Tagged: espn

Pitching a Fit: The Suddenly Poor Rays Rotation

I should be posting about the amazing win our guys got yesterday against the Toronto Blue Jays. 

I wish I could feel good about how the Rays fought back from being down 8-0 to win the game 10-9 in 12 innings. 

 

I watched it, it was exciting, it was amazing, IT WAS THE BIGGEST COME BACK IN THE FRANCHISE’S HISTORY!

For the second time this season, the Rays were able to stage the biggest comeback in their short history.  I’m happy to say I was able to watch both of them.  I’m disgusted to say that our friends at that big sports network didn’t lead with the Rays’ win, and, in fact, pushed them to the THIRD game to be discussed out of the AL East–the Yanks were talked about first and the Sox second, of course.

But I’m not going to talk about any of that, because there is something that has been going on the last month or so that is really pushing me over the edge.  It is something that is putting the Rays in position where they HAVE to stage comebacks almost every game these days and if they dont, they lose.

Our pitching stinks.

More specifically, our starting pitching stinks.

Ok, maybe “stink” is a strong word, but it ain’t good.

I don’t know what happened to our usually reliable guys, but they have fallen into a pit of despair (or maybe that’s me) that has caused our stalwarts to be rocked and our marginal pitchers to be destroyed.  Rookies are both leading and hurting this rotation and veterans are not getting supported.

So consider this post a semi-rant about how our guys need to step up the rest of the year.  I’m talking about what they’ve done thus far in the seasons and taking a look at what they’ve done the last month. 

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James Shields

Season Stats:             6-6    3.70 ERA    1.28 WHIP    98 K    30 BB    141 IP

Stats the Last Month:  0-1    4.58 ERA    1.35 WHIP    26 K    9  BB     39.1 IP

Breakdown:  Shields has been our most reliable starter this season by far.  He was the Rays’ opening day guy the last two years and he has earned it.  He does not walk alot of batters, making them put the ball in play.  He is not a big strikeout guy either, but his changeup is an equalizer, often causing hitters to hit weak groundballs to the infield.  He has not gotten much, if any, run support this season, getting more than 3 runs in a game only 9 of his 20 starts this season.  No pitcher can succeed with such poor support.

What He Needs To Do:  While I would like to argue that he is fine and just needs to do what he’s been doing all season, the numbers say differently.  While his walks are pretty much in line with what he’s done all year, his ERA and WHIP are poor as of late.  Most of that is a pitcher’s fault.  The Rays offense has scuffled as of late, but if “Big Game” James doesn’t work harder at shutting down opposing teams on his own then the Rays will not move on to October.

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Season Stats:              4-6    6.69 ERA    1.72 WHIP    58 K    40 BB    74 IP 

Stats the Last Month:  0-2    5.08 ERA    1.34 WHIP    23 K    11 BB    28.1 IP

Breakdown:  The easy thing to do these days is pile on Kaz for his performance.  He has underachieved significantly and rarely puts his team in position to win.  He is a guy who usually throws 100+ pitches through 4 2/3 innings and has to struggle just to get out of the 5th.  His walks are ridiculous and his strikeouts are well off his career average.  Sure, he’s been hurt this year, but nobody comes back to form more slowly than Kaz does.  Of course he’s the subject of trade rumors, the Rays cannot afford to pay him his $10 million he is due to earn next year if he continues to perform like this. 

What He Needs To Do:  Strange as it may seem, Kazmir has been turning it aroundIn Kazmir terms, anyway.  As you can see, his ERA is improving as is his WHIP.  He is not letting guys get on base these days and he is working harder at not letting them score.  He is still nibbling at the corners, thus accounting for his high walk and low strikeout totals, but he seems more cognizant of pitching instead of throwing.  In three consecutive outings he has gone more than 6 innings!  You have to go WAY back to find the last time he’s done that.  I think that he might be turning it around and if he does, will be a solid contributer the rest of the way.

 

 

Jeff Nieman

Season Stats:               9-4    3.61 ERA    1.36 WHIP    59 K    38 BB    99.2 IP 

Stats the Last Month:   3-0    1.98 ERA    1.10 WHIP    15 K    5 BB      27.1 IP

Breakdown:  As I’ve been saying all year long, Nieman is making Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon look like geniuses for keeping him over Jason Hammel coming out of spring training. This guy has been BY FAR the Rays’ most dependable and successful starter lately as he leads the rotation in wins and ERA.  Throw into the mix his massive 6’9″ frame and he is just plain ol’ intimidating.  His strikeouts are a little low and his WHIP is a tough high, but this guy knows how to pitch and could/should get consideration for the AL’s Rookie of the Year award.

What He Needs To Do:  As you can see, over the last month Nieman has been dominating.  Since his “demotion” in the Texas series by Joe Maddon to the long relief role so that Matt Garza could get an extra start, the big Texan has come out with a vengence.  You know that when he toes the mound you are going to get a quality start as he has gone 8, 9, and 7.1 innings in his last three starts.  Let’s hope that some of that success rubs off on the other Rays rotation rookie.

 

 

David Price

Season Stats:               3-4    5.60 ERA    1.72 WHIP    54 K    32 BB    53 IP

Stats the Last Month:   2-2    7.15 ERA    1.81 WHIP    21 K    13 BB    22.2 IP

Breakdown:  I would like to say we have to be careful with this one.  That we should just bring him along slowly.  And, to a certain extent, we should.  You can’t totally compare him to Jeff Nieman because Nieman has had more years in the minors than Price has to get ready for “the show.”  But, I don’t think anybody expected these types of performances from Price.  His power pitching is showing up splendidly as he strikes out more than a hitter per inning, but his control is terrible.  The guy who was supposed to be the ROY in the AL is not even the best rookie in his own team’s rotation. 

What He Needs To Do: Well, let’s not jump off bridges here.  Despite the negative numbers, he is still a young pitcher who is suffering growing pains.  He’ll get there.  But probably not this year.  The question becomes how long do we continue to throw him to the wolves this season?  It is not like he’s showing much improvement.  If you look at his numbers from the last month, they are just plain ugly.  And he has 3.0 and 1.1 inning stints in two of his last three outings.  He might help alot in the bullpen in the playoffs, but right now he is not giving the Rays what they need from him.

 

 

Matt Garza

Season Stats:               7-7    3.68 ERA    1.20 WHIP    116 K    50 BB    129.2 IP

Stats the Last Month:   3-2    3.90 ERA    1.33 WHIP    31 K      11 BB     31 .1 IP

Breakdown: Not many teams’ rotations get much better 1-3 than Shields, Garza, and Nieman.  Garza has been a stud for this team, putting his guys in position to win every time out.  It is rare to see him put forth a bad effort, though his last three outings have been less than adequate.  Though he often battles his emotions on the mound, he has come a long way since last season when emotion would push his performance to the breaking point.  He is second among starters in ERA, WHIP, wins, Ks, and IP.  Not too bad.  He is somebody to count on.

What He Needs To Do:  Garza has slipped a little bit his last four starts.  Granted, Friday night’s 9-inning gem is something that can catapult him to the next level the rest of the season (I hope), but his three previous starts were poor.  He seems to fall between Kazmir and Nieman in that he will go out there and throw 5 innings sometimes but will usually give you 7-8 strong innings.  If the Rays are to succeed, we are going to have to see more of the latter and less of the former.

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The Rays are built to be a winner.  They have a great balance of pitching, fielding, bullpen, and offense.  They are the prototypical team, in my opinion.  But when one of those elements get out of wack, the team suffers.

I think the team is suffering now.

The starting pitching must step up over the remainder of the season if they want a chance at October.  As you could see, their numbers over the last month are brutal.  Only Nieman and Garza can be considered as having impressive numbers. 

The other three guys have let the team down.  Sure, the offense has not been there and that might be why the wins are so low. 

However, there is a reason why the Rays have had to come from behind so manytimes in the last few weeks.  Their pitchers are letting them fall behind.

The Rays sit at 5 1/2 out.  That’s not bad.  But they will enter a crucial series with the Yankees tomorrow and a big series with the Red Sox next week.  They cannot allow these powerhouse teams to get out in front early.

They are not the types of teams that yield 8 run comeback wins. 

They are the types of teams that kick you when you’re down and keep you on the ground.

I’d like to see us get in the first kick over these next couple of games.

Our starters have to be the ones to do it.

Remember how good October felt?

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Another Rays Snub By ESPN

(Not an actual portrait)

I was laying around watching Sportscenter this morning, as I can often be found doing most mornings, and found myself feeling nauseous.

No, it wasn’t because of the ubiquitous coverage of White Sox Mark Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday that happened to occur against my beloved Rays. (The coverage was, of course, warranted, by the way…I just am sick of seeing my guys as the team that was no-hit)

No, it wasn’t because of Brett Favre’s constant whining about whether he should come back to play for the Vikings or not (Who isn’t getting sick of that?  Geez!  I used to like the guy!  Now I just want him to go away!)

It was because of a simple poll question the geniuses at the sports network formulated for the fans to vote upon.

In light of the amazing catch that Dewayne Wise made in the top of the 9th inning of Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday (it was quite a catch–dammit!) ESPN decided to give a list of the greatest catches in major league history and ask, “Which of these catches was the best catch?”

Of course I was giddy because I was going to see my guy Carl Crawford honored with a spot on the list because of his exceptional catch in this year’s All-Star Game that helped to preserve the AL’s victory and secure home field advantage of the American League team in the World Series.

It was going to be there and I was going to hear the ESPN (I’m pronouncing it “ess-pin”) anchors gush about how amazing it was.

Catch #1 was Dewayne Wise’s amazing catch.

I threw up a little in my mouth, but was otherwise ok.

Catch #2 was Kirby Puckett’s catch against the wall in the 1991 World Series that they say helped the Twins to win it all that year.

Yawn.

Catch #3 was the black and white filmed Willie Mays World Series catch that we all know and love (and have imitated) way back before anybody can remember.

File:The Catch.png

That’s a good one.  I think that is THE best catch ever.  I’m ok.

Catch #4 was Torii Hunter’s catch to rob Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game.

The game was an exhibition back then, so who cares, but whatever.  It was good, I guess.

Catch #5 was Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals to rob a home run. 

A catch that did not save the game because the Mets still lost.  So who gives a crap?

And that was it.

I was waiting for Catch #6, Carl Crawford’s game-preserving catch against the NL in the 2009 All-Star game that allowed the AL to clinch home field advantage in the World Series.

Where was Catch #6!?  Where was it!?

Not there.

Apparently, the masterminds who create the extremely varied and always fresh shows such as blabfest “First Take,” blabfest “Around the Horn,” blabfest “Pardon the Interruption,” and the blabfest “SportsNation” (what other blabfests have I left out?) forgot that one of the best catches just occurred a few weeks ago!

I was livid! 

As a Rays fan you have had to accept certain things over the years.

#1–Your team will be ridiculed as being one of the worst ever.

#2–Your dad will call your team the best AAA team in the majors.

#3–People will not go to the games during the week.

#4–Fans of the opposing team will make up more of the audience at a game than your own team’s fans.

#5–The media will ignore you, except to mention thing #1.

But all that changed with last year’s Rays team.  The World Series Rays team.  The AL Champion Rays team.

All that changed, right?

Well, all but thing #5.

ESPN has been notorious for allowing the baseball team in Tampa Bay to go without notice.  If they play a team in Los Angeles (Dodgers only), New York, Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia, then they will get plenty of press, but only because of their association with aforementioned team.

But on their own, the Rays are typically pushed to the end of the Sportscenter program.  I can remember many a time where the Rays were actually not even mentioned in the show because they ran out of time.  I can remember many a time on “Baseball Tonight” the Rays receiving barely a sentence of acknowledgement from the mouth of Karl Ravich before moving on to the more marketable teams.

I was able to overlook much of this over the years because I guess I figured the Rays deserved it a little bit.  They were bad for a long time.  That’s hard to forget right away.

But boy oh boy ESPN doesn’t care about the success in Tampa Bay, they care about making sure they pander to the fans of the “big five” baseball markets mentioned above.  Because God forbid they don’t smooch the backsides of those teams. 

So I walked away from the tv.  Angry and incredulous, I made a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.  The Cap’n makes all the world’s ills disappear.

 

Then I accidentally turned on Sportscenter exactly 1 hour later than when I saw it the first time and SAW THE SAME STORY AGAIN!!!

So I stormed like a pouting child to my keyboard and punished it by pounding out my feelings into “words.” 

The nausea returned and the frustration boiled over.  Almost lost the Cap’n! 

Carl, I think that many fans in the country know that your catch belonged on a list of best catches well ahead of a catch a guy made in an All-Star Game when nothing counted and a catch a guy made in a playoff game his team lost and nobody remembers.

Who cares that it wasn’t against the biggest steroid user or for the second team in New York?

We in the oft forgotten Tampa Bay area know your catch garnered you the All-Star Game MVP this year and will help the AL team (the Rays) beat the NL team in the World Series.

We remember.

Too bad we aren’t one of the “big 5” markets ESPN loves so much.

They probably would have pushed Willie off the list if we were–who cares about catches that really matter, right?

Da-da-duh, da-da-BLECH!

donkey20oatie20image.jpg image by ChelseagirlinDC

All Star Changes: Good or Bad?

As everybody knows by now, the commish has decided to expand both AL and NL rosters by one pitching spot for this year’s installment of the All-Star Game. 

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The only negatives that might come from this are:

    –The rosters seem to be getting ridiculously large as it is, how much bigger could they get?

    –This could create something else for the All-Star Game whiners (of which I am one, occasionally) to latch on to, specifically as to whom gets to be put into that spot.

However, positives could include:

    –We will never have to worry about a tied All-Star Game again.

    –The threat of injury will be reduced for the pitchers on both rosters.

    –One more deserving player will get a chance to put “All Star” on his resume.

The best positive I heard about this idea came from ESPN’s Buster Olney this morning.  He said this added spot might be a nice opportunity for baseball to pay respect to an aging pitcher who has put together an impressive career, if not an impressive season. 

The pitcher he mentioned was Jamie Moyer.

I agree with Olney.  Moyer is the type of guy who has put together a wonderful career, but has not had many All-Star level seasons.  Hard to believe, he has made the All-Star game exactly once (2003).

There aren’t many better candidates out there.

So if baseball handles this extra spot with reverence, I can see it being a welcome change to the Mid-Season Classic.  It would be neat to see that aging pitcher get one more chance to be introduced before an All-Star game.  He wouldn’t even have to play.  Simply being there as an insurance policy and, even moreso, a symbol of what is good about the game would be enough for me.

However, if this extra roster spot simply turns into another source of controversy, then it would be better off if we did not implement it in the first place.