Rays White Sox Baseball

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: Jeff Niemann. The Rays are now 13-2 the last 15 times Niemann has started a game. And yesterday was about as good as we have seen him. 7 strikeouts and no walks. The biggest moment came in the 7th when he loaded the bases with 1 out. He came back and struck out Scott Podsednik and Alexei Ramirez  to get out of the inning and keep the Rays within 1. Right now? Jeff Niemann is the Rays best starting pitcher…Free Runs. Pat Burrell’s bases loaded walk to tie the game in the 9th was the Rays 11th of the season. They have also been hit by pitch 3 times with sacks full. Those 14 “free” runs are tied for 4th in MLB. The Rays led that category by a wide margin in ’08 with 29…Uncle Charlie. It is rare to see old-school curveballs these days. White Sox got 2 in one game with Jeff Niemann and JP Howell, and both were gorgeous. Sliders are easier to throw, but we think pitchers don’t appreciate how dominating a good 12-to-6er can be…Coming On Back. Prior to the All-Star break the Rays had won just 2 games in which they trailed in the 7th inning or later. They have now done it 4 times since the break….

THE BAD: Lefties. The Rays are supposed to be better against lefties this season and yet they could only manage 4 hits in 8 innings off of Clayton Richard. This was one reason the Rays went with Pat Burrell this past off-season over other left-handed hitting free agents. Burrell does have a very good .382 OBP versus lefties, but he is slugging a Cairo-esque .306. Actually, Miguel Cairo has a career sluggling of .356, so that is not fair, to Cairo.

THE TELLING: It was an unusual lineup for the Rays due to the tough lefty. Both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena were on the bench,  Tonight’s original starter, Gabe Kapler started in left, Ben Zobrist was in right batting cleanup and some guy named, hold on let me check again, “Joe Dillon“, started at second. If we had known Joe Maddon was just pulling people out of the stands, we would have volunteered…John Danks will not pitch tonight due to a blister. He will be replaced by a rookie, Carlos Torres…The Red Sox lost and are now a game behind the Yankees and 3.5 up on the Rays in the Wild Card.


  • Scott Kazmir will start Thursday. [The Heater]
  • Jon Heyman was on WFAN yesterday and continues to say that the Rays are looking to trade for a closer. However, he said that the available arms do not offer an upgrade over what the Rays already have. [No Link]
  • RotoInfo attempts to project Ben Zobrist’s future defensive abilities. [RotoInfo]
  • Rays the Stakes offers a theory on how the Rays will handle Carl Crawford and Aki Iwamura. [Rays the Stakes]
  • A bit ironic that one day after possibly causing the Rays a chance to tie a game by getting caught stealing third in the 8th inning, Jason Bartlett is quoted in a story about the freedom Joe Maddon gives the Rays to steal bases: “I think it all starts with Joe just giving us that freedom,” Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett said. “It’s an honor that he trusts us.” [MLB]
  • After we read the first few words of this headline, we needed to change our shorts. [WIBW.com]
  • The Orioles will be moving to Sarasota for Spring Training…This is likely a welcomed move by the Rays as it gives them a regular opponent in the Spring that doesn’t require a long bus ride. [Tampa Tribune]




  1. Mark says:

    I would have never guessed that Niemann was going to be this great. He has really saved the Rays season given that they haven’t gotten much from Kazmir or Price so far.

  2. Charles says:

    I think Niemann’s progress this year is a big validation of the Rays’ patience in bringing guys along and letting them work through the rough patches when they feel like they’re ready. Niemann has been pretty much a model of consistency for several starts in a row now. This gives me lots of faith that David Price’s stretch of consistency and good starts is not far behind.

  3. TOBY says:

    Let’s see….. How can we substantiate the ridiculous assertion that Jeff Niemann is the better then James Shields right now. I KNOW!!! Reference his W/L record and the teams record in the games he has pitched.

    Of course, this link would help explain that…

    Not only is Niemann leading the league in run support, but it isnt even close. I love the way Niemann has pitched recently, but lets not start saying he is the best pitcher on the staff right now.

    • The Professor says:

      I am fully aware of the run support. And I am sorry if I did not have enough space to list all the ways in which Niemann is better than each of the other starters right now. But let’s start with 3 straight starts that he has worked into the 8th inning. Shields has done that once in his last 8 starts. Or I could point out that Niemann has held the opposition to 3 earned runs or less in 11 of last 12 starts and 14 of 16. Meanwhile Shields has given up 4 or more in 3 of his last 7. There is more but I will stop for sake of brevity.

      There is more to this than simple run support.

      • TOBY says:

        There is more to it then run support,but you mentioned the teams record in his starts, and that has a huge impact on wins and losses. You definitely enjoy picking the stats that support your argument… But sorry to point out, some of them are even incorrect. I guess you missed his start 3 games ago in which he lasted 3 innings.

        His last 9 starts include outings of 3, 4, 5, 3.2, and 3 innings. He DIDNT EVEN MAKE IT INTO THE 5TH IN 4 STARTS!

        That is wildly inconsistent.

        BTW, I love how you reference how he has given up 3 runs or less in 14 of his last 16 outings. He didnt make it into the 6th inning of 10 of those games. And in 6 of them he didnt go 5.

        But yeah, he’s better then Shields cause he has had a couple real good games.

        • And I love how you are so quick to criticize my numbers when yours are COMPLETELY wrong. That “start” three starts ago when he pitched just 3 innings, was a RELIEF APPEARANCE.

          • TOBY says:

            Wow, I cant believe I made a mistake. Now maybe you’ll be able to be a man and admit that Niemann has had plenty of short outings that are very un-Shields-like.

            I notice you didnt respond to anything else in my post, because it is difficult to.

          • Actually, when your first point was so blatanty wrong I kinda stopped reading or caring. I just think it is a bit hypocritical to attack me about my accuracy using inaccurate numbers.

            And for the record, I never said Niemann was a better pitcher than Shields. If I had to choose between the two I would take Shields everyday of the week. Give me 5 Shields and I will give you a great baseball team. But right NOW Niemann is pitching better than Shields.

          • TOBY says:

            That’s different. I would agree that in the past 3 starts, Niemann has been better.

            I just dont lik when people start saying Niemann isthe Ace of the staff. He need to be much more consistent to achieve that status.

          • Amanda says:

            Shieldsist! ;p

          • Scot says:

            I agree Prof – right now Neimann is pitching better. And for the season, the big 3 have been Shields, Garza and Neimann (and the bad 3 have been Sonny, Kazmir and Price with Price being a bit better than the other two.)

          • TOBY says:

            Why dont you compare his tRA, FIP, and xFIP to Shields? I guess team W/L record is a better indicator.

            Dont get me wrong, I like some of the things I am seeing from Niemann, but saying he is the team ace i absurd.

        • Beth says:

          Toby, no one is saying Neimann’s some kind of pitching genius. And run support does indeed contribute to the W/L record (if I recall even Sonnanstine did look so bad in the W/L category despite his 7 plus ERA). BUT I would agree that Neimann’s given us more over the course of the season than anyone else. That’s probably more indicative of how inconsistent the others have been (Shields has largely been good, but continues to struggle on the road; Garza started out on fire but his last half dozen starts have been struggles). Or maybe it’s just that Neimann has exceeded expectations while the rest of the order has failed to live up to them.

        • Here’s the thing, I look beyond the stats sometimes (mostly because I hate stats arguments). Last night, Niemann looked like an ace on the mound. He looked better and more confident than any Rays pitcher in at least the last week. He is a rookie pitcher, on the road, against a team that has it out for the Rays and he came to ball last night. No moping. No yelling. No parading around the mound. No lower arm cramps. No 3-run homers. Just balling.

          If I see that from James Shields tonight, I’ll return the title to him. But, for today, Wednesday July 22, 2009… Jeff Niemann is the best pitcher on the Rays.

        • Justin says:

          Hey Toby,

          Why is it you can’t make your point in a calm manner? Seriously dude, you’re upset because someone doesn’t agree with you? Grow up asshat.

    • I’m saying it: Niemann is the best pitcher in the Rays rotation right now.

      James “Big Game” Shields can change that tonight… with or without run support.

      • TOBY says:

        Deciding who the best pitcher on a team is probably isnt best decided on a start by start basis.

        • KillaTapes says:

          When every starter on the team is as inconsistent as they have been this season, then, yeah it kind of is.

          I get what you’re saying in your arguments, but Niemann really has been the most consistent starter on the staff, regardless of run support.

        • Scot says:

          I agree that deciding the best pitcher based on a start by start basis is probably not the best metric, but given that pitchers are classified as either starters or relievers, would you not agree that it might be a good way to determine who is the best starter? If so we can look at Baseball Prospectus’s use of “Expected wins” base on the IP and allowed earned runs for a win (allowing no runs for 9 ip is equivalent to 1 win, gobs of runs allowed is equivalent to essential no win.) Refering to just TB

          we see that Sheilds has 8.0 expected wins, Garza has 7.7 and Neimann has 6.5 wins. But if we ask for a given outing, what is the expectation of a win – all three are essentially the same (0.564, 0.571 and 0.585 expected win percentage). All other TB starters are below .500. Hence the 3 have had essentially the same season, it is just that some have had more starts than others.

  4. Michael says:

    What’s up with the offense right now?? With the exception of Zach Grienke, the Rays haven’t exactly faced the cream of the crop since of the AL the All Star break when it comes to starting pitchers. And yet they haven’t scored more than 3 earned runs off any of the other teams’ starters. That’s pathetic. Luckily they get to miss out on a John Danks start tonight, but watch the Rays come out and make rookie Carlos Torres look like the second coming of Fernando Valenzuela tonight.

  5. Lawrence says:

    Sorry if this has been thoroughly refuted already but this was on ESPN’s rumors section. Prof, any insights here:

    It looks like the White Sox are one of many teams taking a look. According to ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney, even the Rays are looking. Says Buster, “It’s very, very unlikely that the Rays will land Halladay, because of their financial constraints and because of how they carefully tend to their lifeblood — their prospects. But if the moons and the stars aligned and the Rays actually were able to conclude a Halladay deal, he could be a leader for Tampa Bay’s young rotation and improve the Rays’ chances for winning in 2009.”

  6. Gus says:

    Cork: Can you get the splits for Neiman when he is pitching out of the stretch v. the windup? I think the reason he has little blow up innings is when he has a man or two on, he really seems to struggle from the stretch. Interestingly, with the bases loaded he continued to pitch out of the strech in the 7th. Out of the wind-up, dude looks unhittable.

    Somewhere, Chuck LaMar is saying “Yes sir!”

    • Beth says:

      I noticed that, too. And even pitching out of the stretch the opposing hitters are running on him….so maybe he should stick to the wind-up? I’m no expert on this….maybe someone else can explain why pitchers automatically go to the stretch with runners on base, even if they are less effective without the full wind-up. Is it really always to their benefit?

    • Opponents have a .636 OPS v Niemann with bases empty. Niemann also has a 33:17 strikeout to walk ratio.

      With runners on opponents OPS jumps to .861 and he has more walks (21) than strikeouts (15).

      I’m not sure what league average is in those situations as I would expect most starters to be better out of the windup, but those seem like a pretty stark difference.

      • Gus says:

        Wow. I think an off-season call to Randy Johnson, Chris Young or any other tall pitcher may be in offing as I think his problem in the stretch seems to be related to his height (the slide step to try to quicken his time to home?). Or otherwise, just keep guys off base like he has been doing.

        All that said, the first Rays no-hitter is coming from Neiman. Soon.

  7. bobrittner says:

    I have been very happy with Niemann. He has done excellent work as a 5th starter.

    I do think it is a bit overenthusiastic to label him the Rays’ best pitcher now. His last two games have been terrific, but I still think Shields is our #1. He has a significantly better K/BB ratio and a better ground ball ratio as well. Additionally, although Niemann has those complete games and a few 8 inning starts, in his last 10 starts, Shields has failed to complete 6 innings just once and bested 7 innings 5 times.

    The KC start was very disappointing of course, but it seems more a blip than anything else and should not overshadow his overall performance. That said, keep it up Jeff. That curve is very impressive.

  8. Pudieron says:

    I don’t think the Rays win last night without the effort on Monday. They saw so many pitches off Jenks that it’s hard to fathom it not helping last night. I’d be surprised if they see him the rest of the series unless it’s a blowout, the way he gets the jitters and loses all semblance of control when Rays hitters step up to the plate. Another gutsy performance, it’s getting to the point where if the Rays are down all game by a run, like they were for half of this game, I don’t even worry because I know it’ll be an interesting final two innings. Having said that, it’d be nice to see the offense get going and show what made them #1 in RS for most of the season, and tonight is a prime opportunity off a guy just called up from triple A.

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