...That Andy Sonnanstine is starting tonight.
I refuse to be results-based with my judgments of Joe Maddon. I am not going to wait to see what happens tonight with Andy Sonnanstine’s performance before I second-guess the manager. I am going to question the decision to send him out to the hill RIGHT NOW, before the game. I hope to Boggs that I am wrong about this, but I see no reason whatsoever that Andy Sonnanstine is pitching tonight.
Do any of you have any confidence that the Rays will win tonight’s game with Sonnanstine on the hill? More importantly, do any of the other players in the lineup think the Rays will win the game with Sonnanstine pitching?
Sonnanstine was very serviceable last season and worked well as a number 5 pitcher. He averaged 6 innings a start, held opponents to a .277 average and only walked 37 all season. He ended the season 13-9 and his ERA was 4.38. These numbers are solid for a number 5 starter.
In 10 starts this season, he is averaging just about 5 innings per start, he is allowing an alarming batting average of .340, and has already walked 16 batters. In 2008, it was his 15th start before he walked his 16th batter. His current record is 3-5, and his ERA is 7.66.
I don’t want too much out of Sonnanstine. I ask for 6 innings of 3-4 runs. If he gives the Rays that consistently, he will have a winning record. So far in 2009, he cannot do that.
The season is already a third of the way over. How long of a leash can we give this guy? Joe Maddon preaches patience for all of his players. In the case of a starting pitcher who struggles to get out of the 5th inning and can’t hold a 5 run lead, how patient can a manager afford to be? Is it better to be too tolerant and let the problem fix itself or be proactive and not set the team up for failure? I would say that Maddon should be patient and let Sonnanstine fix the problem IF Andy were showing signs of improvement. He looked good against Florida, but Sonnanstine was also spotted 13 runs by the 4th inning and the game was over, he had no worries. In Sonnanstine’s next outing, he was given a 5 run cushion against Cleveland in the 1st in what seemed to be a recipe for success. By the time his outing ended, he had lost the lead, giving up 8 runs in 3 short innings. The Rays lost 12-7, unable to recover from Sonnanstine’s poor outing. In Sonnanstine’s last 4 starts, the only game in which he gave up less than 5 runs was the Florida blowout. Sonnanstine is regressing, not improving. Having fallen 6 games back in the AL East, Joe Maddon needs to start managing with a sense of urgency. If he keeps preaching patience, come early October we all will already be patiently waiting for pitchers and catchers to report.
The other reason that Andy Sonnanstine should not be starting tonight is because Joe Maddon has other and better alternatives. Maddon’s first option would be to just have Sonnanstine skip his start. Yesterday was an off day, meaning that Jeff Niemman (who has been steadily improving in case you didn’t notice) could pitch today on normal rest. This could give Sonnanstine that kick in the rear that he needs to find his game. Another choice would be to call up a pitcher from the minors and let Sonnanstine find his game in Durham. Sonnanstine has 3 options and does not have enough Major League service to require permission to be sent down. Both Wade Davis and Carlos Hernandez are very close to earning a spot on the big league club. I trust either of these pitchers to at least give the Rays a chance to win in a game that they start. Right now, I don’t have that same faith in Andy Sonnanstine.
As I said earlier, I really hope I get proven wrong. I hope Sonnanstine throws a gem that reinstates our confidence in him and forces Joe Maddon to keep him in the rotation. I don’t see that happening. If you want to try to convince me that you believe in Andy Sonnanstine and you believe he has a solid chance tonight, I would also love to hear your argument as to why you believe OJ was innocent. Please, Joe Maddon, give me one reason as to why Andy Sonnanstine is starting tonight. I don’t think you can, and the rationale for this is not rocket science.
-The Rocket Scientist