Archive for the ‘Defense’ 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.

Rays future focus on 1st base

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Defense, Free Agent, Minors, Rays

Since Carlos Pena won’t be handling the throws that come aross the infield to first base in 2011, the Rays are going to have to find somehow to replace his production. By combining Manny Ramirez’s power, along with Casey Kotchman’s slick fielding you might have what Carlos Pena provided. This two headed monster certainly won’t have the presence as a leader in the clubhouse that we witnessed the past few years in Pena.

Let’s say this experiment fails, along with Dan Johnson showing us that he really is more of a backup.  Where do the Rays turn?

Is Leslie Anderson given the everyday job or do the Rays dig deeper in their organization for the next player in line?

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.

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

With the Casey Kotchman signing by the Tampa Bay Rays last week, there has not been an outpouring of support over the move. With Carlos Pena now with the Chicago Cubs, the Rays were slated to go into the season with Dan Johnson as their everyday first baseman. Dan Johnson played for the Durham Bulls last season, and for most part, he played positions other than 1B.

As much as I loved watching Dan Johnson crank out home runs for the Bulls last year at an epic pace, I am not sure he will be able  to do this at the major league level.   Moreover, with the bullpen in 2011 looking nothing like the impressive pen they had built up over the years, the defense will be even more critical .

That is why I am relieved that the Rays made the move for Casey Kotchman to play 1B. However, even the Rays organization is not sold on the move as they only signed him to a minor league deal.  With the Rays having to scratch and crawl to get those last few outs each game, the Rays can’t go with a defense that will cost them games.

As a matter of fact, nothing was more impressive as watching the Rays at the Trop put on an infield clinic on defense.

One statistic I would follow from year to year was David Pinto’s PMR  which uses play-by-play data to determine the probability of a ball in play being converted to an out.  Well, now a days people head over too Fangraphs to use the UZR which has proven to be up and down from year to year. Instead, I used RF/9  (Range factor per 9 innings) which gives an assessment on how well they can get to a ball by measuring the range of the fielders.

In doing so, I compared the Red Sox and the league average.

Position
TAMPA BAY RAYS
League Avg BOSTON RED SOX
1B
Casey Kotchman 9.50
Dan Johnson 6.54

 

9.31

 

Adrian Gonzalez 9.35

 

2B
Sean Rodriguez 4.78

 

4.80

 

Dustan Pedroia 4.71

 

3B
Evan Longoria 2.73

 

2.64

 


Kevin Youkilis (2009)

2.75
Adrian Beltre 2.75

 

SS
Reid Brignac 4.33

 

4.40

 

Jed Lowrie 3.67
Marco Scutaro 3.83

 

LF
Johnny Damon 1.99

 

2.12

 

Carl Crawford 2.24

 

CF
B.J. Upton 2.77

 

2.30

 

Jacob Ellsbury (2009) -2.36

 

RF
Ben Zobrist 2b 4.61
Ben Zobrist 2.26

 

2b 4.80
rf 2.10

 

JD Drew 1.92

 

 

In summary, there is no way the Rays can rely on Dan Johnson as a fielder at 1B. Despite his age, I think Damon is adequate, but the Rays are losing alot in LF. Thank god for B.J. Upton! The Red Sox defense is boosted by having Adrian Gonzalez. As, Youkilis is a decent 3B as well.