How’s about you make this acquisition happen?!
It hasn’t even been a whole week since game 162, and the Hot-Stove rumor mill is already cranking. Yesterday we heard tell of the possibility a deal for 13-year veteran, Alfonso Soriano, of the Cubs. Could Soriano, a utility middle infielder and outfielder, solve the DH problem that has plagued the Rays for some time now? If anything, the idea is intriguing.
Soriano is a career .273 BA/.323 OBP/.505 SLG/.354 OBP hitter that has also spent time with the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals. In his 13 year career, Soriano has collected 372 home runs, 1046 RBI, and 1035 runs, including 11 consecutive seasons where he’s gone yard twenty times or more. He’s also driven in 70 or more RBI in 11 of those 13 seasons. (note: Soriano had a limited number of plate appearances in 1999 and 2000) I’d reckon that those production numbers would fit very nicely in the Rays lineup.
Soriano has good splits against righties and lefties over his career, posting a .281 BA/.351 OBP/.527 SLG/.848 OPS/.310 line against LHP, and a .273 BA/.318 OBP/.509 SLG/.826 OPS/.300 BABIP line against RHP. More importantly, though his batting average has fallen off against lefties over the last few years, his power numbers have stayed relatively stable. Though I doubt anyone would argue with his 2012 numbers; 32 homers and 109 RBI.
His walk and strikeout percentages are a bit worrisome, as are the increasing number of double plays that he’s ground into over the last couple of years (15 in 2011, and 18 in 2012). Then again Soriano hits for average, strikes out less than Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, and he’s got some pop in his bat. And considering that he has a career .323 OBP, he’d make contact and get on base.
Consider too, that the Rays could potentially get Soriano on the cheap. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe,
After finishing with 32 homers and 108 RBI, it appears the Cubs should have suitors for him this offseason. Soriano makes so much sense for a team like the Rays as their DH, especially since Theo Epstein would pick up most of the final two years of Soriano’s deal. Soriano could also help the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Indians.
The Rays could use a big bat in the lineup, and Soriano wields a decent glove (11.8 UZR, .996 FP in 2012) that could be used in times when there’s a left-handed pitcher on the mound, and Matt Joyce is absent from the lineup. I don’t see a downside to the acquisition of Alfonso Soriano if the terms are right. So, what do you all think?
Now that we’ve had some time to reflect on the 2012 season, it’s time to look back at some highlights and low-lights for the Rays. I’m going to break things down into the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. Note: I’m not planning on spending too much time on what to expect next season. A separate piece on 2013 is in the making; you can expect that shortly. Also, feel free to add to this in the comments section. (below) After all, I’m sure I’m going to leave something out.
- Pitching, pitching, and more pitching! Led by Cy Young Award candidate David Price (20-5, 2.56) the Rays were number one across the board in team ERA (3.19), WHIP (1.17), and BAA (.228). The Rays also led the AL in strikeouts, with 1383. Ahem, I should mention that Tampa Bay set the all-time AL team strikeout record.
- James Shields, a tale of two pitchers. Based on his first half numbers, one would have assumed that Juego G may have been better suited for the bad portion of this piece. But something happened when the stress of the trade deadline came to pass, Big Game James made a triumphant return. Shields posted a 4.17 ERA prior to the All-Star break, relenting 68 runs (55 earned) on 135 hits, including 14 home runs. Shields had more in common with All Field Shields through July, but things changed dramatically following the break. Posting a 2.81 ERA in his last 15 starts, Shields gave up fewer hits (73), runs (35, 34 earned), homers (11), and walks (24) than he relented in the first half. He also posted a .188 BAA, while striking out 114. Shields ended the season 223 strikeouts, joining David Price in the 200+ strikeouts and innings pitched columns. If that’s not a good enough case for the Rays to pick up his option, then I don’t know what is.
- David Price, I cannot do the man justice. Seeing is believing. He was incredible this season, and it’s scary (for the opposition, that is) that he hasn’t fully evolved as a pitcher yet.
- Fernando Rodney is the team MVP, and deservedly so. Rodney ended the season with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio, a 0.60 ERA, and 48 saves. Lids to the left!
- Mr. dependable, Ben Zobrist. Zobrist started the season by splitting time at second base and in right field, while ultimately settling at short to finish things off. Regardless of where he was positioned on any given day, Zo was easily the most dependable bat in the Rays lineup, posting a .270 BA/.377 OBP/.471 SLG/.848 OPS line with 20 homers. What’s more, Zobrist killed it following the All-Star break, posting a .292 BA/.383 OBP/.491 SLG/.874 OPS line, with 37 RBI.
- Jeff Keppinger. Forget the fact that Kepp hit .190 in the last seven days of the season, going 4-21 with a homer, two RBI, and a run, Keppinger was a huge asset to the Rays in 2012. Initially picked up because he hits LHP particularly well, Keppinger became an everyday player when the Rays dropped like flies due to the injury bug. He became that much more valuable, when the enormous belly-flopped acquisitions of Carlos Pena and Luke Scott nullified themselves at the plate and on the field. Kepp finished the season by posting a .325 BA/.367 OBP/.439 SLG/.806 OPS line. It fails to be seen just yet whether he’ll return next season, though I’d imagine that he will be seeking more money. No word has been released on what the Rays payroll will look like in 2013.
- Based on the Pythagorean winning percentage formula, the Rays should have ended the season with a 95-67 record. According to Baseball Reference, the “Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored (697) and runs allowed (577). Developed by Bill James, it can tell you when teams were a bit lucky or unlucky.” I would say that the Rays were a bit unlucky. It is nice to look at what could have been.
- Jose Molina? Yes, Jose Molina. Tampa Bay SB Nation said it best, “And Jose Molina may not be an elite hitter, or even a good one, but Max Marchi’s pitch-framing catcher defense metrics have an initial report that Molina was worth 50 runs saved as a pitch framer! That’s five full wins! If that data is accurate, his benefit to the Rays pitching staff was well worth the minimal investment.”
The Bad and the Ugly
- Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, and Elliot Johnson at short? Ouch! The trifecta of tERROR were responsible for 19 of the 23 errors at short, with Elliot “I can’t seem to throw the ball in-line to first“ Johnson taking the crown at 11. Sure, Ben Zobrist is an average shortstop at best, but he was by in large much better on the left side than Brignac, Rodriguez, and Johnson combined.
- Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, the $12 MM mistake. They both under performed their career numbers by a large margin, and Luke Scott had more back injuries than a 65 year-old with arthritis. Maybe if you could combine them together into one annoying strikeout machine, their .210 batting average, 33 homers, and 116 RBI might seem worthy of a new contract. But you can’t, and the Rays shouldn’t re-sign Pena, or pick up Scott’s option.
- 1323 strikeouts, and an almost 3-to-1 team strikeout to walk ratio. Yeesh.
- The injury bug struck the Rays hard. As Yossif put it, “Everybody in the starting lineup besides Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina has spent time on the DL this season, and 15 players from the 40-man roster have been placed on the DL at some point this season.”
- And while we’re at it, I also agree with Yossif’s implication of passivity at the trade deadline, “The Rays are usually one of the more quiet teams during the trade deadline frenzy, but Andrew Friedman & Co. were extra passive this past July. Some big names—such as B.J. Upton and James Shields—were rumored to be on the market for the Rays. The Rays also turned many heads when they said they’d be open to trading any of their starters except Matt Moore. In the end they decided not to trade anyone [on the 40-man roster], and ended up making only one move: acquiring Ryan Roberts.”
- Brooks Conrad and Hideki Matsui were ridiculously bad acquisitions. Duh.
- Attendance. That alone needs no explanation, however I’m going there. The Rays averaged 19,255 paid attendees per game, some 349 more people per game than in 2011. But that number is still down from 23,025 in 2010, which wasn’t mind-blowing either. Hell, even with a higher unemployment rate than in Tampa Bay, (10.7% vs 9.4%) Detroit was able to get three-million fans through the turnstiles in 2012. Tampa Bay ended the season with 1,559,681 total attendees, when the goal was two-million. Was the attendance shotty because of inconsistent play on the field? Were people still standing by their whiny, “The Trop is too far away” excuse? Is there an overall lack of interest in baseball in the bay area? Whatever the case, a stadium that is just over half full is pathetic. Enough with excuses folks, get out to the Trop before it’s too late! Going out to one or two more games per season won’t kill you.
So there it is friends. Next up: what to expect in 2013. By all means, leave your comments below!
I certainly wasn’t planning on feeling the way I did when BJ Upton came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth, in last night’s season finale. That’s the funny thing about emotions; you’re at the will of them unless you’re trained to suppress them. It would be reasonable to assume that this particular at-bat would be the last for Melvin Emmanuel in a Rays uniform. Upton blooped a single to left and was promptly pulled from the game for Rich Thompson, presumably ending his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays; his swan song.
After doffing his cap to the throngs of fans chanting his name, Upton returned to a dugout of visibly choked up teammates who would go on to hug him while holding back the tears, or trying to at least. It’s easy to imagine that many of us in the Trop felt the pangs of sadness knowing that we’d probably never see Upton effortlessly glide toward a well struck baseball and make an outstanding play, or swipe a bag in a high leverage situation. For all of Upton’s warts one thing is obvious, Upton will be missed.
But something happened in the dugout that we, at the game, weren’t privy to. It was something that most of us wouldn’t even hear about until well after the game. Left to his own devices on the bench, BJ Upton, the kid that’s been in the Rays organization since he was 19…the kid that’s been a lightning rod for many a fans ire, and a source of many fans adulation, broke down. Unable to hold back his tears, Sun Sports focused on Upton for a good fifteen seconds. And in that time, a question of by of Upton’s had been answered; yes, Upton really did care about this organization.
Like I said before, I wasn’t expecting to feel this way. Like many of us, I’d long been on the fence with BJ Upton. Joe Maddon summed things up well when he mentioned that BJ had really matured this season, both in the game and in life. And to be fair, the difference was noticeable. The negative attitude at the plate was absent. Long gone were the moments where he was caught mouthing off to the ump when he struck out looking. Sure he had his struggles prior to the All-Star Break, but which Ray didn’t? He really turned it on following the All-Star Break, especially in August and September, and he can be counted as one of the reasons that Tampa Bay went on a tear to end the season. Dare I say that my feelings today are similar to those I felt in 2010 when Carl Crawford ended his tenure with the Rays, in their final game of the ALDS against Texas? He finishes his Rays career hitting .255/.336/.422 with 118 home runs and 232 steals in 956 games over parts of eight seasons.
Upton went out on an emotional high-note, whereas the “Carlos Pena and Luke Scott” eras fizzled out quietly. Scott didn’t come off the bench at any point in the game, and Pena was Pena, going 0-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Both ‘Los and LUKE started the year strongly, but ultimately ended the season being a combined $12 MM mistake.
Last night’s game wasn’t all doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination. Besides the fact that the Rays are currently cleaning out their lockers instead of prepping for postseason play, this year’s finale had all of the drama as Game 162. Evan Longoria went 3-4, going yard three times with each blast going further than the one previous. Ryan Roberts attempted to make his stake his claim on next season’s roster by sending one out as well.
And just when we thought that Rodney wouldn’t get to close things out, Maddon made the call to the pen following three Orioles hits and an RBI off of Joel Peralta. Fernando came in to face Jim Thome with two outs and a runner (Matt Wieters) on first. Rodney did as he had done 47 times prior; he saved the game and shot an imaginary arrow to the moon. This time though, his save was more meaningful and historically significant. Rodney broke Dennis Eckersley’s 48 save/0.61 ERA, finishing the season 48 saves and a 0.60 ERA. He, too, was on the verge of tears as the dugout emptied and the crowd chanted his name. Fernando represented everything that is right about the game; player that’s down on his luck gets an opportunity to do what he loves, for a team that truly believes in what he’s got. That belief obviously had an enormous effect on Rodney, who by and far exceeded any of the expectations that any one had in him.
Our little team from a small market ended the season with a 90-72 record. The Rays could have made it to the postseason if it weren’t for the x or y factor’s that made them fall just shy. Had they won the five out-of-the last 53 games that they lost by a score of 1-0, we could be talking about a different set of outcomes. But that’s neither here nor now. We cheered our boys on in the good times, and stuck by their side in the bad. This outcome is far from ideal, yet it is the hand that was dealt.
Spring Training is just around the corner. And before you know it, 179-days will pass and we’ll once again find ourselves under the big-top for what promises to be another heated series against the Baltimore Orioles, our new foe. (Albeit a friendly foe) Until then, let’s root the O’s and A’s on, in the postseason. I truly hope that they’ll be able to incur some damage on the old guard.
Oh, there’s this. These folks made a three minute long collection of some of Fernando Rodney’s greatest hits…urm, saves. Check it out here.
Darn, I can’t believe that this is the last one of these that I’m putting together this year. What a bummer! Anyway, thanks for reading my childish gibberish over the last 161 games.
Rays October 3, 2012 Starting Lineup
Noteworthiness: Joe Maddon has finally released his last starting lineup of the 2012 season, following a bit of a kerfuffle on the part of Buck Showalter. Maddon initially put two starting lineups together; one if Britton was on the mound, and another if Tillman was going to get the start instead. After a bit of wavering, Showalter finally decided to give Tillman the start, and Maddon reciprocated by putting an “A” lineup together, complete with Vogt at DH…you know Vogt who’s 0-22. Ouch.
Rays beat writer, Marc Topkin, noted a couple of interesting pieces of ephemera. Of interest, first Upton admitted to feeling a little different today thinking about potential last day with the Rays. Also of interest, Maddon hasn’t decided whether he’d use closer Fernando Rodney at some point tonight. As you may be aware, Rodney is sitting on the MLB reliever ERA record.