Around this time every year, Daniel and the good folks at the Cards Conclave ask a number of questions of blogs that cover the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball. And for the third consecutive year, X-Rays Spex is fortunate to be one of the blogs included in this ongoing series, called Playing Pepper.
The premise is simple: we, along with a writer from DRaysBay, were asked six questions as a way for others, not familiar with the Tampa Bay Rays, to better acquaint themselves with our small market team. As we’ve done in the past, below are the answers to three of the six questions ― numbers four through six to be exact. It bears mentioning, we published our responses to the first three questions on Saturday.
Daniel just published the piece in its entirety over at the Cards Conclave homepage, and you can check it out here.
4. What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
Out of the handful of players I could have chosen, I settled on Danny Farquhar. Why?
Farquhar became one of the best relievers in baseball back in 2013, but he’s been on a downhill trajectory since. His ability to generate swinging strikes has dropped, while his home run per nine innings (HR/9) percentage has steadily risen, culminating in a gaudy 1.59 HR/9 in 2015.
Then there is Farquhar’s velocity, which dipped from just over 96 mph in 2013, to just under 95 mph last season. He also started to rely more on his off-speed offerings, which aren’t of the same caliber as his cutter. Doom and gloom stuff, right?
Fret not, Jim Hickey has done yeoman’s work in “fixing” pitchers who’ve run astray in some capacity, and there’s the hope he can do the same with Farquhar.
ZiPS gives credence to that idea, projecting Farquhar to collect an improved 9.50 K9/2.97 BB9/0.92 HR9/3.66 ERA/3.45 FIP line in 78.7 innings of work.
Zach Sanders (FanGraphs) said it best,
“The Rays have done good work with relievers, so perhaps they can convince Farquhar to go back to what made him successful in the first place: working his cutter on both sides of the plate and spinning in the occasional offspeed pitch to keep hitters honest.”
5. What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
The PECOTA projection system estimates Tampa Bay to win 91 games, with a plus/minus of six. On the other hand, Tampa Bay was picked to finish 84-78 and in third place by Sports Illustrated. I think the team can, and should, win 91 games, and thus the AL East.
Then again, despite a strong roster, they will need some things to break in their favor to be a serious contender. With that in mind, I’ll also add a pragmatic W/L record of 88-74 — calculated by adding 91 and 84, dividing that sum by two, and rounding up to the nearest whole number…you know, totally scientific.
I listened to the radio broadcast of a Rays vs. Yankees Spring Training game recently, and Dave Wills (Rays Radio) summed my thoughts up well, saying something to the effect that computer projection systems like the team’s chances in 2016, while the humans at ESPN and Sports Illustrated instead favor the AL East stalwarts.
6. Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
I love watching the Rays beat the Yankees and Red Sox, although I hate attending those games because of New York and Boston’s entitled fans. Both truly are as obnoxious as advertised.
The Rays went 7-12 against the Yankees last season, yet 10-9 against the Red Sox. Previous to that, Tampa Bay posted winning records (or broke even) with both in four of the last seven seasons. I cannot foresee any reason that they couldn’t post at least a .500 record against either team in 2016.