The Tampa Bay
Devil Rays come to town tonight to kick a four-game series. This is the first time we’ve seen the Rays this year, so I talked to Bradley Woodrum, one of the several fantastic writers (including our own Steve Kinsella) on the great DRaysBay blog, about what to expect from Tampa Bay. In addition to his work there, Bradley is the creative genius behind the “Luck Dragon” sabermetric tutorial videos and the inventor of Fielding Independent Offense, the basis of our Simple WAR Calculator v. 1.1.
- The Rays enter Wednesday a half-game away from a wild card spot. What are their chances of making the playoffs?
Had you asked me before the Yankees lost 40% of their starting rotation, I might have answered differently. I’m still confident this Rays team has playoff talent levels, and the Yankees have some tough times ahead. Injuries have really made the Rays’ first half into a bummer, but when Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, and Jeff Niemann all get back; and Luke Scott, B.J. Upton, and Sean Rodriguez start playing like themselves, there might not be a hotter team in baseball.
Desmond Jennings seems to have regressed significantly after his impressive rookie campaign last year. To what do you attribute his sophomore slump?
Jennings actually finished the 2011 season about as cold as anyone could be. This year, his power numbers are down, and his walk rate is less than desired, but it’s hard to identify one element that’s out of place. I think — and it appears the Rays think this too — that he will make the small adjustments necessary to get back on track.
- When do you expect Evan Longoria to return? Is there a concern that this hamstring issue could continue to hamper him down the road?
My bigger concern is the growing pattern of injuries. Evan has yet to put together a healthy season. I think the Rays, given that they’ve almost rushed him once this year, will not call him back from the DL until he’s swinging like Evan of old. I think they’d be okay if his fielding range isn’t optimal — his replacements have been nowhere near as sharp defensively at third — but they will still want his bat in full order.
- Who’s pitching for the exorcised Rays this week, and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
The Young Gunz (not their actual nickname) — Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Matt Moore. Don’t let their FIPs fool you (well, Cobb has a good FIP, but nevermind that). These are three good, young pitchers who — when they are on — will limit walks, miss bats, and frustrate lineups. When they are off, which they are occasionally, they can look like a mess.
The Indians will also have the pleasure of facing James Shields. He is tied with the 5th highest BABIP in the league (.333) and has been singled and doubled to death lately. The Rays defense being on injury damage control, part of that is expected. But at the same time, I think those numbers will come down. He also has the 16th best xFIP in the league despite a low LOB%. Long story short: His changeup is filthy, his pickoff move is unfair, and he gives the Rays a great chance to win every time he pitches.
- What’s your prediction for the series?
We’ve been cold long enough, what with the second-lowest BABIP in the MLB (and the lowest BABIP in the AL), so I’m thinking we’re going to have a hot stretch. We lead the league in walk rate, but keep hitting solo homers. Eventually, those are going to be multi-run homers and teams are going to hate us. Rays sweep.