Archive for the ‘Pitching’ 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.

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.

I just noticed this for the first time. The park factor numbers from 2010 indicate the Rays had the top pitcher friendly park in all of baseball. Likewise, they have the worst hitter friendly park in all of baseball.  Tropicana Field  grades in with a park factor of 0.800 for scoring runs, as opposed  to 0.996 in 2009.

Park factor indicates the difference between runs scored in a team’s home and road games. Most commonly used as a metric in the sabermetric community, it has found more general usage in recent years. It is helpful in assessing how much a specific ballpark contributes to the offensive production of a team or player.

Do you know what this means? It means the Rays hitters who only scored 351 runs at home (fourth worst in the AL) were not as bad as we thought. There is hope for the offense even besides the addition of Manny Ramirez at  DH.   Yay for the pitchers as they went from #17 pitchers park in 2009, to the top overall pitchers park.

How the  new turf changes this is beyond me, but I would think it does not impact the numbers that much.

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