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]
 
 

9 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    Very interesting point about Kazmir’s change-up. I think he has always thrown one but not regularly, and the story is he was consulting with Shields about it, so he may become more effective with it over time.

    I still insist that the best solution to Aybar’s return is to release Glover and use an 11 man staff. In fact, given the desire to rest the regulars more often, that makes even more sense by providing an extra reserve. And given also that Maddon seems to like to stretch his relievers, which I also think is a good idea, I see no reason to worry about a 6 man bullpen.

    The 7 man style is very recent in any case, and I think the extra flexibility of having another player on the bench trumps the need for that extra reliever, especially when you have 2 like Howell and Hammel who can give you 3 innings each time. I could even see it as a way to (re)introduce Niemann to the majors. If Hammel proves ineffective Niemann could fill the role of long reliever/spot starter a la Earl Weaver’s method of bringing up young pitchers.

    The conclusion of the article about Upton that you link is that there is nothing to worry about.

  2. The Professor says:

    Kazmir threw his changeup about 14% of the time in 07. Compare that to his slider which he threw 16% of the time. Both of those numbers are bout 10% so far in ’08, mainly due to trying to fine-tune his mechanics. Still, he uses his change almost as often as his slider.

    i def see the point of an 11-man ‘pen, but not sure Maddon would ever go that route. In fact, a slight tangent, but in today’s age of specialization, i am a proponent that teams need 26-man rosters, at least in the AL with the DH.

    Considering the backup catcher can’t be used at any point in case the starter gets hurt during a game, an AL squad really only has 3 bench players. It is not an easy thing to try and “backup” 7 positions with 3 guys.

  3. DirtbagFan says:

    I agree with the notion to ditch Glover. He is the only pitcher left on the staff that really makes me nervous when i see him enter the game, but i say we should still maintain a 12 man staff.

    I still hold true to the fact that Gomes should be the odd man out, but unfortunately Hinske will be the one to go.

    If Dirtbag can find consistancy at the plate he will be a lock for AL R.O.Y., and should start to garner some gold glove attention along the way as well.

    Looking down the road to when Hellickson, and Price are ready I foresee some seriously diffuclt decisions in store for Friedman and the boys (assuming that Jackson and Sonny actually continue to accel for any period of time).

    Cork, I like your 26 man roster concept, too bad it’ll never happen.

  4. The Professor says:

    while i agree it is a longshot…i wouldnt say it will *never* happen.

    keep in mind that the players union would LOVE a 26-man roster. more jobs is something that is universal for unions. in fact that is the main reason baseball will never get rid of the DH. it would cost some players their jobs.

    so a 26-man roster is something that the teams may actually secretly prefer but could use it as a bargaining chip to get something else in return from the union.

    and as RR noted, the 7-man pen is a recent phenomenon. It was only 3-4 years ago when managers would debate in spring training whether to carry 6 or 7. Now it is just assumed that every team will carry 7.

    i still maintain that the Rays will/should trade Jackson and Sonny may be better suited for the bullpen.

    Jackson is the type of pitcher that will always have trouble finding consistency. if his mechanics rent perfect he is all over the place. he might be great for 2-3 starts but then he will lost it for a few starts.

    i do firmly believe that Jackson will find the groove for an entire season and will win 20 games one of these years, and be a serious Cy Young candidate. But i dont think the other seasons are worth the benefit of that one season

  5. Robert Rittner says:

    The 12 man pitching staff is a monstrosity built around the increasing and inefficient specialization of relievers. It is wasteful and exists simply because it makes managers feel secure, not because they really need it.

    You may be right that the Rays will not buck the trend, but given Maddon’s apparent desire to stretch his relievers, I would not dismiss the possibility.

    Outside of Glover, every other player serves a useful purpose. As you say, in effect teams have just 3 reserves. The Rays have maximized their value by obtaining multi-position players, but aside from Gross, nobody can play CF effectively or even the corners. And only Zobrist is acceptable at shortstop.

    I have no objection to the 26 man squad, although ownership is likely to fight it, but at the present rate, it would mean yet another Linus blanket reliever for the manager.

  6. Anonymous says:

    to add to the point about Kazmir’s changeup. as a coach, I can tell you whenever I see this in a scouting report, i just tell my kids (i coach in college) to pretend like he has 2 pitches instead of 2. in other words, they dont even worry about the change. if they are going to look for a pitch, either sit fastball or sit slider, but dont ever sit change. it is slow enough that they can just lay off if it is not one of the first two.

  7. The Professor says:

    to finish that point…

    in other words, it basically turns a 3-pitch pitcher into a 2-pitch pitcher. some would say that Kazmir might as well not even throw the change.

  8. WiNKy Oconklin says:

    what baseball gods have i pleased to deserve this?

  9. The Professor says:

    i dont know. but whatever you are doing. DON’T STOP

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