 0.393

The best you can draw about the years when Upton  had power outages,  is that he was hurt.  In 2008  is when he is said to have been playing hurt, and an 2009 he was recovering from the injured shoulder surgery.  A blip on the development of Upton was that he had that epic 2008 post season. Not sure how that happened. But, it came at a cost as it has maybe taken him to this point.

Its possible those years of defensive shortcomings as a SS may have had long-term negative effects on his psyche.  The bottom line for Upton is that he may be finally to the point where he will reach his potential and put the past behind him. Unfortunately, he is beginning to become an expensive outfielder for the Rays with his 5 million dollar salary.   In Upton, he is an artifact of the Chuck LaMar regime. He may one day be a successful player. But, I’d be shocked if he is a Ray in 2012 and beyond.  If I was picking a team who he might be a fit for would be Dodgers. The Rays may be looking for a closer at some point in the year if the bullpen they have put together falls apart.

I make my annual trip to Tampa at the end of this month. I will get to catch the Rays in some game action when they visit Bradenton to play the Pirates for the second spring game of the year.

Here are some bullet points as we head into the 2011 season:

Q1: What will Joe Maddon try to accomplish this spring training ?

In Joe Maddon‘s first year without Carl Crawford in the everyday lineup, the main thing he will try to do is integrate veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon with the existing group of young players. The clubhouse dynamic over the course of the season will be a work in progress, and Maddon will sure hopes these  veteran players can be counted on for leadership.

Q2: What is the most compelling spring training competition?

The biggest competition going into camp is for the job of closer. It would appear  Kyle Farnsworth has the edge for the position. However, Jake McGee and Adam Russell will battle to state their claim on the role since their is no clearcut favorite.

Q3: What is the most likely Opening Day lineup?

left field; Johnny Damon, right field; Ben Zobrist, third base: Evan Longoria designated hitter; Manny Ramirez, first base; Dan Johnson, center fielder; B.J. Upton, second base; Sean Rodriguez, catcher; John Jaso, shortstop; Reid Brignac.

The Rays Spring Training roster as we know today:

Pos





C Jsao Shoppach R. Chirnos Lobaton Ashley Albernaz Vogt
1B D. Johnson Kotchman L. Anderson R. Cranzler
2B S. Rodriguez E. Johnson Mayora

SS Brignac F. Lopez Olmedo

3B Longoria
 




LF J. Damon Jennings


CF B.J. Upton Fuld Guyer


RF Zobrist C. Carter Ruggiano

DH M. Ramirez Joyce


SP D. Price  


A. Leary R. Orta
SP J. Shields
C. Figueora J. Bayliss
SP Niemann
Richar De los Santos B. Baker
SP W. Davis
Cobb

SP Hellickson
Dane De La Rosa

RP Farnsworth Eckstrom Torres

RP Russell B. Gomes Bush


RP Peralta Cabral
Suarez 



RP Delaney Archer R.J. Swindle

RP Sonnanstine Hayhurst

RP J. McGee Cruz



DL J.P. Howell Wade

The Tampa Bay Rays have added Juan Cruz to pitch in the reconstructed bullpen. Its a move that might capture lightning in a bottle, but I would of liked this move a lot better eight years ago.

Juan Cruz came up through the Cubs system as a starting pitcher. We always heard about his great stuff but he was never really able to capitalize on his talent.   The Cubs eventually had to give up on him as a starter and he was moved to the pen where he has had a journey man like career.

I see this as a stop gap type of move that fills a roster spot until the Rays decide to audition some of their young arms up to the big club. But, what do you expect as the market is dried up for bullpen talent and they might of been better off waiting for a player who is a casualty of a roster spot this spring with one of the other clubs.   I wonder if Jesse Orosco would be talked out of retirement ?

A delightful core strength over the past few seasons has been the Rays pitching. In the early Rays years,  Tampa Bay struggled mightily in the pitching arena.  What the Rays organization has done the past few year in developing major league starting pitching talent has been remarkable. Moreover, the young arms that have come over in trades have helped build this organization into a winner.

With the official Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon signings, the franchise now has in their possession  a formidable offense  to supplement around key hitters Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.

I understand that someone had to be the odd man out with Jeremy Hellickson ready to move into the starting rotation. It makes total sense in moving a player such as Garza who could bring back good talent on the open market.

However, what scares me immensely is the relief pitching. In Joe Maddon’s first few years with the Rays,  the bullpen struggled and cost them ball games.  The bullpen was essential in the successful run we have had the past few years.

The following table illustrates how the Rays success over the past 7 years has been tied to relief pitching. The Inherited Score (ISO) %  statistic tells you about the relief pitching whereby it indicates the inherited percentage of runners on  base when pitcher entered game and who subsequently scored

Yr AL East Rank Runs Allowed ISO%
2004 4th 842 33%
2005 5th 936 35%
2006 5th 856 40%
2007 5th 944 41%
2008 1st 671 25%
2009 3rd 754 31%
2010 1st 649 27%

 

I can not state the difficulty level in comprising a bullpen. The idea that the Rays can just piece together a few undervalued arms and build them into a successful bullpen is quite risky.   I wish I could say that building the bullpen would be as easy as refreshing the talent and plug and play.

The way I see it the best case scenario is like what happened in 2009 when the team operated with a closer by committee.  If you can’t protect the leads, it’s going to cost you games. Its classic seeing that the years the Rays had a dominant closer, they gave up under 700 runs and won the division.

The realistic best scenario for the bullpen is that they begin developing Jake McGee for 2012, or even give him the role in 2010. As I have said time after time, closers are not born they are made.  Moreover, the system has a bunch of live arms in the system that could contribute in 2011 in the bullpen. For example, Archer who was obtained in the Garza deal could be another important arm to call up for a spot the bullpen.

In summary, I wish the Rays had saved at least some money for the bullpen. I see this as a transition year for the bullpen and 750 runs or more given up is a realistic number.  That number says fourth place.

I have  known of the name Jason Collette for many years now dating back to the Rays message boards, then later on DRAYS BAY. But, it wasn’t until the MLB blogpoll that we both contributed to, that I first linked up with him.  Jason is all over the webosphere these days.  As a fan of several podcasts these days, I just listened to the Baseball Digest podcast where Jason was a guest.

Here are my notes on the interview:

Jason said the Rays organization went all in for 2010. An example he cited the team finding the money for Soriano, when there was no money left.  Jason noted that we knew the defections coming in 2011, but this offseason has been as good as possible with the 12 draft picks, freeing up 11.25 million in the Bartlett and Garza trades.

On the Manny and Damon package – Damon alone not worth it, the DH in Tampa Bay for a long time has been a sore spot. Manny in itself will be an upgrade over anything they have ever had at DH. Damon can work count. Jason stated that this is best offensive line up in history of Rays.

On losing Balfour and Soriano at closer and if it was a surprise:  Jason said not really. Benoit, Soriano, and Balfour had career years But, Benoit’s 3yrs/16mill contract with the Tigers skewed the market. There was a 50% chance Balfour could be back.

4 of the top 50 prospects from Tampa Bay. Now how does the Manny/Damon deal effect  Joyce/Jennnings –  help or hurt their progress ? He said punch his ticket to AAA, deleay his service time, have him for prime years, stretch out rentention.  Joyce has trouble handling left handed batting, but high ISO power vs rh pitching.

On Tampa ownership: Its like Fight Club, barely get access, tight lipped, very secretitive, data driven team.

Stadium: Will enough revenue streams so a CC wont happen again? timing wise after being in a world series it was a good time to attempt a new stadium,  but Tampa economy with a 13% unemployment, tv ratings top 6, many can’t afford to go, stadium under new ownership looks alot better. Jason would go before, but it was filthy, cleaner now, An unfortunate  geoography problem with stadium, east vs west.  St Pete doesnt want to give up rights.

On Baldelli retiring: It was a lost career just about.  He was athletic, power, could run. On having Rocco in the organization: Rays like to harvest those type of high character people, makeup is important. Hayhurst and Damon big character signings, with Damon a big clubhouse guy.

Can Rays compete?  Jason sees 5 teams going over .500 mark.  3 winning 90 games again, Rays and Blue Jays will be in mix.

The Rays are who we thought they were. That is, a small market team that will not be able to hold on to the players as long as the fans wish they could. Over the past few years, they have found good value in under the radar moves. The Hard Ball Times has an article on this topic as it relates to the bullpen:

Among others that look very interesting is Corey Wade. In 2008 Wade broke out with the Dodgers and posted strong numbers in terms of command in 71 plus innings. Since that time he has fallen victim to a shoulder injury which caused him to undergo surgery last offseason. Wade signed with Tampa this offseason to a minor league contract…classic Friedman penny-stock gamble.