Devil Rays (All-Star Break)
The Devil Rays defense is a lot worse than we originally thought. Yesterday we linked to Vegas Watch which blames a lot of the team’s pitching woes on the team defense. We thought that was a bit of an anomaly and assumed the defense had at least been better in 2007.
Not the case.
From Yesterday’s comments, the Devil Rays rank last in Defensive Efficiency according to Baseball Prospectus. Defensive Efficiency is based on BABIP (DE=1-BABIP) which we have referred to a few times on this site, and is the rate at which a team converts batted balls into outs. The Rays only convert 66.1% of batted balls into outs. The New York Mets lead the majors with 72.7%. In other words, opposing hitters are hitting .339 when they hit the ball fair, while Mets opposing hitters are only hitting .273. The league average is approximately .300. In other words, when teams face the Devil Rays they are transformed from an average offensive team into a lineup full of all-stars.
On the year, 35 batters have gotten on base as a direct result of an error. That number is only tied for 10 highest in baseball. The only reasoning we can think of for the discrepancy in the numbers is that the Devil Rays infield has no range. They are committing errors. In fact the Rays are last in baseball with a .977 fielding percentage and are tied with the Marlins with the most errors in baseball (73). But low number of batters reaching first base as a result of an error and the high BABIP indicates that the defense is just not getting to balls once they are put in play.
What makes this even more perplexing is that we would have expected this on the old Tropicana Field turf, but not on the new FieldTurf II, which is supposed to slow the ball down. As a result we would have expected the infielders to get to more batted balls and make more plays in 2007 compared to 2006. In fact the number has gotten worse this season. In 2006 the Rays had a defensive efficiency of .680. That was still good for 29th in baseball, but about 20 points better than this year. And that number came with the Rays using Aubrey Huff and BJ Upton at third base and a considerable amount of playing time for Jorge Cantu who often played second base like he had his feet in cement.
On paper, the defense is better in 2007, but the numbers suggest otherwise. One possibility is that the pitching has been so bad that when batters make contact they hit the ball really hard more often than against other teams and more often than they did in 2006. Seeing The Axis of Evil make 36 starts this season, it is a concept that is not hard to believe. In fact the rotation has been filled this season with pitchers that will not overpower a hitter. Casey Fossum, Jae Seo, JP Howell and Andy Sonnanstine are all pitchers that are dependent on missing the sweet part of a bat. When they fail to do that, a batter is going to hit the ball real hard and the ball is more likely to find a hole in the defense. Edwin Jackson has a great fastball, but no pitches to compliment it. When a batter faces Jackson, they just sit back and wait for the fastball and a major league hitter can hit a major league fastball when they know it is coming. As for the bullpen…we all know how bad the bullpen is.
And Scott Kazmir? Well, that is just a mystery wrapped up in an enigma.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Carl Crawford went 1-2 for the AL All-Star squad and hit the first All-Star home run in the history of the Devil Rays organization. [TBO.com]