Royals Rays Baseball

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

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THE GOOD: The Magic Touch. Joe Maddon makes some unorthodox move sometimes. OK. All the time. And sometimes every single one seems to work. Yesterday, JoeMa started Willy Aybar and he hit 2 home runs. He put Jason Bartlett in the leadoff spot and he was on base 4 of 5 times. And he started Pat Burrell in the bench spot and he didn’t kill any rallys…Offense. Sometimes they look great. Zack Greinke entered the game as the AL ERA leader and had not allowed more than 5 earned runs in any start this season. The Rays scored 6 and scored in 4 of the 5 innings he took the mound…Day Baseball. If we were commissioner, we would make sure that every day of the regular season featured at least one day game, especially Mondays. A Rays day game on Monday is like finding a Barbie Big Wheel outside your apartment at 2am – A gift from above.

THE BAD: Scott Kazmir. He would have been pounded by a better team. He allowed more than one baserunner in 3 of the 6 innings and had to battle out of a couple of jams including a bases loaded situation in the 5th. But what really hurts is that even his “good” innings aren’t good. Kazmir needed 18 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 1st inning…In A Nutshell. The last two games sum up the entire Rays season. In one they score 10 runs and look like world-beaters. They look like the best offensive team in baseball, and get contributions from everybody, including 2 home runs from a bench player. In the other, the offense can’t score a run and the Rays somehow lose a game in which the starting pitcher took a no-hitter into the 8th inning.

THE TELLING: If the Red Sox go 29-29 in their final 58 games, the Rays would have to finish 33-23 just to tie. The Rays also have 6 games left with Detroit, 6 with the Rangers and a West Coast trip. Anybody still think there is “plenty of time”?

SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Willy Aybar

DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • Fernando Perez will play in a simulated game on Thursday and begin a rehab assignment with Charlotte after that. Chad Bradford is still a couple of weeks away…In the same piece, Joe Maddon wishes Matt Garza would have chosen his words better when asked about hitting Mark Teixeira on purpose. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Joe Maddon may do the impossible. He is considering some changes to the lineup with Jason Bartlett moving to leadoff and Pat Burrell possibly sharing his DH role with Willy Aybar. [St. Pete Times]
  • Jason Bartlett says that when Willy Aybar is in the lineup, “everybody gets happy”. [St. Pete Times]
  • John Romano argues that it is time to move BJ Upton out of the leadoff spot. [Point After]
  • Joey Johnston discusses the Rays trade deadline acquisition – A rejuvenated Scott Kazmir. [Tampa Tribune]
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13 Comments

  1. I'm not sure Kaz deserved the bad (maybe indifferent). He got outs when he needed to and he didn't walk anyone. You're right, a better team would've pounded him but I've seen bad teams pound him as well.

    I think Kazmir's mound presence has gone from puppy dog to bull dog in just the last couple of games. It's almost as if Beurhle's perfect game inspired Kaz in some sort of odd way. Just the fact that you're putting him in the "bad" after a win shows you how much he's improving. The Kaz bar is going up quickly!

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  2. cg says:

    AMEN to Monday day baseball. However, had we lost 10-4 I'd be less inclined to agree.

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  3. Amanda says:

    *snort* .... No, no, no ... Pat Burrell didn't play bench. He played Left Out.

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  4. bobrittner says:

    I agree with Michael. Kazmir's performance was a mixture of the good and not so good. On the good side was that he threw 82 of his 114 pitches for strikes. The bad is that he needed 114 pitches to get through 6+ innings, but part of that is due to the number of foul balls they hit-35! Still, he also got 14 swinging strikes along with his 16 called strikes, so he was missing bats.

    He did need some defensive help on a couple of hard hit balls, but overall he did keep men off base. The third run was debited to his record but was as much due to Balfour's inability to strand a runner on first with nobody out. It was not a vintage "great" Kazmir performance, and the velocity is still down from his peak, but he was in the low nineties with a very effective slider.

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    • I agree with both. But I thought it was bad was because he is still (at times) very frustrating. And I think it is accentuated when he is pitching well, as he has the past two starts. It feels like he should be cruising but he doesn't.

      As for the foul balls. That is part of the frustration. Kazmir has always been susceptible to a lot of fouled pitches. I believe he led the majors either last year or the year before. I didn't look at yesterday's pitchf/x, but there tend to be more foul balls when he can't keep his fastball down. I suspect that right-handed batters see the fastball well when it is up but can't quit catch up to it. Good bc they can't square it up, but it raises his pitch count in many starts.

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      • theraysparty says:

        That would be cool to look up and see where Kaz's fouls are located.

        I assume high fastballs are more likely to be fouled back on Kazmir. But considering the spin on his slider, sometimes a hitter might foul off a low fastball thinking it is the slider.

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      • Beth says:

        Interesting point -- Kazmir has been suffering through very high pitch counts thanks for foul balls going back to last year. Many pitchers with high pitch counts have control problems, but that hasn't really been his issue (except for a few terrible starts). I've never understood why a pitcher is more prone to getting fouled off. It's certainly not a sign of terrible pitching -- after all, the hitters aren't putting the ball in play. But it leads to great inefficiency, so it becomes problematic.

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  5. Don says:

    Maddon is stuck now...Imagine if he goes back to BJ to lead off, Burrell full time DH, & Navarro starting every day....hard to make every change he needs in one day but if he doesn't move in this direction...you have to question him to manage the ability he has available to him!

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    • bobrittner says:

      Maddon is not stuck at all. And there is absolutely no reason to question his ability to manage the talent available to him. In fact, among his many virtues, that is a particularly outstanding one.

      Read his statements-carefully-and you will see that he does not jump to conclusions. His patience and understanding of the need to provide players lots of time to demonstrate their abilities is among his most valuable assets as a manager. Without it there would be no Zobrist on this team, no J.P. Howell, no Upton and probably no Shields.

      Sometimes that means he gives some players too long a rope. I thought he did that with Harville, and many felt that way about Stokes, McClung and Camp, although they may have been wrong about that given their subsequent careers.

      He is not going to make a decision based on one game. That one game proves neither his intelligent managing nor does it establish that he should continue that lineup.

      I do agree that it might be smart to use Burrell differently, perhaps using Aybar as the DH vs. righties and at 1B against particularly tough lefties. He could also get him more ABs by occasionally resting Longoria, Crawford and Zobrist, though that is less likely except in rare circumstances. But the reasoning behind that is Burrell's yearlong struggles, and Aybar's history of performance, not yesterday's game.

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  6. Don says:

    Yesterday's one (1) game was icing on a cake that has been cooking for 2-3 months...it demonstrated what "can" happen when the best players are in the line up..a lesson Maddon has a hard time swallowing!

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  7. David says:

    Scott Kazmir was credited with a quality start. No wonder why so many people are a critic towards that stat.

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  8. David says:

    For a guy who pays attention to stats as much as Joe does, I'm surprised that Jason Bartlett isn't leading off everyday. Jason Bartlett is 3rd in the AL in batting average, has a higher OBP, and is 2nd on the Rays behind Carl Crawford in EqBRR which is the base runner's equivalent to a pitcher's ERA meaning that he's the better base runner. I think the only thing Upton may have on Bartlett in the baserunning department is speed, but Upton has been caught so many times stealing while Bartlett is a smart base runner. I'm kind of confused now about how Bartlett isn't leading off. Kevin Kennedy made the comment yesterday that he talked to Joe about that and Joe said that Upton has been hitting .290 as of late so he's been hitting the ball well, but Bartlett hasn't been behind .310 in batting average since, in a guesstimation, April. Upton does have a 10+ advantage on Bartlett in runs scored, but being 11 runs back while batting 9th everyday is very very good. Most teams would call leading off a guy with stats like that a no brainer. The only thing keeping Upton at the leadoff spot is his speed so unless he gets a hamstring injury that could affect his stealing ability anytime soon, Upton will remain the leadoff hitter unless Joe is more concerned about OBP and winning games. That's right, I called out Joe.

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    • bobrittner says:

      I think you make good points, but I don't think that Upton stays in the leadoff spot because of his speed, nor do I think Maddon is ignoring the numbers. I think it is, as often, a matter of judgment as to when the numbers mean enough to make a change.

      As fans, we tend to get antsy rather quickly. A few good games, or terrible ones, and we start clamoring for a change. In this case (as with Burrell, and with Kapler earlier in the season), it is far more than a few games, so the necessary change seems more obvious and urgent.

      But it is possible that to the manager the more significant numbers are those of the past 3 years. He may consider those more predictive of the next 2 months than do the first 4 months worth, particularly since one month it appeared Upton was back on track. (The same probably holds for the Burrell decisions as well as Kapler and others.)

      I do not think the right answer is quite so obvious. And certainly scouting type evaluation must enter the decision as well. I think another of Maddon's many strengths is that he is not dogmatic and does not rely exclusively on numbers. He has a very refined sense of baseball traditions and a remarkably observant and detail-aware scout's eye. (Read what he says about the running game where he is in direct opposition to the sabermetric view, for example.) So he may also be making decisions based on what he sees of the players, perhaps chalking some of their success or failure as much to imponderables as to actual decline or advance in their abilities.

      For example, Bartlett's BABIP for 2009 is .385. That is very unlikely to be sustainable. Upton's is not bad at .322, but his career mark is .347, so perhaps he is hitting in some bad luck-for him-and should regress to his mean.

      Frankly, I don't think that is the case. It seems that Upton is missing more pitches in the strike zone while Bartlett is hammering them for line drives. But my eye is nowhere near as practiced as those of the Rays' scouts and manager. In any case, I don't think there is any question that Maddon is open to making changes, but he takes longer than many fans like not because he is too conservative, but because he is experienced enough not to panic.

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