I am a complete nerd when it comes to reading statistics. I’ve been known to sit in front of my MacBook for hours looking at numbers. I noticed something pretty incredible a few days ago.
I was perusing through Rays pitching stats on ESPN.com. While ESPN doesn’t have the most impressive or in-depth stat sheets available (for that I go to baseball-reference.com), one thing I do like is their projections.
As of today, James Shields is projected to win 19 games. Matt Garza and David Price are projected to win 24 games each.
Could the Rays possibly have three 20-game winners? If they do, it would be the first time since 1973 when Ken Holtzman, Jim Hunter and Vida Blue each won 20+ games for the Oakland Athletics. Oh yeah, they won the World Series that year, too.
In his second start of 2010, he shined against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Five days later, he shut down the White Sox in Chicago.
After that, he beat the hot Oakland A’s.
But his best start came two days ago.
Yes, I’m talking about Wade Davis.
Going into Sunday’s game, the Rays had lost two of the first three games against Kansas City. Fans were afraid that the Royals would deliver another loss behind the arm of the defending Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke.
It was a good thing Davis was up to the challenge once again.
The Rays No. 5 starter out-dueled Greinke, as Evan Longoria’s solo home run was all he needed to seal a 1-0 victory and a series split. He went seven strong, striking out five and allowing only six base-runners.
Davis is pitching well. That’s not what’s impressing me. I expected him to pitch just as well as the other Rays starters.
Here’s what is impressing me.
In his five starts this season, Davis has faced (in order): C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Mark Buehrle, Ben Sheets and Zack Greinke. What do they have in common?
They’re all aces. Talk about a raw deal.
But Davis had delivered, beating Buehrle, Sheets, Greinke, and matching Beckett pitch for pitch in a no-decision.
His only shaky start was his first of the season against the Yankees when he pitched 6 innings, giving up 4 runs. A shaky start, but I’ll take that against the Yanks.
Davis is not only beating good teams, he’s beating their best pitchers. His composure and his will to win make his future extremely bright. Not to mention his top of the rotation stuff.
But it’s easy to forget about Davis in a pool with names like Shields, Garza, Niemann and Price. They have been dominant as well. The five man tandem the Rays possess may be the best in baseball. And the rest of the league is taking notice. They combine for a 14-3 record and a 2.64 Earned Run Average.
The Rays are the only team in baseball that can make the case for having five aces for starters. The guy they actually call their ace, James Shields, may be their worst pitcher (not to say that’s a bad thing).
The fact is that this team is built for the present and for the future. They are one of the few teams that can out-pitch and out-slug any team in the majors. You’d be hard pressed to convince me that this team can’t win for years to come.
Think about this. You’re at a ballgame. You’re cheering on your favorite team. Everything is going well as you’re enjoying your experience.
Then, a fan decides to run onto the field. At first, you laugh. Maybe you encourage the unruly fan as he runs around the field, eluding security.
After a few seconds of nonsense you expect security to take him down and walk him off the field.
But wait. instead of the typical tackle and escort. Security pulls out the taser.
Cheers quickly turned into boos as this series of events is precisely what happened at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Check out the video here
At first, many cried foul.
To be honest, it isn’t the kind of history a sports team wants to make.
But I have three words: It’s about time.
It is definitely hard to sound unbiased here, especially since Philadelphia’s sports fans already have a bad reputation, but the fact that it happened there is simply a matter of unfortunate coincidence.
Frankly, this should have started happening a long time ago. There is no doubt in my mind that this event will cause a paradigm shift when it comes to trespassing fans.
The fan, a 17-year-old high school student, was not under the influence.
His intentions, like other fans who decide to run onto the field, were probably not malicious. But one thing is for sure, it is better to be proactive than reactive.
One is lanky, the other stocky.
One is graceful, the other powerful.
But for B.J. and Justin Upton, 25 and 22, respectively, that’s about where the differences end.
And unlike the Gwynn brothers, the Maddux brothers, the Guerrero brothers and even the Martinez brothers, the Uptons both have superstar and even hall of fame potential. Justin is poised to be an MVP any year now, and B.J.’s play in center field is third only to Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Cameron. I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of his dazzling catches live and can’t imagine anyone being better than he.
Though both have been criticized for their lack of maturity at times, their raw talent is undeniable. They were both drafted for their 5-tool potential, which they have achieved at the major league level.
Let’s cut them a little slack, too. Don’t forget that they both made their major league debuts at just 19 years of age. And that’s just the start of their striking similarities.
Both Uptons were first-round draft picks, B.J. was the second overall pick by the Devil Rays in 2002, then Justin the first overall pick by Arizona in 2005. They are the only set of brothers in baseball history to both be selected so high. And they were both infielders–both shortstops–but they were a little too raw to succeed as professionals, so they were both converted to outfielders. Hardly a bad decision.
Both had tremendous hype, Jason Heyward like. Both were touted to lead in their respective team’s upcoming crop of players, which included other hyped names like Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) and Delmon Young (Rays), also first-rounders as well as brothers of major leaguers, albeit underachieving ones.
Most impressive of all, both B.J. and Justin Upton could have pursued professional football careers, but they both chose baseball. Their choosing America’s favorite pastime was no accident though, as their passion for baseball was as strong as their talent.
And it was a passion that started early. Their baseball careers have lasted as long as they’ve been alive. They’ve always been there for each other and have constantly encouraged each other to be the best that they can be. Even though they now drive Cadillacs and are financially set for life, they are hardly satisfied.
They’ve both had their breakout seasons, B.J. at 22 and Justin at 21. Though B.J. has struggled since, you can bet that the six-year, $51.25 million contract given to his younger brother as well as the comments of Justin having more upside will serve as his inspiration to bounce back.
Now, finally free from injury, B.J. is off to a great start for the 2010 season. One of my (not so) bold predictions was that he would be the first 30-30 player in Rays history.
And for which one is better? That’s only for time to decide. The sky is the limit for both of these guys, and watching them as they flourish in the majors will be nothing short of special.
Everyone knew that the Tampa Bay Rays needed to start the 2010 season red hot in order to compete for a playoff spot. At 10-3, they sit atop the American League East with the best record in baseball.
But what’s most impressive is the four game sweep the Rays completed in Boston, the first in their history.
They outscored the Sox 24-9 and ripped their biggest investment, John Lackey. His line this morning was ugly (3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER). Josh Beckett was the only Boston starter to keep the Rays under control.
Carlos Peña and B.J. Upton continued swinging hot bats, both going deep multiple times in the series.
And if that wasn’t enough, the ever popular Pat Burrell got in on the action, going 5-for-13 with 3 extra base hits, including the game winning home run in the first game of the series. His batting average is up to a respectable .270.
Needless to say, this team is off to the fast start they hoped for. They look to prove that 2009 was the fluke, not 2008.
For the Red Sox, they’ll find a way to win. But they will have trouble playing catchup as the Rays did in 2009. They put their emphasis on pitching and defense in the offseason, yet they’ve struggled in both aspects.
The Rays, simply put, came ready to play. They are younger, healthier, more energetic and they are here to stay.
If they can take advantage of the less than challenging schedule these next two weeks, which includes three games against the struggling White Sox and seven games against Kansas City, they can establish a nice cushion going into the summer.
The Rays are once again ready to shine.
At first glance, it may seem that the Tampa Bay Rays are off to the hot start necessary to win in 2010.
Not so fast.
The Baltimore Orioles are mostly to thank for the team’s success so far, and if it weren’t for some shoddy defense and blown saves, the Rays could easily be sitting on a 4-5 record. An ugly series against the Yankees which included a near no-hitter from C.C. Sabathia also showed that this team is not nearly in midseason form.
But when the bats woke up late Tuesday and Wednesday, I became optimistic. If the Rays go into Boston swinging hot bats, there is no doubt they can win the series. Here are some more keys to the series.
Get on Beckett early. Tonight’s game will set the tone for the series. Naturally, Boston’s ace will be on the mound. But Josh Beckett isn’t the type to come out in shut-down mode right away. Historically, the 1st and the 7th are his worst innings. If the Rays can take advantage, they’ll rattle him and get him out early. If not, it will be a long night. Especially with Wade Davis on the mound (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense**), it is important that the Rays establish a lead early instead of making the youngster match Beckett pitch-for-pitch.
RUN! Through the first 9 games of 2009, the Rays had 12 stolen bases. This year, they only have 8. That’s still a lot, but it seems like that aspect of their game has been somewhat absent. While the Red Sox have greatly improved on their defensive side of the ball, they have one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball in Victor Martinez. The Rays must take advantage with the amount of speed they have.
Starters must eat innings. Against the Red Sox, this may be a tall task. But the Rays need to avoid pitching Randy Choate and Mike Ekstrom AT ALL COSTS. Bullpen woes have been no secret, and stretching an already thin staff will be disastrous. Rays Starters need to bare down and get as many outs as possible against one of the weaker Sox lineups in recent memory.
Zobrist needs to start looking like a No. 3 hitter. As much as I like Zorilla, I have been against him hitting third since day 1. He has yet to hit for any power, he’s striking out more and his 2 RBI show his lack of run production. After the breakout year he had last year, it’s no secret that he is facing tougher pitching. It’s time he starts getting on base and stop making Evan Longoria lead off innings.
All of these things need to come together for the Rays this weekend. After they failed their first test against the Yankees at home, they will get a second chance to prove they are for real this weekend.
**Why starting Davis tonight is a mistake. The Red Sox have their best four starters scheduled to pitch against the Rays this weekend. This is no accident.
Typically, teams skip their 5th starters in April because of the amount of days off. With that said, Why not start Shields tomorrow and skip Davis? The day off yesterday gives our rotation the four days rest they need.
Nothing against Wade Davis, but starting him the first game causes two problems. First, it creates a mismatch. Instead of ace vs. ace to start the series, we will have ace vs. No. 5. Second, Starting Davis tonight will mean that David Price will not get a start against the Sox. Let me remind you that Price was the only Rays pitcher to handle the Yankees last weekend.
As the Rays took the field this past Sunday, they unveiled their newest new look.
As we all know, they came out with entirely new uniforms back in 2008 when they got rid of those dreadful vests as well as the “Devil” from their name. Last year marked the coming out of the navy blue jerseys that seemed to be a favorite among players.
But 2010 is a little different. This year, they came out with the light blue jerseys. It is extremely significant because the new color is unique to every other team in baseball. Not that I don’t like the dark blue, but since at least 8 other major league teams have navy blue jerseys, it can get a bit unoriginal.
There are a couple of other things I noticed on this first baseball weekend.
This team lacks resilience. After the Rays were nearly no-hit on Saturday, I expected them to bounce back and play hard on Sunday. They didn’t. Instead of using the previous game as motivation, they came out flat. And they were simply overmatched.
I know I said in a previous blog that I see a sense of urgency with this team. While I’m not ready to retract that statement just yet, I do feel like they have some tightening up to do. Some of Maddon’s bullpen decisions have been atrocious, and the timely hitting hasn’t been consistent so far.
Sean Rodriguez’s nerves. I’d hate to knock on this guy, mostly because I am one of his biggest fans. But anyone can tell that he just looks really stiff out there. His defense has been solid, but I have yet to see him look comfortable at the plate. S-Rod showed us all what he is capable of this spring, but look for Reid Brignac to start taking away some of Rodriguez’s at bats unless he starts making some adjustments.
Pat Burrell… Well, you know. Pat Burrell is a good guy, and it’s hard to watch him play the way he does. The worst part is that he is trying. But I’m not sure how much longer fans will be able to watch him turn fastballs down the middle into double play balls.
For his sake and ours, I hope he can turn it around, but thats not likely. A look at his career numbers will show that April and May are his best months, so it’s not a case of simply having a slow start. Unless he can show that he can still hit (on a consistent basis), the boos will only get louder.
Forecast. Now, the Rays are set to go on their first road trip of the season. After a mediocre first home stand, they need to get in gear. The four-game weekend series in Boston may be the most important one in April. A winning road trip will put them in good shape for the quick start they need to have.