Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

Time to bring back the GBT – The Good, The Bad and The Telling sandwich, where The Bad is nice and lean and the The Telling is ripe.

click above image for boxscore

THE GOOD: Running Start. For all the bad, the Rays are now 19-20 in steal attempts this season. Before leaving the game yesterday, BJ Upton was on the move during Carl Crawford’s at bat, which avoided the double-play and he kept going when he stole third a few pitches later.

THE BAD: Rays Not Down With OBP. The Rays are now 9th in the AL with a .333 OBP. On top of that, Rays hitters are second in the AL, having struck out 109 times, but are only 9th in walks with 43. Yesterday it was 9 more K’s and not a single walk…Helium-Filled ERA Baloon. The Rays starters now have a 5.26 ERA (9th in AL) and the bullpen’s ERA is 5.59, good for 8th in the AL…Getting Beat By Wrong Guys. The bottom 3 in the White Sox lineup went 7-14 with a walk…Defensive Shifts. Call it bad luck? Once again Joe Maddon had one of his defensive alignments come back to haunt him. With one out and the bases loaded and Jim Thome up, Maddon had shortstop Ben Zobrist shifted to the rihgt side of second base. Thome hit a ground ball directly at Zobrist. Zobrist was unable to turn two and end the inning because there was nobody to cover second base. Instead, a run scored.

THE TELLING: Today is the Rays first off-day of the season…On this date last year, the Rays had a losing record and were in last place of the AL East after 18 games…Joe Maddon had a makeshift lineup yesterday with Michel Hernandez behind the plate, Evan Longoria at DH, Willy Aybar at third and Ben Zobrist at shortstop.

SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ben Zobrist. He didn’t get the start on Saturday, but he did come through with 2 hits on Sunday and the Rays only 2 RBI.

DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • BJ Upton tweaked his quad muscle and was pulled from the game. He is not expected to miss any more time.
  • From Marc Topkin: Pat Burrell was an option quarterback in high school and claims he could run back then…Joe Nelson was a high school basketball teammate of Jason KiddBJ Upton bought the entire Charlotte team dinner at Outback Steakhouse and gave the team new speakers for the clubhouse and weightroom. Nice gesture for a player still making near the big league minimum. [St. Pete Times]
  • Joe Maddon spoke about his decision to start Gabe Kapler in right on Saturday one day after Ben Zobrist hit the go-ahead grand slam off of a lefty. Maddon said that this is why Kapler was brought in and they’ve “got to get him going.” [Tampa  Tribune]
  • John Romano explains why it is too early to panic. [St. Pete Times]
  • The Rays averaged 28,986 in attendance for the first 7 home games. At the same point last year the average was 18,159. [St. Pete Times]

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19 Comments

  1. Between both the Yankees and the White Sox, the Rays really got beat by guys who shouldn’t be causing them problems. But, one thing about being the defending American League Champions is that everyone brings their “A” game. The Rays are going to see that all year.

  2. Charles says:

    Do you think the bad first homestand will have some effect on attendance going forward? We all know it’s too early to panic (like you said, they weren’t setting the world on fire at this time last year either), but do you think more casual fans might stay away thinking that we’re seeing a return to the Devil Rays of old? Would that have any effect on payroll concerns (i.e., maybe hastening the need to move someone like Crawford) short term or stadium issues long term?

    • It depends on how much of the ticket sales is walk-ups. Last year Rays had a very large percentage of tickets sold the day of the games. The arays were really pushing season tickets and package plans this year so I am guessing a lot more tickets were sold this year prior to the season. So attendance will remain up no matter how bad they play. But probably won’t stay in the upper 20′s.

  3. Don says:

    You can point out any of the many problems…hitting, starting pitching, bullpen, ect., the Rays are having, BUT I really believe that as long as MANDON insists on “resting” his best players to play second rate players like Kapler, Gross, Wheeler, the Rays will NOT win like last year!
    Good example was: Zobrist saving the Rays win on Fri., He didn’t touch a bat Sat., then home run again Sun!!
    If this is “good” player “managment”….I guess I’m lost!

    • bobrittner says:

      It’s possible you are lost. If there is one thing that identifies Maddon’s use of his players it is that he gets everyone involved. That is what he did last year; nobody gets into his doghouse or is the unused 25th man. Everyone is ready to contribute, and everyone knows he will get his ABs and time in the field.

      In the short term, and in particular games, that may lead to a bad matchup for the Rays, but over the course of the season it helps win a lot more ballgames than it loses.

      Incidentally, two of your examples make little sense, in fact are perversely wrong. At the start of the year, the expected RF platoon was Gross/Kapler. They are the starters, not second rate players. Gross in particular is criminally underrated by many Rays fans because he is destined to be a platoon player rather than a regular.

      But contrary to your point, it is just because Zobrist has been impressing Maddon that Ben is getting more playing time than originally anticipated. In fact Maddon made a point of saying he was looking for ways to get Zobrist into more games, and his versatility is allowing that to happen. It means he may occasionally spell Crawford, Upton, the RF platoon, Iwamura, Bartlett and even Longoria (unlikely as that is Aybar’s job) who are all better than he is. That is not bad player management. It is using the roster effectively to keep everyone rested, fresh and ready to play.

  4. Don says:

    If YOU consider using Players batting .125 instead of players hitting .400 (Bartlett) or players that are Hot NOW hitting home runs(Zobrist) as “effective” roster management ….I guess you could be Maddon’s Assistant.
    For ME, I’m using my “BEST” Players …they can “rest” on Monday!

    • bobrittner says:

      Yes, I do consider it right. Using stats like BA after fewer than 30 ABs is of no use in any discussion. Saying someone is hot because he hit a couple of home runs is no more useful. As a matter of fact, at the time Zobrist hit the grand slam against Chicago he had just gone 0 for 7 and was batting .200!

      Last night Kapler went 2 for 3 with a double. Should Maddon automatically go with him as the hot hand as a result? Do you realize that in the first 5 games that Gross started, although he did not get many hits, he walked 6 times and had an OBP of .429?

      This isn’t simply about rest. Obviously after 12 games or so the players are not likely to be tired. It is about establishing from the start that everyone contributes. And it is also a continuing message that because a player is slumping he is not automatically losing his job or his role. He will continue to be given a chance to break out of it, not stew on the bench where there is nothing he can do to become useful later on.

      • Don says:

        Too many shaky statements to reply to, but try this one:
        I can rembember “stewing” on the bench for making mistakes or not playing to my abilities!
        You know what happened when I got a chance to play again:
        I PLAYED BETTER!

        • bobrittner says:

          Non-responsive.

          I will simplify:

          1. There is no use in referring to samples of fewer than 30 ABs to make your point.

          2. The fundamental concept is to give everyone an opportunity to contribute and to have them ready to do so. It is a 25 man roster, and like all good managers, Maddon uses them all.

          3. Like all good managers, Maddon lets his players know that they will continue to play through slumps. Unlike many fans, he does not foolishly bounce around from player to player just because someone is doing badly or well for a few games. He trusts his judgment as to who can help.

          4. A major key to the Rays building a successful team has been having the courage of their convictions rather than flitting from one approach to another. Using your logic, the following players would not be on this team or would have been benched when they slumped because all had very shaky starts to their careers:
          Navarro, Pena, Bartlett, Upton, Gross, Aybar, Zobrist, Shields and Sonnanstine

          Regardless of whether your personal anecdote, it is unlikely any of them could have proven their worth by being replaced.

  5. Rayshawk says:

    God you guys sound like Buc’s fans in the pre season…jumping off the Skyway….;o)

    Take a chill pill Did you forget that gabe gross was one the hero’s last year and now he’s hitting a rough streak and you want to throw him under the bus. I see Gabe Kapler as trying to hard, great d, but really trying too hard. Relax dude, you’ll get there. To you who have already jumped off the band wagon, this is a marathon, and can turn around in a heart beat. I like this team and still believe they will finish with 109 wins.

    • Don says:

      Don’t think it is a matter of “jumping off the band wagon”….
      But of questioning decisions being made!
      If you think “early” decisions have been good…then every thing is “fine” in your world!

      • Possum Avenger says:

        Don — Funny how I didn’t see you around here at all the last two years and now you seem to believe you are an expert of sorts. Your arguments are so cliched and useless that if I didn’t know better I’d think you were just doing this to anger people. Calm down. Maddon knows how to manage this team.

  6. I really don’t have a problem with Maddon’s player management. I think he does a good job getting everyone at-bats. The only thing I have to nitpick Maddon about is the defensive alignments. I still say he’s getting a little too cute with that. Other than that, it’s only 2 weeks into a long, long season. Maddon is still the reigning AL Manager of the year. He did plenty right last year to take the Rays to the World Series.

  7. Mark says:

    I keep worrying about Pat Burrell. I’m trying not to expect too much out of him, but I just don’t like what I’ve seen out of him so far. My friends tell me this is normal of him and eventually he’ll get hot, but I can’t help but get the feeling that they’re wrong, and he won’t…

    Hopefully they’ll all get it together on this road trip. I wish they’d play at Disney again this year, because they never lose there, and that’s where it took off last year, lol. They should also schedule concert nights every Saturday home game because if I recall, they’re undefeated on those nights too! :D

    • Gus says:

      I think Pat the Bat is going to be hard to watch as he had been extremely streaky in Philly and when he goes bad, he is pretty bad. The thing I don’t like is that when he is hitting after Longo and Pena, you have three heavy strike out guys in a row. When he is hot, that will be nice; but I wouldn’t mind him in the 6 or 7 hole until he shows some sings of life.

      I think Nate Silver and the BP guyss would disagree, but I like Upton down a little lower in the order. Not sure where the consensus came that he is best in the lead off slot. Wasn’t the AL Playoff batting order pretty damn productive? Not sure why that got kicked to the curb. Too clever by half sometimes. Maybe the injured quad gives Maddon an excuse to tinker with something else at lead off.

      I’d like Matt Joyce back also . . .

  8. Scot says:

    What distinguishes RaysIndex from other blogs is intelligent contributions by both the host and those who leave comments. Bob is absolutely correct – 30 AB means nothing compared with years of past data on player performance.

    I’m glad the Prof mentioned last year. After 13 games, the Rays were 6-7, in last, 2 games out. A week later they were 8-11, just got shut out by the White Sox, still in last place and 5 games out to the Red Sox. (Being 5 games behind the Red Sox is certainly more serious than 5 games behind the Blue Jays. )

    I remember reading that one reason Maddon was thrilled to move to TB was the lack of expectations by the fans. He would have carte blanche to try anything. Progressive thinking could be implemented because few really cared. Now that they are winning, it is interesting to see the conservative baseball fans emerge and call for traditional (and often failed) policies.

    • Scot says:

      Just after I wrote the last comment, I read the next article where Maddon is quoted, “A lot of times in baseball, it’s hard for some people to just break away from traditional situations and try something new,” Maddon said. “For us it’s just not that hard.”

      This confirms my point – what can be applied in TB could not occur in NY. (For this reason, Billy Beane chose to remain in Oakland rather than move to Boston. Could he do a major player dump in Boston? No way.)

  9. bobrittner says:

    In today’s St. Pete Times there is an article about the precisely the subject we are discussing here, the use of the bench. Fans may not like that approach to roster management, but it is fundamental in the way the Rays manage the game and appears to have been successful last year. It may not work as well in 2009, but as an approach to maximizing the value of all your players and of a deep bench I think it makes perfect sense.

    • Scot says:

      I’m always amazed at the view that we should run with the “hot” player. I agree changes should be made when confronted with an injured player, but if we use the view that 30 PAs is a sufficient number in sample size, I see Jason Bartlett batting 3rd, and of course releasing Crawford and Navaro who are well below replacement level.

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