Devil Rays (66-96)
Recondite Baseball recently did a little research on a simple pitching statistic and unwittingly may have stumbled upon one of the main reasons that the Rays pitching has been so awful and in turn, why the Devil Rays have been so bad.

Since the year 2000 (encompassing all but two of the seasons in which the Devil Rays have been in existence), there have been 347 pitchers that are still active and have thrown 200+ innings. Of these pitchers, 39 have thrown less than 60.0% strikes for their career.

The amazing part? Six (6!) of these pitchers (15.4%) currently pitch, or have pitched*, for the Devil Rays.

2. Victor Zambrano – 57.4%
7. Seth McClung – 58.6%
26. Jesus Colome – 59.6%
27. Dewon Brazelton – 59.6%
36. Jay Witasick – 59.8%
37. Edwin Jackson – 59.9%

If Penn State is “Linebacker U.”, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are “Pitchers that can’t throw strikes U.” Just remember…It is not the home run that kills the ball club. It is the walk given up to the batter before the home run. Or in the case of most of these pitchers, the walksss.

Seeing these numbers, it is easy to understand why so many Rays fans have taken to Andy Sonnanstine so strongly. The Duke is not going to blow any batters away, but at least he is going to make the hitter beat him. At the other end of the spectrum for the Rays is Edwin Jackson. Nobody denies that Nuke has a major league fastball, but questions still remain if he can develop a second (and third) pitch and if he will ever be able to consistently pound the strike zone. When a pitcher throws 97-98, he does not need to have the ball on the black with every pitch, but he does need to be close. If not, enough batters will wait him out and take the walk, and more often than not, when Jackson does throw a strike, it will be of the 400-foot variety.

Pitchers and quarterbacks have many things in common, but the most important thing is that the most difficult thing to teach them is accuracy. It is easier to tweak a pitchers mechanics and add a few inches to their fastball than it is to help them find the strike zone. This is why it was so perplexing when the Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson said he could fix Victor Zambrano in “10 minutes”.

The Rays and their fans already have too much experience with pitchers that cannot throw strikes. If Edwin Jackson can’t be “fixed” his career as a major league starting pitcher may be short-lived.

*In several of these cases we use the term “pitched” very loosely…cough, cough, Dewon, cough, Brazelbum, cough, cough

Strike Percentage, Active Players with 200+ Innings Pitched [Recondite Baseball]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Andrew Friedman emphasized that the Rays do have some flexibility when it comes to the 2008 payroll. In our 2008 40-man roster projection, we see the opening day payroll at approximately $36 million, which would be about a 25% increase over 2007. It is difficult to tell exactly how much “flexibility” is dependent on the 2008 salaries of Scott Kazmir and Carlos Pena, both of whom are arbitration eligible. [TBO]

“If the right player comes along, whether it be in a trade or as a free agent, that puts us over by a million dollars or two million dollars what our upper limit is, we’ll view that kind of independent of anything else,” said Friedman. “But you also have to factor in that as you do that, you’re just depleting what you can do the next year and the next year. All this money is fungible and it all will go into keeping our own players. It just gets to roster flexibility and how important it is for a lower-revenue team.”

  • MILB is counting down the top 50 prospects. Reid Brignac is the first Rays’ farmhand on the list at #32. [MILB]

He spent all of 2007 in the Southern League and while the overall numbers weren’t as good as in the previous year, there’s still a lot to like about the young shortstop. Though his batting average suffered — largely because of a two-month slump — he still had 52 extra-base hits and stole 15 bases. Perhaps more impressively, his defense improved greatly, and questions about his ability to remain a shortstop have subsided. Winning two titles in as many years with Montgomery certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

  • The Rays will officially unveil their plans for a new stadium today at Al Lang Field. Governor Charlie Crist will be on hand for the ceremony. [Bradenton Herald]
  • The Rays re-signed outfielders Chris Richard and Jon Weber to minor league contracts. Both players were with Durham in 2007. The Rays also confirmed the signing of catcher Hector Gimenez, also to a minor league deal. [tampabay.com]
  • Beyond the Boxscore compares Akinori Iwamura’s first season with the Devil Rays with his career averages from Japan. Surprisingly, the numbers are very consistent, except of course for the home run totals. [Beyond the Boxscore]
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