Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rays Rotation

Ladies and gentlemen, per manager Joe Maddon, as of today here is your 2014 Tampa Bay Rays opening day starting rotation.

Photo Credits:
Top Left: Alex Cobb, by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Top Right: Matt Moore, by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Middle: David Price, by Ronald Martinez
/Getty Images
Bottom Left: Chris Archer, by J. Meric
/Getty Images
Bottom Right: Jake Odorizzi,by Leon Halip
/Getty Images

Saturday, January 4, 2014
Unhittable
This is a color-enhanced GIF of an RA Dickey knuckleball in flight created by a Reddit user (click here for a larger version).
Hat tip to Baseball Nation (part of SB Nation).

Unhittable

This is a color-enhanced GIF of an RA Dickey knuckleball in flight created by a Reddit user (click here for a larger version).

Hat tip to Baseball Nation (part of SB Nation).

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Rookies of the Year

Not that I have a vote, but if I did they would go to Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins for the 2013 AL and NL Rookie of the Year award.

The choice of Myers over American League finalists Chris Archer and Jose Iglesias was an easy one for me. Myers came into the season as the highly touted 2012 Minor League Player of the Year and with all the expectations that came with that recognition. All he did was live up to those expectations, posting a .293/.354/.478 slash line with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 373 plate appearances over 88 games. His WAR (Fangraphs version) of 2.4 also bested Archer’s 1.2 and Iglesias’ 1.8.

The National League race though was much closer for me. You couldn’t take your eyes off the Dodgers Yasiel Puig whether he was at bat, on the basepaths or in the field. However I decided to give the nod to Fernandez, who held opposing hitters to a league best .182 batting average against and a league low .265 slugging percentage against. His 2.19 ERA also trails only the two-time defending (and likely 2013) NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Want more? His 0.98 WHIP finished behind only Kershaw (0.92) and Mets phenom Matt Harvey (0.93). For what its worth, Fernandez’s 4.2 Fangraphs WAR also bested Puig’s 4.0 and Miller’s 2.1.

Photo Credits:
Left: Wil Myers, photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Right: Jose Fernandez, photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wow.

That was Rangers closer Joe Nathan’s reaction on the strike three call by home plate umpire Marty Foster last night. Foster’s dubious call gave Nathan his 300th career save.

Insert references to Eric Gregg and Angel Hernandez here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

200 Words on Fred McGriff

I was invited to participate in a project by Graham Womack of BaseballPastandPresent.com, called “The 50 Best Baseball Players Not in the Hall of Fame.”  My assignment was 200 words on Fred McGriff (After a few drafts, I managed to hit 200 words on the button). The amazing roster of contributors includes Dan Szymborski of ESPN, Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone columnist Dan Epstein, former Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans and a bevy of talented writers and baseball minds. The project was published January 2, 2013.

I have a byline!

Thank you Graham for the invitation. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to next year’s voting.

Here is my contribution on Fred McGriff, who finished tied for 26th in this year’s voting.

When he retired in 2004, I thought Fred McGriff was a pretty solid bet to gain eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. His overall mark of 493 home runs ties him with the immortal Lou Gehrig at tenth currently all-time for first basemen (Pujols should pass them both sometime in 2013.) His 2,239 games played as a first basemen place him third all time. In his fifteen seasons as a full-time player from 1988 to 2002, his 458 home runs, 1460 RBI, 2329 hits and 59.5 fWAR rank third, second, third and fifth respectively among first basemen. A five-time All-Star, McGriff was somehow not named an All-Star in 1989 and 1993, seasons in which he later won the Silver Slugger award. McGriff also won the Silver Slugger award in 1992. Though he never won an MVP award, McGriff did finish in the top ten of the voting six times.

At this time though, McGriff seems more likely to be inducted into the infomercial hall of fame than into Cooperstown. The time capsule that was his television commercial endorsement of a baseball instructional video set first aired in 1991 and aired over 100,000 more times unchanged as recently as 2006.

Photo Credits:
Top Left, photo by John Bazemore, AP
Top Right, photo by James Escher
Middle Left, photo by Juan Ocampo/Dodgers
Bottom Left, screencap by PitchersandPoets
Bottom Right, photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If I Had a Vote (Part Three)

AL Cy Young: David Price (Rays)

The award could go to any of the finalists (Price, Verlander and Weaver) and I would have no problem with it. It really is a tossup for me. Some were previously advocating Fernando Rodney before the finalists were announced. He had an outstanding season as well, but I would be hard pressed to give the award to a reliever given the respective seasons that Price, Verlander and Weaver had. So, why Price? Well, I predicted he would win the award in my preseason picks. He also led the AL in wins (tied with Weaver at 20), winning percentage (again tied with Weaver), and ERA. It’s hard to pick anyone over Verlander though, who led the AL in WAR, strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and adjusted ERA+ while receiving the fourth lowest run support. Can I change my vote?

NL Cy Young: RA Dickey (Mets)

Last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, had another outstanding season this year, leading the NL in WAR, ERA, and WHIP. My vote though goes to knuckleballer RA Dickey, who led the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, while also finishing second in wins and ERA. He also finished third in WHIP, mere percentage points behind Kershaw and Matt Cain.

Photo Credits:
David Price, by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
RA Dickey, photo by Kevin C Cox/Getty Images 

Monday, May 21, 2012
Pirate Drew, We Hardly Knew Ye
Today, less than 24 hours after being traded by the Braves to the Pirates for cash considerations, Drew Sutton was acquired by the Rays for the proverbial player to be named later. The switch-hitting Sutton, who has experience at all infield positions, had hit .267/.373/.363 in 37 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves this season. He has a .258/.322/.403 slash line in 178 major league plate appearances with the Reds, Red Sox and Indians. Sutton will join the Rays in Tampa for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays.

Pirate Drew, We Hardly Knew Ye

Today, less than 24 hours after being traded by the Braves to the Pirates for cash considerations, Drew Sutton was acquired by the Rays for the proverbial player to be named later. The switch-hitting Sutton, who has experience at all infield positions, had hit .267/.373/.363 in 37 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves this season. He has a .258/.322/.403 slash line in 178 major league plate appearances with the Reds, Red Sox and Indians. Sutton will join the Rays in Tampa for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time Capsule

In 2004, The Aviator starring Leonado DiCaprio as Howard Hughes won the Oscar for Best Picture. In 2004, the top song according to Billboard Magazine was Yeah! by Lil’ Jon, Usher and Ludacris. In 2004, President George W. Bush was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2004, Justin Timberlake “inadvertently” flashed Janet Jackson’s full breast during a live broadcast of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. And on April 20, 2004, then 25-year old outfielder Rich Thompson made his first major league plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Kansas City Royals in a 15-5 blowout win over the Cleveland Indians. He grounded into a double play against catcher Tim Laker who pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning.

Last night, now 33-year old Rich Thompson made his first MLB start as the Tampa Bay Rays left fielder.  In the bottom of the third inning, 8 years and 25 days after his last MLB at-bat, Thompson made his second MLB at-bat.

He struck out. Looking.

But…

… in his next plate appearance, he grounded a ball up the middle for his first hit and his first RBI as Sean Rodriguez scored on the play. He would go on to steal second base and then later third as well.

Thompson had been playing the past five seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he is the franchise leader in games (468), hits (452) and stolen bases (134). In 29 games this season, he had hit .307 with 11 RBI and 7 stolen bases. The IronPigs manager, Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg, had this to say of Thompson in a recent article by Philly.com, “He’s a guy you pull for. I pull for him as much as anyone, just for him to have that chance (to return to the majors).”

This past Wednesday, the Rays, beset by injuries to outfielders Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings, traded 25-year old minor league outfielder Kyle Hudson to Philadelphia for Thompson and immediately added Thompson to their 25-man roster. Sandberg himself told Thompson the news.

This documentary by tv2sports.com follows a day in the life of Rich Thompson - father, husband and professional baseball player.

I love what I do, and I feel very fortunate for the things afforded to me because of what I do, but being a professional baseball player has to be the coolest job ever.

Photos by Kim Klement, US PRESSWIRE

Friday, April 6, 2012
You Can Go Home Again
First baseman Carlos Peña drove in the first and last runs of the game to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-6 walk-off victory over the division rival New York Yankees. Peña, who signed as a free agent this past winter after a year away from Tampa, hit a first inning grand slam off CC Sabathia, and then drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th with a drive off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera that hit the bottom of the left-center wall. Both hits came after the Yankees had intentionally walked the bases full.
Photo by Phelan Ebenhack/AP

You Can Go Home Again

First baseman Carlos Peña drove in the first and last runs of the game to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-6 walk-off victory over the division rival New York Yankees. Peña, who signed as a free agent this past winter after a year away from Tampa, hit a first inning grand slam off CC Sabathia, and then drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th with a drive off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera that hit the bottom of the left-center wall. Both hits came after the Yankees had intentionally walked the bases full.

Photo by Phelan Ebenhack/AP

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

30 Clubs in 30 Days, Day 24 - Tampa Bay Rays

I’ve mentioned before that I’m fond of the Rays alternate light blue jersey, which I have not yet added to my collection. I also kinda like the team. Not because they manage to contend against the big budget teams, but because they seem like a fun collection of guys. Their manager Joe Maddon is hipster cool too. They need a new place to play though.

I’ve watched two games inside the Tropicana Field dome. The lighting reminded me of a hospital waiting room, and it is unacceptable that the catwalks suspended over the field are actually in play. Here are the ground rules for the catwalks (source - Tampa Bay Rays website):

Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over fair territory:

  • Batted ball that strikes either of the lower two catwalks, lights or suspended objects in fair territory: HOME RUN.
  • Batted ball that is not judged a home run and remains on a catwalk, light or suspended object: TWO BASES.
  • Batted ball that is not judged a home run and strikes a catwalk, light or suspended object in fair territory shall be judged fair or foul in relation to where it strikes the ground or is touched by a fielder. If caught by fielder, batter is out and runners advance at own risk.
  • Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over foul territory: DEAD BALL
Photo credits
Ben Zobrist, by Jim Davis/Boston Globe
Josh Hamilton, AP Photo
Kyle Farnsworth, by Jason Behnken/Tampa Bay Online