Results tagged ‘ Matt Moore ’

Analyzing the Tampa Bay Rays’ Current Red-Hot Stretch

Things have really come together for the surging Tampa Bay Rays in the past month. With yesterday’s big win in Boston, they’ve won six straight games and a franchise-record 21 of their last 25.

Let’s take a look at how the Rays came from being last place in the AL East to just a half game out of first place and having the third best record in baseball.

The Pitching

Great starting pitching has propelled the Rays into the great position they’re in right now. Despite Alex Cobb’s absence, David Price’s return to ace form, Chris Archer’s impressive pitching and turnarounds from Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson have the Tampa Bay’s rotation looking like its 2012 self.

Rays starting pitching has delivered a remarkable 17 quality starts in its last 19 games.

Price has been terrific since his return from the disabled list, tossing two complete games while posting a stellar 1.97 ERA and allowing just one walk in four starts (32.0 IP). Moore is 6-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last six starts and Archer is enjoying a very strong rookie year, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.14 ERA in his last nine outings.

It hasn’t just been the starting pitching that has improved in the Rays’ winning stretch. The bullpen, which was the team’s weak spot earlier this season, has been solid as of late, blowing just one lead during the stretch.

The Offense

When you have consistent production from your offense to go along with excellent pitching you’re going to win a lot of games. The Rays have done exactly that, putting up an impressive .282/.351/.436 slash line with a 120 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plusin July as a team.

Over half of the lineup has produced well offensively during the  stretch, but nobody’s been as hot as Desmond Jennings (.378 wOBA in last 30 days) and Luke Scott (.448 wOBA).

The Rays’ offense, which is tied second in all of baseball by wRC+ (112) has been outstanding all season, so we can expect to see this success from the lineup continue as the season progresses. If Jennings can continue to do such a great job of getting on base at the top of the lineup, this offense could soon emerge as baseball’s best.

The Defense

The Rays’ defense this year has probably been the best in team history, which is a big deal considering that it’s a franchise that prides itself on solid defense. Tampa Bay is second in the American League in UZR (26.9) and second in the MLB in fielding percentage (.990).

During the 25-game stretch, the Rays have committed just five errors. They have possibly the best fielding infield in baseball, as well as some great range in the outfield with Desmond Jennings and Sam Fuld.

The Rays are fielding to their potential, and now that they’re pitching like they can it’s clear that they’ve really hit their stride here in July.

5 Bold Predictions for Rays’ Second Half of the Season

The second half of the 2013 regular season is underway. Five and a half games out of first place in the AL East and three games behind in the Wild Card race, the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of work to do these next three months.

Without further delay, take a look at my five bold predictions for the second half of the season.

Good pitching will return to Tampa Bay

After posting historically good numbers in 2012, the Rays’ pitching staff was surprisingly mediocre in the first half of the season. Reigning Cy Young award-winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez and most of the bullpen struggled in the first half.

However, things appear to be turning in the right direction going into the second half. Jeremy Hellickson has been sharp in his last three starts, Matt Moore looks to have returned to his early-season form and the bullpen has been excellent as of late.

Also, David Price is returning to the rotation tonight and Alex Cobb—who led the rotation earlier this season—should return after the All-Star break.

Matt Moore will have excellent second half

It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season for Matt Moore so far. The phenom southpaw was outstanding in April and May, but had three straight bad starts in June before returning to form in his last three starts.

Moore’s fastball velocity has been down all year, but he’s done great work with his offspeed stuff and is still unhittable when he commands his pitches. He really looks poised for a huge second half.

The Rays will trade either Ryan Roberts or Roberto Hernandez before the deadline

As usual, I don’t expect GM Andrew Friedman and the Rays to make a lot of noise at the trade deadline later this month, but I do expect to see one small trade.

Ryan Roberts is definitely a possibility. With Wil Myers now in the majors, the Rays don’t really have a spot for Roberts on the roster, especially with the offense performing so well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dealt for some relief pitching help.

Roberto Hernandez is another potential candidate. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, and there are a few teams in the league that could really use his services. With Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Alex Torres and Jake Odorizzi, the Rays could certainly afford to trade Hernandez.

Wil Myers will make big push for AL Rookie of the Year

With just 14 games played, it may be a little early for the “Wil Myers for Rookie of the Year” talks, but it’s something to keep an eye on in the second half.

Myers’ transition into the big leagues has been a pretty smooth one, as he’s swung the bat well posting a .345 wOBA. As of right now he’s not one of the top candidates, but I think he’ll prove in the following months why he was considered the top hitting prospect in baseball.

The Rays will clinch a playoff spot

Can the Rays return to the postseason in 2013? It won’t be easy with Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees in the same division, as well as the Athletics or Rangers as likely serious contenders for a Wild Card spot.

If the “Tampa Bay Rays pitching” returns—which I think it will—and the offensive remains productive, I believe this team will be playing in October.

Tampa Bay Rays First Quarter Grades

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It hasn’t been an ideal start to the year for the Tampa Bay Rays. With one quarter of the season already behind us, the Rays currently stand at an even 20-20.

The’ve really underachieved overall as a team, as things simply aren’t falling into place for them just yet.

With a strong offense and a struggling bullpen, it’s looked like 2009 all over again so far for Tampa Bay. They missed the playoffs and finished the season with just 84 wins that year, so Rays fans hope their team is not going down a similar path.

After the first 40 games of the 2013 season, here’s a graded evaluation of the Rays’ offense, starting rotation, bullpen and defense.

The Offense

The Rays currently have the third best offense in Major League Baseball with a wRC+ of 108.

Evan Longoria and James Loney have both enjoyed red-hot starts to the season. Longoria has posted a .417 wOBA and Loney is leading the league in batting at .367.

Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have both been pleasant surprises. Johnson’s posted a 119 wRC+ and Rodriguez has looked like a much-improved hitter, putting up a .326 wOBA in 60 plate appearances.

Below’s a chart of every player’ wOBA compared to their preseason projections (Fangraphs’ ZIPS projections):

Overall Grade: A-

With statistically one of the league’s best offenses, I thought the Rays deserved a high grade here. The difference between an A- and an A+ for me was the first two weeks of the season where the offense was anemic. Since late April, however, the lineup has been scorching hot.

The Rotation

“Disappointing” is the best word to describe the Rays’ starting rotation at the first quarter mark. Tampa’s starters have posted a collective 4.05 ERA (16th in MLB) and a 4.22 FIP (18th in MLB).

Shockingly, the starting pitching struggles have stemmed from the rotation’s front two: David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. Price—who’s now on the 15-day DL—is 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA through nine starts and Hellickson is 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA through eight.

There has been two bright spots in the rotation, however, as youngsters Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have both shined. Moore is an impressive 7-0 with a 2.44 ERA and a 9.56 K/9, while Cobb is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA and a rotation-leading WAR of 0.9.

Roberto Hernandez has been nothing more than decent in his first seven starts. He’s 2-4 with a 4.43 ERA, but he’s actually looked pretty encouraging. His career-high 8.65 K/9 rate, 3.43 SIERA and 3.45 xFIP are possibly signs of a comeback year for Hernandez.

Overall Grade: C-

The Bullpen

What was expected to be one of the better bullpens in baseball as turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. Tampa’s ‘pen ranks fourth worst in the league in ERA (4.67) and sixth worst in FIP (4.04).

Closer Fernando Rodney has been suprisingly lousy so far, blowing three saves in 10 opportunities to go along with a 5.28 ERA and a pair of losses. Jake McGee (8.80 ERA), Kyle Farnsworth (6.52 ERA), Jamey Wright (4.24 ERA) and Brandon Gomes (5.40 ERA) have all struggled as well.

The Rays have held leads in 34 of their 40 games this season, and have blown countless leads late in games. The bullpen is simply going to have to improve if the Rays want a shot at competing in October.

Overall Grade: D

The Defense

As expected, the Rays are one of baseballs’ strongest fielding teams. They’re tied sixth in the league in UZR at 8.6. Other notable numbers include Tampa’s 9.7 RngR, -0.3 ErrR and -1 DRS.

They have the best defensive corner-infield combo in the game with Evan Longoria and James Loney, Longoria, as usual, has been nothing short of amazing this season, leading the team with a 3.8 UZR as he continues to play like a Gold Glove caliber third baseman.

In the outfield, Desmond Jennings has done a fine job adjusting to centerfield, posting a 3.2 UZR. Sam Fuld and Matt Joyce haven’t done a very good job in the corners, but Fuld still covers plenty of ground and Kelly Johnson has bolstered the outfield defense a bit.

Johnson’s also played very well at second base thus far, owning a 0.8 UZR at the position.

At shortstop, Yunel Escobar has proven to be the defensive upgrade he was signed for. He gives the Rays the adequate-fielding everyday shortstop they haven’t had since Jason Bartlett in 2010.

As for the Rays’ catching tandem, both Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton have been below average in terms of throwing out runners and blocking pitching. It’s obviously a big minus for the overall defense, but it doesn’t erase the fact that Molina is the best framing catcher in the game.

Overall Grade: B

Rays Pummeled 10-1 by Phillies, Opening Day Roster Set

The Rays evened their Grapefruit League record to 15-15 Tuesday, losing to Philadelphia in Clearwater.

Roberto Hernandez, who was making his final start in the tight battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation with Jeff Niemann, had a rough outing. Hernandez started the day with four great innings to start off, but then collapsed in both the fifth and sixth innings.

He was scoreless in those first four innings, and was doing a very nice job enticing groundballs. He gave up nine runs in his final two innings, finishing the day this ugly line: 6 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, BB, 0 K.

Tuesday’s lineup, which featured just two Opening Day players, was very quiet throughout the ballgame. The offense compiled just three hits, the only run coming from Sean Rodriguez’s RBI double in the third inning.

Click here for a full boxscore.

♦♦♦

The Rays pretty much set their Opening Day roster Tuesday. They optioned down Brandon Gomes, leaving the final two bullpen spots to Jamey Wright and Niemann/Hernandez.

Here’s a look at the 25-man roster to start the regular season and roster moves from yesterday over at TampaBay.com.

Rays News and Notes:

  • The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation will be coming to a conclusion either today or tomorrow, as Jeff Niemann makes his final start of the spring this afternoon against the Blue Jays in Port Charlotte.
  • The Rays beat the Pirates 6-2 Monday. Matt Moore had another shaky start in that one.
  • Luke Scott could be sidelined a few days with a tightness in his right calf. It’s nice to hear that it’s not the same left hamstring issue that’s been bothering him, but it’s also upsetting to see that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy with the Rays yet for an extended period of time. As of now it looks like missing Opening Day isn’t a concern.
  • Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer will throw out the first pitch for Opening Day.
  • David Price is seen on the cover of one of six Sports Illustrated regional baseball preview issues. The issue features the Rays, and SI writers seem to really like them this year in their pre-season predictions.

Rays Lose 9-2 to Red Sox, Myers Optioned Down to AAA

The Rays were on the losing side of a 9-2 rout Saturday afternoon, dropping their eighth Grapefruit League game of the spring to the Red Sox.

Roberto Hernandez got the start, and obviously a crucial one for him as he battles Jeff Niemann for the fifth spot in the rotation. Hernandez allowed 2 [earned] runs on 6 hits, a walk and 5 strikeouts.

Relievers Jake McGee and Jamey Wright also made appearances in this game, both giving up a run in one inning each.

Not much to talk about offensively from this ballgame. Leslie Anderson, who’s now hitting .425, continued his red-hot spring with a 3-3 day.

Sean Rodriguez went 2-2, hitting a homer to provide Tampa with their two only runs.

Speaking of S-Rod, the Rays’ utility man was involved in what nearly led to a bench-clearing brawl. After being hit by a pitch by Alfredo Aceves and then being barked at, tempers flared. Here’s Rodriguez’s take on the incident.

Here’s a full boxscore of Saturday’s game.

Rays News and Notes:

  • Wil Myers, Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham, Robinson Chirinos, Hak-Ju Lee, Josh Lueke, Juan Sandoval, Wil Inman and J.D. Martin were all optioned back down to the minor leagues in the Rays’ latest rounds of cuts.
  • Matt Moore was much improved in his start during the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Phillies Friday. Moore didn’t give up a single earned run on 3 hits, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts through 5 innings. Stephen Vogt gave the Rays the victory with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning.
  • World Baseball Classic news: The United States were eliminated from the tournament by Puerto Rico Friday night after a heart-breaking 4-3 loss. Ben Zobrist went 0-2 in the game with an RBI walk, finishing the Classic 3-for-11. The Dominican Republic clinched the top seed Saturday afternoon with a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico, and Fernando Rodney picked up his fifth save of the tournament. Puerto Rico advances to face Japan in the semifinals while D.R. will square off against the Netherlands.
  • After being rejected by both Chipper Jones and Derek Lee, the New York Yankees have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch.
  • Before Friday’s game against Philadelphia, 65 members of the Rays organization shaved their head in an annual event to raise awareness and funds for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. The Phillies’ Michael Young also participated in the event.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports Sam Fuld (hamstring) won’t be returning for another 4-5 days.

Moore Continues Slow Start as Rays Lose to Red Sox 6-2

After destroying the Phillies for 15 runs with a minor-league filled lineup Saturday, the Rays had a hard time hitting Boston’s bullpen with a better lineup Sunday afternoon.

The offense compiled a total of just five hits and two runs.

Tampa Bay jumped out to an early lead in this game, scoring a pair of runs off a Yunel Escobar RBI single and an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly.

Matt Moore started the game for the Rays, hoping to get on track after having rough outings in his first two appearances. Moore pitched 3 2/3 inning, and gave up three runs thanks to one bad pitch: a three-run homer off the bat of David Ross.

The other three Boston runs were given up by Juan Sandoval, who hasn’t made a good case for a spot in the ‘pen thus far.

Here’s a full boxscore of yesterday’s ballgame.

Rays News and Notes:

Rays Trounce Pirates 8-2, Win Fifth Straight

The Rays extended their Grapefruit League winning streak to five Wednesday afternoon with a 8-2 victory over the Pirates in Bradenton.

Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson both made their spring debuts. Niemann pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, and Hellickson followed with a scoreless outing of his own—allowing three hits, no walks and striking out two through 1 2/3 innings pitched.

MLB Future Game southpaws Felipe Rivero and Enny Romero both made appearances in this game. Rivero allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings and Romero tossed one scoreless inning.

Offensive notables from yesterday include prospect Tim Beckham, Luke Scott and Jose Molina, who all had good games at the plate. Beckham went 2-2 with a double and a triple, Scott also went 2-2 with an RBI, and Molina went 2-3 with an RBI as well.

Here’s a full boxscore of the game.

Rays News and Notes:

  • The Rays return to Port Charlotte to take on the Tigers today at 1:05. Lots to watch for today as Evan Longoria returns to the lineup, Luke Scott make his first start in the outfield since 2011, Matt Moore makes his spring training debut (in relief), and the ESPN Baseball Tonight bus stops by Rays camp. Here’s today’s lineup.
  • MLBTradeRumors.com put together an offseason review of the Rays.

Ranking the Rays’ New-Look Rotation in the Tough AL East

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Tampa Bay Rays fans have been spoiled by great starting pitching over the past few years. Although the rotation has had a bit of a different look each season, the overall result has been positive year after year.

The secret to the Rays’ starting pitching success is homegrown talent, which is the reason why many are expecting the Rays’ rotation to have yet another excellent season in 2013. No organization develops young pitchers into quality major league starters like the Rays do.

In 2013, Tampa is faced with a new challenge: Replacing James Shields—an ace who provides the team with over 200 innings.

With Shields, the Rays had the best rotation in all of baseball last season. Without him, it’ll be very tough to be as dominant.

The starting five will be led by Cy Young Award winner David Price, followed by Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. The fifth spot in the rotation will be competed for by four pitchers—Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona), Jeff Niemann, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.

The Rays have eight starters in the mix that would make the starting rotation on almost all MLB clubs, and not many teams—if any—can say that.

Tampa Bay is not the only team in the AL East that’ll show off their arms in 2013, though, as the division will only get tougher this year. There are some exciting new starting pitching additions—most notably on the Blue Jays—that aren’t going to make Rays hitters’ lives any easier.

Without further delay, here’s my ranking of the five AL East rotations.

5. Boston Red Sox

Starting pitching has been by far Boston’s biggest weakness in recent years. They struggled mightily in the department last year, posting a 5.19 ERA and a 4.69 FIP.

The rotation will have to make up for the key loss of Josh Beckett, but will get some help from offseason acquisition Ryan Dempster. The Red Sox will also be without Vincente Padilla and Aaron Cook this season, so starting pitching depth will probably be just as bad as it was last year.

Projected Opening Day Rotation

1) Jon Lester

2) Clay Buchholz

3) Ryan Dempster

4) Felix Doubront

5) John Lackey

As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range between this rotation’s ceiling and floor of potential.

If the front three pitch to their potential with some sort of consistency, the Sox could have a pretty good trio of starters. On the other hand, none of these starters had a good season in 2012 besides for Dempster, and even he fell apart after being traded to Texas mid-season and making his American League debut.

In addition, Boston’s rotation is an injury or two away from being in a very difficult situation due to their shallowness in the organization starting pitching wise.

The Red Sox really did not due enough this offseason to address their starting pitching issues. The only starter they signed is 35 years old, and is a lot more likely to go on a decline rather than improve.

If I’m GM Ben Cherington right now, I’m making a serious run at veteran Kyle Lohse, who still remains on the free agent market. Another option is trading away a bat for some young starting pitching talent.

4. New York Yankees

Like the Red Sox, starting pitching has been far from a strong point for the Yankees in the past years.

However, they have a great one-two punch in ace C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, who both had excellent seasons last year. Both do a great job eating up innings (posting 200+ each in 2012) and racking up wins (combined for 31 in 2012).

Andy Pettitte joined the staff later in the season, and did a nice job putting up a 2.87 ERA through 75.1 innings pitched.

The Yanks didn’t get much production from Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, though.

Projected Opening Day Rotation

1) C.C. Sabathia

2) Hiroki Kuroda

3) Andy Pettitte

4) Phil Hughes

5) Ivan Nova

The only two pitchers in this rotation that Yankees fans can really expect to have good years are Sabathia and Kuroda. Pettitte was very impressive in his comeback last season, but his age and recent injury history make him a big question mark.

The biggest concern for the Yankees regarding starting pitching is their depth, which is scary shallow. The only pitcher backing up the starting five is David Phelps, and they don’t have any good farm talent that can help them in the near future.

Michael Pineda would be a big part part of this rotation, but he won’t join the team until later in the year due to the same injury that shelved him for the entire 2012 season.

3. Baltimore Orioles

Starting pitching was definitely not one of the Baltimore’s strong suits during their Cinderella 2012 season. They depended heavily on their outstanding bullpen, which managed to get the job done when the rotation didn’t.

This year the Orioles’ staff could see an upgrade with the acquisition of Jair Jurrjens.

Projected Opening Day Rotation

1) Jason Hammel

2) Wei-Yin Chen

3) Chris Tillman

4) Miguel Gonzalez

5) Jair Jurrjens

The Orioles have a rotation that could have five solid starters. All of the front four above posted an ERA south of four last year.

As for the fifth spot, it will be competed for by seven different pitchers, and I’m predicting that Jiar Jurrjens wins the job. Jurrjens didn’t play much in 2012 due to injury, but we all saw the kind of damage he’s capable of doing after an ace-like 2011 campaign.

If he returns to full health this season, AL East hitters could be facing yet another menace on the mound.

Depth-wise, the O’s are actually in a pretty good state. Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter could all fill in case someone in the starting five gets hurt or struggles. Phenom prospect Dylan Bundy could also contribute later in the season if needed.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays did more than any team in baseball to bolster their pitching staff this offseason, adding three big-name pitchers in Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

Toronto fans have to be excited about their rotation this season, especially after having such a weak one last year. The Jays’ rotation was the AL East’s worst in 2012, finishing the year with a 4.82 ERA.

Projected Opening Day Rotation

1) R.A. Dickey

2) Brandon Morrow

3) Mark Buehrle

4) Josh Johnson

5) Ricky Romero

What Toronto has is a rotation of four pitchers (Dickey, Buehrle, Johnson and Romero) who have all been stars at some point in their career not so long ago. Even Brandon Morrow has shown he has star potential, and seems to be heading in that direction after an impressive 2012 season.

The front four of the starting five are expected to be solid in 2013, with Ricky Romero probably being the biggest question mark. Romero came into the 2012 season with sky-high expectations as the team’s ace, but ended up having an atrocious year going 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA (MLB worst for starters with 20-plus starts).

If he can return even close to his 2011 form, nobody should be surprised to see the Jays emerge as the new Beasts of the East.

The Blue Jays’ rotation does have some depth to it as well, with J.A. Happ, Brett Cecil and Brad Lincoln serving as security starters.

1) Tampa Bay Rays

Numbers really tell the story of the Rays’ starting rotation in 2012. Tampa’s staff led the league in ERA (3.34), strikeouts (900) and opponents’ average (.234).

Projected Starting Rotation

1) David Price

2) Jeremy Hellickson

3) Matt Moore

4) Alex Cobb

5) Jeff Niemann/Roberto Hernandez

As I said before, it’s going to be tough for the Rays’ rotation to repeat their amazing performance from last season, especially without James Shields.

Although they may not have their workhorse anymore, what the Rays do have now is Chris Archer, Roberto Hernandez and Jake Odorizzi—who are all major league quality starters that they didn’t have in the beginning of last season.

With such great depth, Tampa Bay should be able to make up for the loss of Shields, and will likely put out one of the league’s best rotations once again.

Tampa Bay Rays Season in Review

The 2012 season may not be one to remember for Tampa Bay Rays fans. Despite winning 90 games in baseball’s toughest division, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Considering the high expectations put upon the Rays coming into spring training, many look back at the season as a disappointment.

One word that could used to describe the Rays in 2012 is ‘unlucky’. Not only did they have to play through injury after injury throughout the entire season, but they also saw the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland A’s both have shockingly great seasons in the same year`, ultimately costing them a spot in the postseason.

Even with all these obstacles, Tampa Bay still could have very possibly made the playoffs. They lost a handful of games that could have been one and had their fair share of awful offensive performances as well.

Let’s take a look back at the Rays’ season as a whole; evaluating what went wrong, what went right, and which players are worthy of team awards.

 

The Offense:

Just like it has been in the previous years, offense once again was the team’s biggest weakness in 2012. The numerous injuries were obviously a huge reason for the Rays’ lack of production, but even some names in the lineups—such as Carlos Pena, Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings—underproduced causing the Rays major problems scoring runs throughout the season.

Relative to expectations and projections for Tampa coming into the season, the Rays actually only slightly underproduced offensively. A thorough article done by Jason Hanselman at the TheRaysWay.com evaluates how well the Rays hit compared to preseason projections by looking at every players wOBA and wRAA. Below is a table: 

What the Rays saw this year is just how shallow their offensive depth is in their organization. Unlike in previous years, they dealt with a large amount of injuries in their lineup and constantly had to call up replacements. As you can see from the numbers, those replacements couldn’t give the Rays any kind of boost that was needed and the injuries would prove to sting as badly as feared.

Team Stats:

Runs: 18th (697) in MLB

Batting average: T-27th (.240)

wOBA: T-16th (.311)

RBI: 17th (665)

Walks: 1st (571)

Stolen Bases: T-5th (134), T-2nd in AL

Team Leaders (500+ PA’s):

BA: Ben Zobrist (.270)

wOBA: Ben Zobrist (.365)

RBI: B.J. Upton (78)

HR: B.J. Upton (28)

wRC+: Ben Zobrist (137)

SB: Desmond Jennings/B.J. Upton (31)

* Evan Longoria and Jeff Keppinger both had under 500 PA’s this season

 

The Pitching

The Rays pitching once again was every bit as good as advertised, and more in 2012. The staff’s ridiculously good season was one of the best in modern baseball history and the best in the majors this year. Tampa’s pitching (including bullpen) led all of baseball in ERA (3.19), FIP (3.51), opponents batting average (.228) and strikeouts (set the AL record team record with 1,383).

The Starters:

David Price – The Cy Young hopeful enjoyed his best season yet thus far in his impressive young career, winning 20 games while posting a 2.56 ERA through 211 innings at the top of the Rays’ rotation. Justin Verlander, who also had an outstanding year, is the only pitcher that stands in the way of some hardware for Price this November. Both make great cases for the award and it should be fun to watch who prevails in the voting. The Rays saw the flame-throwing southpaw continue to develop as an ace in 2012, maturing with his pitch selection as well as with his command. The future looks extremely bright for him.

James Shields – In what could be his last year with the Rays, Shields had himself another successful season with Tampa Bay. He again proved to be one of the most efficient and consistent starters in the league, posting a 15-10 record with a 3.52 ERA through 227.2 innings pitched. He also recorded the most strikeouts of anybody in the rotation (223) while walking the least batters out of the four starters with 150+ IP. Even with all the great pitching talent in the organization, the Rays will no doubt miss Shields next year if he doesn’t return.

Jeremy Hellickson – After taking home the AL Rookie of the Year award last year, Hellickson did a nice job avoiding a sophomore slump in 2012. He hit some rough patches during the season but overall had himself a fine year, posting a 3.10 ERA through 177 innings pitched.

Matt Moore – After a sensational first impression in the big leagues last year as a mid-season call-up at the young age of 22, the top prospect phenom experienced a bumpy roller coaster ride in 2012. As Moore has done in his past years in the minors, he struggled early in the season, posting an ERA in the high 4′s for the first two months and then struggling again late in the season posting an ERA north of 5 in the last month. As expected, fastball command was his biggest issue throughout the year. Overall it wasn’t a bad season at all though, and he’ll likely become a ace-type pitcher very soon with some minor adjustments.

Jeff Niemann – Unfortunately injuries absolutely ruined Niemann’s 2012 season, and it wasn’t the first time in his career either. As he started to heat up in the month of May, he was hit hard by Tampa’s injury plague, taking a hard liner to the leg sidelining the big right-hander for months. He wouldn’t even pitch as much as four innings after that, as a shoulder injury in his first start back in September ended his season for good. Niemann would end the year with a 3.08 ERA through eight starts (38 innings pitched).

Alex Cobb – Just as he did in 2011, Cobb was called up to replace the injured Niemann and did a fine job doing so. He would pitch as much as 136.1 innings by the end of year, posting an 11-9 record with a solid 4.03 ERA. We’ll likely see Cobb continue to contribute to the back end of the Rays’ rotation in the years to come.

Chris Archer – Another top prospect arm, Archer experiences his first taste in the big leagues in 2012. He made four starts for the Rays and posted a 3.80 ERA, showing off his high potential with some impressive major league caliber stuff.

Bullpen:

The Rays’ top-notch rotation was followed up by a bullpen that was one of baseball’s best as well. The ‘pen posted an AL-best ERA of 2.88, a MLB-best FIP of 3.19, AL-best K/9 of 9.33 and an MLB-best opponent’s average of .205. Featured in Tampa’s bullpen was baseball’s best reliever: Fernando Rodney. The flamethrowing closer set the all-time MLB record among relief pitchers for ERA  with a 0.60 mark while recording 48 saves out of 50 opportunities (although only one BS was his fault). The ‘pen was also strengthened by Wade Davis, who did a nice job in his transition from starter to long-reliever. Jake McGee is another name worth mentioning. The young fireballer displayed his sky-high potential by posting a 1.95 ERA with an 11.87 K/9 as a middle reliever.

 

Pleasant Surprises:

  • Jeff Keppinger – When signed by the Rays as somewhat of an extra infielder, nobody thought Keppinger would put the impressive offensive numbers that he did. The 32-year-old veteran hit .325 with a .352 wOBA and 128 wRC+ in 418 plate appearances.
  • Fernando Rodney – Not only was Rodney the most pleasant surprise with the Rays this year, but he was also the most pleasant surprise in all of baseball. After struggling in the past couple of seasons with the Angels, Rodney revived himself in Tampa Bay in 2012, earning him the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. His historical season also earned him a much-deserved Deliverman Award (acknowledging the league’s best reliever).

     

Disappointments:

  • Carlos Pena – Pena was brought back to Tampa Bay in order to give the Rays consistent run production in the middle of the lineup, but miserably failed to do so this season. The veteran first baseman hit .197 (an MLB low) while knocking in a career-low (for full seasons) RBI total 62 and a career-low home run total of 19.
  • Luke Scott – Like Pena, Scott was acquired in the offseason for the same reasons except for DH duties. He too failed to put up the offensive numbers expected from him, posting a .229/.285/.439 line with just 55 RBI. Injuries were issue as well, and caused him to play just 96 games all season.
  • Sean Rodriguez – Sadly, Rodriguez was the Rays’ best choice for the starting shortstop role at the beginning of the season, and he proved to be probably the worst overall in the league. Offensively he struggled mightily, ending the year with a wOBA of .269 and a wRC+ of 71. Defensively he wasn’t much better either, as he committed a team-high 11 errors.

     

Team Awards:

Team MVP: Ben Zobrist

Best Pitcher: David Price

Best Offensive Player: Ben Zobrist

Why Matt Moore Will Become a Superstar in 2013

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The 2012 season was a bumpy roller coaster ride for 23-year-old Matt Moore. After a sensational performance in 2011 as a late season call-up, many expected Moore to have an outstanding rookie year. It hasn’t been a bad year for Moore at all, but it hasn’t been such a great one either.

The phenom southpaw went 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, 8.88 K/9, .235 opponent’s average and a 3.93 FIP in the back end of baseball’s best rotation. Those numbers are obviously still very good for a 23-year-old rookie in his first season pitching over 150 innings.

The future for Moore is extremely bright, and I expect him to become a superstar as early as next season. Here are my two reasons why.

His Command Will Improve

There were probably a few factors to Matt Moore’s on-and-off struggles during the season, but the his main issue throughout the year was clearly his fastball command. Spotty command among young talented flamethrowers is obviously very common and usually a weakness for most rookies alike.

As I like to do for most of my articles about Matt Moore, let’s compare him with teammate David Price. With all of the amazing similarities among the two (left-handers, rookie seasons, age during same stages in career, style of pitching, prospect hype, etc.), nobody serves as a better comparison for Moore than Price does.

Looking at how Price’s command was in his rookie year gives us reasonable hope that Moore can develop into a superstar like Price did and probably as quickly as he did.

This year Moore walked 10.7% of batters faced and threw 37% balls, while Price—in his [first full] rookie season—walked 9.7% of batters faced and also threw 37% balls; all at about the same age. Price went 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA through 128.1 innings pitched that year.

In his sophomore year (2010), Price’s command improved as both his ball percentage and walk percentage decreased, and down with it went his ERA. He enjoyed an outstanding season, winning 19 games and finishing runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award.

Considering how similar Moore and Price are and the fact that they play in the same organization with the same surroundings, I really expect Moore to have an ace-like season in 2013 if his command can improve like Price’s did.

He Will Continue to Mature as a Pitcher

What’s the difference between a 23-year-old rookie pitcher and a 24-year-old pitcher in his second season? For David Price that difference was significant, and hopefully Moore can make the same adjustments he did in order to breakout into the Cy Young caliber player he’s capable of being.

With good coaching and hard work Price came into his second season as a much more polished pitcher, with better fastball velocity and a different lineup of pitches. The speed on his fastball increased drastically, as much as over 2 MPH on his four-seamers.

He also changed his repertoire and heavily incorporated two new pitches—the two-seam fastball and the curveball, which were hardly used at all in his rookie year. Price expanded his arsenal from a simple three-pitch one to a veteran-like five-pitch one, essentially transforming him from a ‘thrower’ to a ‘pitcher’.

These kind of adjustments will likely be seen from Moore when he returns to the field this spring. His average fastball velocity of [a bit over] 94 MPH will likely increase as he adds mass, and his arsenal—which currently consists of four pitches (four-seam, two-seam, changeup, slider)—will probably expand as well along with adjustments in his pitch selection.

Pitch F/X data in this article was used from FanGraphs.com and TexasLeaguers.com.

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