FIRST INNING
A look back…
Last night Edwin Jackson improved to 7-2 with a 2.98 ERA in his last 10 starts…Has Jackson solidified his spot in the rotation for 2009?

It was pointed out in the comments this morning that Jackson’s strikeout to walk ratio over that span is not great and his WHIP is not so hot either, suggesting he has been very lucky. However, we think the promising stat is Jackson is not walking anybody. He has give 2 or fewer free passes in 7 of his last 10 starts. The problem is he is not striking anybody out. We wonder if that is by design, in which Jim Hickey is encouraging Jackson to “pitch to contact”. A little backwards from most power pitchers that strikeout a lot of batters when they are young until they learn to pitch. Jackson may be learning to pitch first and once he is more mound-savvy, he will start going for more strike outs. Just a hunch, but we have a feeling Jackson’s strikeout rate will skyrocket next season and we could see a very dominating pitcher…YES

SECOND INNING
Headlines
On Wednesday night the Rays struck out 9 times in the first 4 innings against David Purcey and are 4th in the AL with 971 strikeouts, almost 100 more than the next team…Should this be a point of concern?

Strikeouts are still only one out. More telling is the walks. You can tolerate the strikeouts as long as the team is drawing walks and getting on base. The Rays are 3rd in the AL in walks (486) but they are only 8th in OBP, due in large part to their next-to-last .258 batting average. Where the K’s and low batting average could get the Rays in trouble is with runners in scoring position in the post-season. A pitcher’s best friend with runners in scoring position and less than 2 outs is a strike out…YES

THIRD INNING
Headlines
Andrew Friedman will add a 3rd catcher to the roster in September to give the team more flexibility and allow Dioner Navarro some more rest down the stretch…Will it be John Jaso or Mike DiFelice?

Jaso is on the 40-man roster, but is not considered ready for the big leagues, defensively. DiFelice has played in parts of 13 seasons, is dependable behind the plate and has post-season experience, albeit only 1 at bat with the Cardinals in ’02. All things being equal, DiFelice would be an easy choice. But the Rays would have to drop somebody from the 40-man roster. If the Rays don’t have a need for Jonny Gomes, he could be dropped. Kurt Birkins is another option, however we would be surprised if the Rays didn’t want to add another lefty to the bullpen down the stretch. JK Ryu, who has spent most of the season on the DL is another, maybe more realistic, possibility…DiFelice

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
Dan Johnson continues to tear up the IL but he is not on the 40-man roster…Will he be in a Rays’ uniform in September and who would be dropped from the roster?

We already showed that moving somebody off the roster will not be easy, but there are a couple of options. JK Ryu could be DFA’d for Mike DiFelice. But would the Rays be willing to risk losing a player for one month of DiFelice? Same could be said about Jonny Gomes. Is Johnson so much better than Gomes, who is already on the 40-man roster? Johnson is a lefty-bat and the Rays already have several of those on the roster. We want to think the Rays will find a way, but we just don’t think he is a priority, and we don’t see a way for it to happen…NO

FIFTH INNING
Headlines
Josh Beckett was supposed to return for the Red Sox tonight. Instead he will go see Dr. James Andrews…Does this kill any chance the Red Sox had at catching the Rays?

It certainly doesn’t help, and we sure do like the Rays chances in the 6 remaining head-to-head matchups. Beckett would have likely pitched in 2 of those games. What will be interesting is to see if Tito Francona adjusts his rotation between now and the first series with the Rays. As it stands now, if nobody is skipped it will be Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Pauley. No Tim Wakefield, the Rays-Killer. They could skip Pauley on their off-day next Thursday, which make the rotation Dice-K, Pauley, Wakefield for the Rays…PROBABLY

SIXTH INNING
A look outside the box
With the Rays facing the last place Orioles…what other series this weekend should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

Take your pick. The White Sox are in Boston and every Boston loss is one game closer to the division title. And the Twins are in Oakland and every Minnesota loss is another game closer to clinching a playoff spot. While the Twins are very much alive for the Central title and the Wild Card, they are now 7 games behind the Rays and the Twins would have to pass the Rays for the Rays to miss the playoffs…TWINS @ A’s

SEVENTH INNING
Oddsmakers
What are the odds the Tampa Bay Rays will make the playoffs?

Baseball Prospectus says 98.8%. As we said, not only do the Red Sox and White Sox have to pass the Rays, but so would the Twins and they are not even in the same neighborhood right now. Start making post-season playoff plans RAYSHEADS…100%

What are the odds the Tampa Bay Rays will win the division?

A little more tricky here. Baseball Prospectus says 76.5%. For us the magic number is 3 in the loss column. As long as the Rays keep the lead in the loss column more than 3 we feel the Rays are safe. If the number is more than 3, then nothing that happens in any head-to-head series will change the standings. We feel pretty confident right now. Professor Pessimism? HA!…95%

Last night’s win guaranteed the Rays their first non-losing season…What are the odds the Rays will win at least 81 games in ’09?

The Rays are on pace to win 98 games and they have suffered a number of key injuries, nobody is having a career-year, and several key players are underperforming. Other than Eric Hinske, nobody is a free agent. The Rays are going nowhere…100%

What are the odds the Tampa Bay Rays will sweep the Orioles this weekend?

Maybe somebody slipped us some happy juice today, but we have a very good feeling about Scott Kazmir’s start tonight. It has been a while but 8 innings tonight would not surprise us. He will need it as Jeremy Guthrie has pitched well against the Rays, working into the 7th twice. Daniel Cabrera has struggled a bit and we can see lot of runs scored on Saturday as he goes against Andy Sonnanstine. And the Rays and James Shields get a wet-behind-the-ears lefty on Sunday…75%

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
In this time of the year, matchups become very important…With 9 games to go before the all-important head-to-head matchup with the Red Sox should Joe Maddon look ahead and try to set up the rotation to have the ideal matchups in that series?

Joe Maddon does not like to skip pitchers, even on off-days, preferring to give a pitch an extra day of rest. The Rays do have an off-day on Monday. As it stands right now, the Rays will throw Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine against the Sox. No James Shields. No Matt Garza. Amazingly Sonny has yet to face the Sox this season. Jackson and Kid K are a combined 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA in 5 starts. Not good. Not good at all. They will get to throw Shields in the second series with the Sox, but again no Garza. Not exactly the ideal way to go down the stretch, but Papa Joe really has no choice at this point…NO, IT IS TOO LATE

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
David Price was named a Southern League post-season All-Star despite only making 9 appearances for the Biscuits…Got a problem with that?

Well, they aren’t going to be touring Japan in the off-season are they? He did go 7-0 with a 1.89 ERA. Guess we would be a little upset if we were the pitcher that just missed being honored. Seems like Price is going to receive plenty of honors in his career. Maybe they could have given this one to somebody else…SEEMS A BIT OVER THE TOP

Earlier this week Cal Ripken Jr threw out the first pitch for the Rays while wearing a Rays jersey…Is this better or worse than Brett Favre wearing a Jets jersey?

We understand the first pitch, but the jersey? Favre decided he wanted to prolong his career and it just wasn’t going to happen in Green Bay. Ripken was born an Oriole. Played as an Oriole and retired an Oriole. He is an Oriole for life and probably shouldn’t be wearing another team’s jersey, especially a divisional rival…WORSE

MLB admitted Doug Eddings blew the call that cost the Rays a chance to win their series-finale against the White Sox on Sunday…Have you recovered yet from the loss to Doug Eddings the White Sox?

Did you read the optimism in the “Oddsmakers” segment? If the Rays had lost Wednesday night, we might still be in a drunken-stupor mumbling incoherently while walking along Bayside Drive…SCREW AJ PIEHEAD…GO RAYS!

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2 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    With Birkins now released, it probably enhances the chance that Dan Johnson is added to the roster a bit.

    In a way, the Boston/Chicago series can only help the Rays. I want to win the division, of course, not only for the home field but for the honor of doing it. But the more losses Chicago and Minnesota pile up, the more certain a post-season berth becomes for TB. While the odds are very good anyway, it would be nice to be mathematically certain.

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  2. Basshole says:

    "Daniel Cabrera has struggled a bit and we can see lot of runs scored on Saturday as he goes against Andy Sonnanstine."

    Good call Professor, 19 runs in this game. All though that is only one less than last night.

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