Rays Tigers Baseball

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 Giraffe was the hard-luck non-winner going toe-to-toe with one of the best in baseball in Justin Verlander. Niemann allowed just 5 hits in 7+ innings and did not walk a batter…Evan Longoria. Dirtbag has struggled a bit recently, and Joe Maddon rewarded him by dropping him to 6th in the lineup. Longo responded with a 2-run home run…Aki’s Back. He played for the second straight day which is a great sign for his rehabbed knee and he responded with his first home run since last season.

THE BAD: The Overthinker. As great a manager as Joe Maddon is, he is still prone to overthinking and trying too hard to reinvent the game. On Sunday the Rays were leading 3-1. Grant Balfour relieved Jeff Niemann after a leadoff double. He got two easy outs including a 4-pitch strikeout with blazing 96-mph fastballs. Then Joe Maddon does the unthinkable. He orders Balfour to pitch around Curtis Granderson to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. On the list of managerial options at that point in the game, that was about #14, right ahead of “let Don Zimmer pitch to Granderson,” and right behind “punch Grant Balfour in the face.” If JoeMa doesn’t have confidence in Balfour at that point, then he should have gone to a lefty to face Granderson. And if the Tigers pinch-hit, so what. Then maybe you pinch around. Otherwise, go at him. Worst case scenario is a tie-game and the Rays are still in the game…Wet Track. The Tigers and White Sox always seem to be the most active when it comes to making the infield very difficult for the Rays to run on. Yesterday, the Tigers staff had the infield soaked and yet Joe Maddon still tried to run. The Rays were 1-3 in stolen bases.

THE TELLING: Time of Death. That’s it. Call it. Time of Death for the Rays season was 3:35pm on August 30th. The tragic number is down to 28. The Rays are now 5.5 back in the Wild Card with 33 to go and they are not chasing just one team. Maybe the Rays could count on one team going in the tank, but not two. If the Red Sox finish 16-16, the Rays would have to go 22-11 just to tie. About the only slim chance the Rays have is to go 5-1 or 6-0 in remaining game with Sox. Not likely.  Ben Zobrist played right field and batted third…CoolStandings.com now gives the Rays an 8.9% shot at making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus says it is 12.3%, but their PECOTA version says 4.8%.

SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jeff Niemann.

DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • We have a special edition of the Webtopia coming later this morning.
  • With the Rays falling off the pace, they are now planning a larger September roster expansion. [St. Pete Times]
  • Starting September 1st, the Rays will have a stuffed gorilla available at the Trop with a Rays jersey that says “Zorilla” across the back with the number 18. [Rays Revolutionary]
  • John Romano writes something that many fans have been thinking for a long time. That the Rays really miss some of the veterans that were on the roster last year. [St. Pete Times]
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10 Comments

  1. I wonder if Friedman gets an assist on the time of death for the excellent job he did Friday afternoon.

    The most telling part of yesterday was the fact that Balfour had not problem deflecting the blame yesterday. I'm guessing there isn't much "we believe" feelings floating around the clubhouse today.

    Oh yeah, I hope you didn't miss the fact that the Red Sox shuffled their rotation for this week's series. Lester v Sonnanstine on Tuesday. Judging from that, who wants it more?

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    • TOBY says:

      Yes, trading Kazmir has a direct correlation with offensive players being unable to score runs.

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      • Beth says:

        Yeah, and it was Kazmir's absence that led Balfour to throw that home run ball.

        The one Ray who seemed really thrown by the Kazmir trade was Price....and he responded by pitching his best game this season.

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      • Sarcasm aside, chemistry is a big part of any team. Lose a part and changes the dynamics. David Price wasn't Kazmir's only buddy. You're right, it was a direct correlation, but it was an indirect correlation. It's good to see how some so easily dismiss the Rays all-time wins leader.

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        • Beth says:

          I'm not in any way dismissing Kazmir's contribution over the years. And all of us who have jobs know that it's easier to be productive when you like your colleagues.

          BUT....the idea that you design your roster around "chemistry" has always seemed suspect to me. I think chemistry is more often the OUTCOME of success, not its CAUSE. You find good players, they play hard, they win, and they learn to like each other. Losing teams seldom have good chemistry even if they are stocked with great guys. A-Rod seems like a narcissistic jerk, but is anyone worried about the Yankee's chemistry this year?

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  2. Joel says:

    About 10 minutes after that soul-crushing Polanco home run, I thought to myself, "You know, Balfour probably wasn't terribly happy about having to pitch around Granderson - that's a tough thing to put into the head of our only go-get-'em reliever." I never thought Balfour would verbally confirm that for me, though I guess you should always expect honesty from him. There is just no possible way Leyland is going to pinch-hit for a guy who is at worst his second best offensive player. It was just such a weird time to not employ the bullpen parade.

    There's no reason a small-market team can't compete every year with a smart FO; but dealing in young guys every year means you are walking a very volatile line. One year they can all come together and amaze everyone; but the next year the crush of expectations can cause them all to freeze up. Maddon used the word "pressing" to describe why he moved Longoria to 6th - that word to me is the perfect description for the 2009 Rays as a whole. I kept thinking they'd have that big moment that would loosen everyone up and get the team going.

    Now they have to pull a 2007 Rockies against nothing but playoff contenders. At this point I'm just excited to see Joyce, Davis and hopefully Hellickson get some playing time.

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    • KillaTapes says:

      The thing that bummed me out most about it was the fact that Balfour had his good stuff working. He easily took care of the first two batters he faced and was hitting upper 90's with ease. Hickey goes out, tells him to pitch around Granderson, and boom, he loses it. Why mess with him when he's going good? Either let him pitch or bring someone else in.

      I rarely agree with people criticizing Maddon, but this was just too much to take. What a crushing defeat. Niemann should have had that win, and should be one step further into ROY consideration. Bummer.

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  3. Don says:

    Maddon..."The Overthinker" ..I feel just the opposite!
    Maddon does NOT think...he acts on impulse...What he feels at the moment....do you really he is planning an inning before or 3 innings before things start happening....I guarantee you he doesn't...
    Your own copy, "Then Maddon does the UNTHINKABLE".... exactly!
    Remember Maddon was a bench coach for 25 years...he was not payed to think.....NOW he's a thinker?.... I don't think so....

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  4. Sam A says:

    Balfour was bringing the heat and Granderson isn't exactly Joe Mauer. Chances are he makes the out. If he gets a hit (other than a HR) you still have a one-run lead. I know there are a lot of things going on during a game, but it just seemed like Maddon had more faith in the other guy than he had in his own players.

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  5. TOBY says:

    Here's a simple exercise. GO look at Granderson's splits. He is probably the worst hitter in the league vs lefties, with no power. The Rays have 3 lefty relievers including their closer. They are the only team I have ever heard of that has 2 Loogy's.

    What would I have done? Choate in to face Granderson...if Polanco comes up, bring in WHeeler or Bradford. Bradford keeps the ball on the ground. Hell, I might have even gone to Howell to get the 4 out save in a must win game.

    Seriously, go look at Granderson's splits. They basically intentionally walked Granderson. So if they had brought in Choate, and the TIgers pinch hit for Granderson, then do unintentionally intentionally walk him.

    I dont blame managers often, but this one rests squarely on Maddon.

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