THE GOOD: The Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball and Scott Kazmir is just getting warmed up. Last night, the game was over in the first inning. He struck out all three batters in the first inning, with 2 coming on sliders in the dirt. He was also consistently hitting 93-94 on the gun with his fastball. He had 7 Ks in the first 3 innings, and 9 after 5. He would finish with 10 in 7 innings of work, with no walks…The Catwalks. Nobody loves those catwalks more than Carlos Pena who hit another one last night for a double on what would have been a routine flyball…Evan Longoria made yet another diving stop on a ground ball and kept the leadoff hitter off base in a one-run game in the 4th…Dioner Navarro helped kill a rally in the 6th with a perfect throw to third base to gun down a would-be base stealer.
THE BAD: Gary Glover. Can somebody gives us a good reason why a pitcher with 11 walks to only 10 strikeouts and 27 baserunners in 14.1 innings, still has a job? Is there one good reason why Glover is still in the bullpen and Grant Balfour, who is tearing up AAA, is not? Or better yet, is there a good reason Glover is still in the bullpen and Jeff Niemann is not? Nobody can tell us that the Rays’ bullpen, although great so far, wouldn’t be better with Niemann in place of Glover. Clearly, nobody in the rotation is going to pitch themselves out of a job anytime soon and if somebody gets hurt, the Rays then could go with Jason Hammel or JK Ryu or JP Howell or Ben Hendrickson. And if it were to be a long-term injury, they could just re-stretch out Niemann and go that route…Cliff Floyd beat out an infiield single in the 5th inning, and our knees started hurting just watching him run to first base…
THE TELLING: Scott Kazmir is 5-6 mph from possibly becoming the best pitcher in baseball. No. We are not talking about a 99 mph fastball, although that would certainly help. On his good days, Kid K’s fastball sits about 93-94. Ideally, a pitcher’s changeup would be thrown 8-9 mph slower. Kazmir’s change is usually 78-79, for a difference of 14-16 mph. It would be a much more effective pitch if he was throwing it 84-85. Compare to James Shields who throws a 91-92 mph fastball and an 82-83 mph changeup. That is a difference of 8-10 mph. Perfect. And one reason he has one of the most dominating changeups in baseball. Kaz throws a harder fastball, but a slower changup. The problem with throwing a changeup too slow, as Kazmir does, is that it gives the batters a chance to reload even if they are fooled. With a difference of 14-15 mph, it is much easier for the batter to recognize that the pitch is not a fastball and lay off if they are geared for the hard stuff. If Kazmir could find a couple of extra inches on his changeup, he would then have three plus-pitches, and the power of Grayskull would be his…
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Don’t forget to VOTE for Carl Crawford to start the all-star game. If you haven’t voted yet today, go NOW! [MLB All-Star Voting]
- This week’s Rays Index Live Blog-A-Baloo will be held tomorrow afternoon for the final game of the Rangers series. Seeing as how we are in Texas this week, the game will be an AM start for us. That means live blogging and drinking while still in our PJs. Yummy!
- Marc Lancaster suggests that Willy Aybar may be the player that is without a job when he is ready to return from the DL. Ben Zobrist and Shawn Riggans’ jobs are safe. That means the final two bench spots go to Gabe Gross, Eric Hinske and Aybar. With Aybar’s better defense and OPS and the ability to also play second base, we have been speculating that Andrew Friedman would try and trade Hinske. Lancaster suggests that Aybar’s inability to play the outfield gives Hinske the edge. Of course the Rays do have Jonny Gomes and Zobrist, who got work in the OF in spring training, as backup outfielders. We are not sure how many backup OF the Rays need. [Tampa Tribune]
- Joe Maddon wants to start giving his starters regular days off so that the linup is fresh down the stretch. He specifically mentioned BJ Upton, who seemed to tire down the stretch last season and Dioner Navarro who has had a few passed balls recently. [MLB]
“Because I do believe this, I believe you have to rest your guys during the season,” Maddon said. “You have to. It’s a long year and you want to play well in September. If you play well in September you’ll do fine in October. You’ve got to keep them fresh for that good September. … You just have to rest people at the right time and you’ve got to keep an eye on them. And it does matter at the end of the season.”
- Baseball Musings takes a look at the Rays and Red Sox and compares their home/road splits. [Baseball Musings]
- DRays Bay takes a look at BJ Upton’s lack of power and wonders if we should be concerned…The Rays are in first place in the AL East and have the best record in baseball and Upton is only 23. He’ll be fine, and we don’t need to worry. [DRays Bay]