The game last was hard to watch. It was another one of those games, where you were nervous when the opposing team had men on first and third, because you had that gut feeling that a run was going to cross the plate. That same nervous feeling was felt when Rays had men on first and third, because you had the sickening feeling that they’d do nothing with the opportunity. Those fears are well placed.
Coming off of the Royals series where the Rays went 4-28 with men in scoring position, Tampa Bay again couldn’t get men across the plate when given the opportunity. The Rays went 1-6 wRISP on Thursday, stranding seven on base. I’d argue that Carlos Pena was responsible for some of the most frustrating doing nothing wRISP situations, by striking out twice with men in scoring position and two outs. Let’s speak hypothetically a bit, shall we? Had ‘Los gotten a base hit in the fifth, Elliot Johnson would have easily scored from second, and the difference is cut by one. Then had ‘Los gotten an extra base hit, or even a single, in the seventh, both Conrad and Jennings score, inevitably tying things. Now, I’m hesitant to put all of the blame on Pena. After all, Jose Lobaton went 0-2 with men in scoring position as well. However, let’s be honest; who really expects Lobaton do be productive? I mean, the sheer fact that Lobaton is producing more than he was projected to, is a miracle in and of itself. The Rays passed on Kotchman, and re-signed Pena, for production purposes. And in the last month and a half, ‘Los hasn’t been so hot. Then again, Desmond Jennings and BJ Upton haven’t been too hot in their own rite, especially lately.
The numbers speak for themselves, so let’s take a peak at those for a moment. For this, we’ll take a look at who could, or should, be considered the most the most productive players on the active roster: Brooks Conrad, Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, BJ Upton, Desmond Jennings, and Luke Scott. We’ll look at their production over the last seven days, and in high leverage situations.
In short, with the exception of Ben Zobrist, the players that have kept the Rays afloat over the last seven games, by driving in, and scoring runs, are the ones that more typically get on base to set things up for Pena, Upton, Jennings, and Scott. Yet, with the exception of Luke Scott who just returned from the DL, the trio above have been fairly quiet over the last seven games, if not longer. I say fairly, because Pena hit homers in the Philly and Washington series. He was also more productive, reaching base safely and scoring runs up until last week.
Brooks Conrad, Jeff Keppinger, and Ben Zobrist should be given gold medals for stepping up and putting the ball in play. Without them, and Elliot Johnson who has consistently put the ball in play over the long run, I fear that we’d see more shutouts or less competitive games. Please, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Carlos Pena. But, when you look at the May and June drop off compounded with how non-clutch he has been, you have to wonder how or if things might be different had the Rays made an off-season trade for Mark “19 HR/36 R/53 RBI” Trumbo.
It goes without saying that with the imminent return of both DH Luke Scott, and reliever Kyle Farnsworth in the very near future, some folks have got to go in order to make room for them on the roster. The question begs: who will be optioned or designated for assignment? What’s more, are there any players that might just be released all together? This may just be the best problem that the Rays front office has been faced with this season.
I’d think that it’s pretty much a given that Brandon Gomes will be sent back down to Triple-A when Matt Joyce is reactivated. True, Gomes has put up decent numbers with the Rays, but he is here to “fill in” for Joel Peralta while he serves out the rest of his eight game suspension. Besides, he’s filling Joyce’s spot on the roster. In the end, Gomes has performed exceedingly well in Triple-A this year, and his numbers have, undoubtedly, improved between this year and last. However, he certainly isn’t an essential cog in the pen…at least at the moment. I’d assume that he’s aware of why he’s on the roster, and I doubt that he’s sweating a move back to Durham.
With the recent acquisition, and success, of Brooks Conrad, the Rays have been put in a precarious position. The Rays have seven or eight (counting Ben Zobrist) infielders on the roster at the moment. With the exceptions of Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, the remaining six infielders are multifaceted, in that they (obviously in an ideal world) can play anywhere on the diamond. With more infield depth, something tells me that one of those players will be sent back down when either Scott or Farnsworth are reactivated. We can assume with 99.99% certainty that Zobrist, Pena, and Longoria aren’t going anywhere. I also don’t see Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, or Jeff Keppinger going anywhere, especially with the offensive output that Johnson and Keppinger have offered the Rays. That leaves Conrad and Will Rhymes.
Prior to the acquisition of Conrad, it was assumed that Rhymes would be sent back down to Triple-A at some point. Recall that Rhymes was called up from Durham when Longoria was sent to the DL. In his time with the Rays, Rhymes has posted a .221 BA/.286 OBP/.242 SLG/.528 OPS with seven RBI and runs in 95 at-bats. Yet, Rhymes has committed seven errors split between his time spent at second and third. I would add however, that Rhymes has a .970 fielding percentage, which is 11 percentage points higher than Brooks Conrad. The beauty of Rhymes lies within his ability to hit right-handed pitching, posting a .284 BA/.333 OBP/.245 SLG/.533 OPS line. It also bears mentioning that the lot share of Rhymes production has come against righties, including all of his hits, runs, and RBI.
Conrad, on the other hand, has received a fair amount of fanfare in the few games that he’s played with the Rays, and for good reason. Conrad has driven in six runs on five hits, including two doubles and a home run. Yet the question begs, is his success fleeting? Over his career, Conrad has posted a .218 BA/.292 OBP/.418 SLG/.710 OPS line. Those numbers aren’t very good.
When comparing Rhymes and Conrad over their career, we see that they have played an equitable number of games in the bigs; Rhymes with 110 and Conrad 102. Rhymes has put up better numbers in that time, both offensively and defensively. But Conrad is a switch hitter who does better from the right side, and he has a bit more pop in his bat. Rhymes hits more grounders and line drives. Conrad has a significantly higher strikeout percentage (29.7% vs 10.3%) than Rhymes. But, he also has a higher walk percentage (8.8% vs 7.5%) and a higher extra base hit percentage (9.2% vs 5.1%) than Rhymes.
With all of that said, I think Rhymes will be sent back to Triple-A, but could be a Ray over the long-term. Conrad seems like he’ll be here until he’s no longer needed. With Joyce’s reactivation looming, I’d think that Zobrist would be spending more time at second with Keppinger at third. In the meantime, it would be assumed that Maddon is going to squeeze as much production out of Conrad as he can while he’s hot.
Then there’s Hideki Matsui. I respect Matsui for what he’s done in the past, but I’m not certain if there’s much left in the well. To put it bluntly, he’s hit like crap in his 80 at-bats with the Rays. Matsui has posted a .162 BA/.225 OBP/.257 SLG/.522 OPS line with 12 hits, six runs and RBI, one double, and two home runs. He’s also striking out almost three times more than he’s walking. Those, uh…aren’t very good numbers for a DH. Hideki has seen much more playing time since Scott was placed on the DL, yet his production hasn’t increased. Plus, who knows how long his knees can stay healthy. With Brandon Allen doing exceedingly well in Durham, there really isn’t a place for Matsui when Scott returns. I’d imagine that Matsui would be, in the least, sent back to Triple-A. There are those that think he should be released from his contract. And to be honest, I totally see the validity in giving Matsui the old heave-ho.
In the end, this is just speculation by someone with access to Baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs.com. We won’t know what’s going to happen until, well, it happens. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear what you all have to say on the subject. Comment away.
Ugh. Two more errors, 0-5 wRISP, four left on base…SSDD. I’m not quite sure what to say. The Rays really need to win today, limp back to the Trop, and try to put something together in their upcoming seven game home stand against the Tigers and the Yankees. The errors, again, bit the Rays in the ass last night. They have now committed more errors than any other team in the AL with 64. However, the lack of offense inevitably took the wind out of their sails.
But that’s nothing new.
Tampa Bay started June on a positive note. But, it’s become obvious that the peak in production at the beginning of the month has leveled out. That the Rays have a higher OBP than their opponents, in June, seems to be the only real positive production stat. All that really tells me is that the Rays are reaching base more often. They’ve out walked their opponents by 19. However, they’ve been outscored, out hit, out slugged, and generally bested across the line.
June has given us flashes of what the Rays are capable of. However they have cooled down considerably. And the addition of Luke Scott and Matt Joyce to the DL has only exacerbated the lack of production conundrum. It would be easy to point the finger of blame on the big boppers on the roster. Consider though that Jennings, Pena, Upton, Johnson, and Zobrist have accounted for over 48% of the RBI and over 60% of the runs scored in the month of June. It’s more of a problem that the team, as a whole, cannot consistently produce…especially in those pivotal situations with men in scoring position.
Note: You may want to press play on the Soundcloud player (below) prior to reading the next paragraph.
The errors have again hampered the Rays. Consider that the starters have given up 17 unearned runs while the defense has committed 15 errors. See the chart for the breakdown. Four of those errors alone have counted for Archer’s three unearned runs. Imagine if half of those errors were never committed, and half of those unearned runs were never given up. We could be talking about a different story.
The outcome of last night’s tough 8-0 loss at the hands of Luke Hochevar, a career 5.33 ERA pitcher, who was also 1-2 with a 7.25 ERA against the Rays prior to last night, was heartbreaking. However a few people quelled my worried mind by reminding me of a few things.
First, the offense went 0-7 wRISP while leaving six on base. That being said, would it really have mattered whether the Royals scored one or one hundred runs? Not really. Also, with the exception of his five run, seven hit third inning, Cobb did a good job holding things down. And you’ve really got to give it to Cobb for taking one for the team. Cobb gave a tired Rays bullpen some well needed rest by going the distance…even when getting hammered for eight earned runs. The Rays ultimately played like a team that was very tired, and can you blame them? They played 27 innings of baseball in the span of 30 hours, then arrived in KC early yesterday morning.
Yesterday brought at least some good news for the Rays. In his Rehab stint in Durham, Luke Scott drove in four runs and scored three times in a 14-10 victory against the Buffalo Bison. Scott hit two homers and a sacrifice fly on the day. Scott could be back as early as tomorrow. I wonder where that would find Hideki Matsui upon Scott’s return? Onward to tonight’s game.
Bruce Chen (6-6, 4.81 ERA) will take on Chris Archer (0-1, 1.50 ERA) in what could be the young right-handed pitcher’s last start for the Rays for the foreseeable future. It would be criminal if the Rays could not give Archer any run support tonight. Chen is 4-2 with a 3.75 ERA against the Rays in 11 starts. Beyond that, what is Chen capable of? Well my friends, take a gander at a few charts and graphs below.
In conclusion, with fairly equal splits between righties and lefties, plus his propensity to give up three or more runs per game (Chen’s given up three or more runs in eight of his 15 starts), the Rays have an opportunity to take their frustrations out on a pitcher that tends to leave fastball’s and slider’s up in the zone.