Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Blues

Short post from me today, as I am too depressed about yesterday's game to muster much analysis, wit, or whatever. Though I am not yet ready to call the season over (as the folks over at Rays Index have done), the odds are certainly long. It's too bad. David Price threw an absolute gem of a game on Saturday, and Jeff Niemann was his usual, consistent self, going strong through seven full on Sunday. Even Balfour, who might oughtta be the goat here, looked great through two batters. But keeping him in, walking Granderson, bringing up Polanco with a chance to win it...these things are baffling. I'm not going to rage on Joe Maddon or anything. That guy's done too much good for the team and deserves some slack, even when he does things that are totally boneheaded and end up in disastrous, season-ending taters.

Here're Curtis Grandersons lefty/righty splits: AVG.181/.288; OPS .509/926. Why not bring in Choate or Shouse? Why not let Balfour go after Granderson, instead of putting him on first? Why not win the game? After Niemann turns in an effort like that, after the Rays have a lead in the 8th against a very good pitcher, it sucks to lose. I don't mean to be alarmist or defeatist, but it does start to feel like this is happening to the Rays' season.

Shields vs. Washburn today in a game the Rays need to win if they want to keep things interesting into September.

- Dustin

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How Much Will the Kaz Deal Cost the Rays This Season?

Let's gather some perspective on whether or not dealing Kazmir is a matter of waving the white flag for the 2009 season:

The facts:
  • Kazmir would have made 7 more regular season starts- at the most. More likely 6 due to the possibility for a 6th starter in September or a reshuffling of the rotation in order to make a playoff push.
  • Kazmir's career numbers show us that he wins about 55% of his starts.


  • Lets assume Kaz would've won 4 of those 6 or 7 remaining starts (as per his career numbers).
  • Lets also assume, for the sake of argument, that Sonnanstine gets the call-up. Sonny's career numbers show us that he wins 49% of his starts.
  • So given those numbers can't we assume that he (Sonny) would be most likely to win 3 of those 6 or 7 starts?

Given that set of facts and using a very reasonable set of assumptions isn't fair to say that trading Kazmir should potentially only cost the Rays 1 game?

Most likely the Rays now have the salary space to excercise their option on CC for next season and all it cost them in terms of success was 1 game in 2009 (a campaign which is holding-on by a thread anyways). From that angle it looks like a smart move.

Its hard to argue with that logic, but go ahead and try, I dare ya.

CHEESE & WHINE: Whatever

Rays: 2
Tigers: 6

  • Nope.


  • Matt Garza.


  • Grab hold of the towel and prepare to throw it in.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Holy K-rap

UPDATE (Sat. 10:20 AM)
After the deal kept coming and going, and no one could make up their mind I decided to back off of the story until it unfolded more clearly. Now it has:
Kaz has been traded to LAA who are now responsible for the remainder of his contract. The Rays receive the aforementioned prospects as well as a player to be named later (more info about the PTBNL over at Rays Index).

Thus ends the Scott Kazmir era in Tampa Bay. Thanks for all the great games and all the joy that you brought us just 5 innings at a time.

The most significant part of this deal is that it now seems very likely that the Rays will be able to exercise their option on CC and keep the face of the franchise around for a while longer. Desmond Jennings and Fernando Perez just had some air let out of their tires since the opportunity to take CC's roster spot next season now seems less likely than ever. Time will tell.

UPDATE (4:50 PM)
Several sources are now reporting that the deal has been finalized, despite the fact that Kazmir was completely in the dark as of approximately 20 minutes ago. If Kaz was truly blindsided by this move I am extremely disappointed with the Rays on several levels.

Just popped-in over at Rays Index to get smacked in the face by this headline:

"Angels close to deal for Kazmir"


I'm baffled.
Anyways, here's the article (per

By Lyle Spencer /
08/28/09 3:28 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- The Angels are on the verge of bolstering their beleaguered rotation for the stretch run by trading for left-hander Scott Kazmir from the Rays for a
pair of prospects, a club source told

The Rays will get pitcher Alexander Torres and third baseman Matthew Sweeney in return in the deal, which is expected to be announced later today.

Kazmir is 8-7 this season with a 5.92 ERA in 20 starts for the Rays.

With Price ready to be shutdown or bullpen bound what is the next move? Wade Davis? Angels (now Rays') prospect Torres? Andy Sonnanstine? I'll sleep on it, or see what moves the Rays make tonight. Maybe the TV guys will have the answers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Here there be Tigers

With the off day today and the depressing loss last night, I thought it might be nice to look towards the near future. So, here are some thoughts on the upcoming pitching match-ups in the Rays-Tigers series.

Friday: Matt Garza vs. Rick Porcello

It's hard to overstate the importance of a win on Friday, and, if Garza brings his Good Garza stuff, he's the guy to make sure the Rays get it. On the other hand, if Bad Garza shows up it means trouble for the often offensively challenged Rays. The Rays will probably need Good Garza because they're up against a rookie pitcher who they've never seen before, which means they're likely to make the kid look like a Cy Young contender. Porcello has been a major contributor to the "success" the Tigers have had this year, and after a shaky July he seems to have righted the ship in August. He has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP at home this year, which means that, if the Rays can avoid flailing wildly away at the plate, they might get a few free base-runners from him. The key to this game, however, is probably Garza, who is 0-3 in five starts against the Tigers with a 4.94 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP (at Tigers Stadium: 0-1 in two starts, 6.10 ERA, 1.68 WHIP). Let's be optimistic and assume Good Garza shows up and the Rays take the opener.

Saturday: David Price vs. Nate Robertson

Armando Galaraga was sent down to AAA to rest an inflamed elbow, so the Rays will see Nate Robertson, who is himself returning from the DL. The bad news about this is that Robertson is a leftie, and it's said he's pitched very well in his rehab starts. The good news is that Robertson is a poor fielder who was awful out of the pen for most of the year and who hasn't started yet this season. Maybe, just maybe, the Rays can get to him in a big way (instead of making him look like a freaking ace like they did for Rzepczynski). They'll probably need to do exactly that if Price brings the 8.07 ERA, 2.27 WHIP stuff he's brought on road trips so far this season. I'll be pleasantly surprised if the Rays win this one, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.

Sunday: (tba) vs. Justin Verlander

Verlander is a hard-throwing strikeout machine who needs no introduction. He's the kind of pitcher who's capable of killing Rays hitters, but they're also capable of hitting hard-thrown stuff. The Rays' pitcher TBA is probably Niemann (at least, it's Niemann's spot and I'd be shocked if someone else took it), so I actually like their chances of winning this one.

Monday: James Shields vs Jarrod Washburn

Washburn is a flyball pitcher, so it's no surprise he's struggled since coming over from flyball-friendly Safeco Field. That said, in April Washburn beat the Rays soundly, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks over seven innings of work (with a season-best nine strikeouts to boot). Shields has struggled at times with his stuff and his command, but his poor win-loss record this year is mostly due to the lack of offensive support his teammates have given. If Shields has a good game, the Rays ought to be able to at least outlast Washburn and get into the soft underbelly of the Tigers relief corps.

- Dustin

C'Mon Blue!

You see the green box labeled with the number six, sitting there right in the middle of the strike zone? That was the third strike, thrown by J.P. Howell to Vernon Wells, that should've ended the ninth and sent the game into extra innings. As you can see by the rest of the pitches charted here (retrieved from this website), and as is obvious from the result of the game, Howell was struggling with his control. But c'mon. That pitch was so clearly, so obviously a strike that even Wells was surprised that the ump sent him to first. Who knows what might have happened if things had gone, the way they should have, to the tenth inning.

- Dustin

CHEESE & WHINE: The Rays Can't Get Out of Their Own Way

Rays: 2
Jays: 3

  • Scott Kazmir. Kaz delivered his second consecutive solid start (with Zaun behind the plate). Kaz threw 6 solid innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits while striking-out 10 and walking just 1. Do you remember those days when Kazmir was capable of striking-out 10 every time out- wouldn't that be nice if he could be that guy again? I think in the case of Scott Kazmir, Gregg Zaun is just what the doctor ordered. If Kaz continues to pitch this well with Z-man behind the plate Mr. Zaun may just get resigned specifically for his ability to keep Kaz under control.


  • JP Howell. Howell is still the man, but last night's performance was unacceptable, especially in a game in which the Rays could have made up a game on Texas who had just lost to NY earlier in the night. JP retired 1 in the 8th, but came back in the 9th and was not sharp, to say the least. Howell pitched 1 inning, giving-up 2 earned runs on 1 hit (a homer) and 3 walks. Howell spiked the last pitch of the night into the ground so far in front of the plate that it got away from Zaun and led to the final run strolling across the plate for the literal walk-off win.
  • Star-Making. This Rays team has a propensity for making mediocre pitchers look like super stars. Once again the Rays made Mark Rzepczynski look like Pedro Martinez. They allowed Rzepczynski to pitch a no-hitter into the 6th before finally doing some damage (a Gabe Kapler, 2-run homer).
  • Evan Longoria. Dirtbag grounded into yet another double play and leads all of baseball in hitting into double plays with an astounding 28.


  • Tonight is an off-night for the Rays who resume play tomorrow in Detroit.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Scott Kazmir. Another solid start from the former ace. If he can keep it up it will go a long way in helping the Rays make the postseason.... Zaun gets the assist.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

El Gato es En Fuego

Carlos Pena is on fire. Pena is hitting home runs at such a torid pace that I can't even keep up anymore- what does he have now, 64?

Okay, I exaggerated, I can keep up and he has an AL-leading 37 homers so far this season. Amazingly, he holds that lead despite having had 3 different HR droughts that have lasted 10 or more games (June 8-19, June 28-July 9, and July 11-24).
In fact, from June 28 through July 24 (a total of 27 days) El Gato hit a grand total of 1 home run, which only serves to make his league-leading 37 long-balls that much more impressive.

So far during the 2009 campaign Pena has 4 multi-homer games, including last night's two-homer effort.

Pena is the pulse of the Rays, when he struggles the team struggles. I know that there are tons of other variables attached and that it's difficult to correlate individual performance with team performance, but in some cases the numbers are just too hard to argue.

Here are some of the numbers which I find interesting:
  • Over the last 10 games Pena is 11 for 32 which translates to a batting average of .344 and the Rays are 8-2 over that same span.
  • Over the previous 10 games Pena was 7 for 37 good for a .189 batting average and the Rays were an abysmal 4-6.
  • Carlos' statline in games which the Rays win: .259 BA/.390 OBP/.676 SLG/1.066 OPS
  • Carlos' statline in games which the Rays lose: .175 BA/.307 OBP/.361 SLG/.668 OPS
The numbers speak for themselves. If Pena stays hot the Rays stay hot. If not...well, I don't want to talk about that right now- I'm in a good mood (thanks to El Gato).

CHEESE & WHINE: That Cat Can Hit

Rays: 7
Jays: 3

  • Carlos Pena. El Gato is about as hot as a hitter can be right now, and he belted 2 more homers last night; finishing the game 2 for 5 with 4 RBI. He did strike-out twice but if he maintains the ratio of 1 homerun for every K I'll be okay with that.
  • Jason Bartlett. Who could ask for a better lead-off hitter? JB is batting .346, has an OBP of .397, and a slugging percentage of... wait for it... .530! Last night JB was 3 for 5 and scored a run.
  • The 'Pen. Choate, Bradford, Shouse, and Wheeler combined to pitch 2 and 1/3 innings allowing 2 hits (both on Bradford) while combining to strike-out 4, issuing 0 walks and allowing 0 runs.


  • Treading Water. Its seems as if whenever the Rays lose Texas and Boston win and whenever the Rays win Texas and Boston win. Infuriating.


  • Not having the game televised was annoying, but being able to see Saturday's game in its stead will help mend the wound.


  • Carlos Pena. This is the type of streak that helped invent the phrase, "He's on Fire!".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just a Quick Word

After yesterday's game looked like it was becoming unwatchable, the Rays tightened up at the plate and in the field and managed to pull off an unlikely slugfest-type win against Halladay. After giving up a grand slam and looking almost sick, Jeff Niemann locked in after the third and retired ten Blue Jays in a row. What a weird game that was. Did I just fail to notice before how that infield turf at the Rogers Centre eats up ground balls? Can anybody explain why both defenses (but especially the Rays) looked half asleep, particularly at the beginning of the game? It wasn't the prettiest win, by a long shot, but I'll take it.


- Dustin

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Weekend Wrap-Up: Yo-Yo Edition

These two games really couldn't have made me feel more different. Saturday's elation was followed, sadly, by Sunday's deflation. On Saturday, the Rays reminded us of the scrappy team they were last year, the team you could never count out of a game. On Sunday, the Rays were out of it before the game started.

Saturday: RAYS 5, Texas 4

Let's start with the good news, shall we? Carlos Peña's performance on Saturday, including two homers, four RBIs, and a game-winning single in the tenth, was the brightest of bright spots for the Rays this weekend. It was truly 2008-esque. Also nice and worth noting: on Saturday, the big bats of Peña and Burrell accounted for all the Rays runs (Burrell doubled in Peña in the 8th).

JP Howell blew his sixth save of the season (his first since early June) when Marlon Byrd hit one out in the ninth. Howell held on and got Josh Hamilton to pop out, and the Rays won it in the bottom of the tenth after Grant Balfour worked a 1-2-3 top of the inning.

Overall, it was a good game from the Rays pitching staff. Garza was a little shaky but good enough to get through seven while surrendering only three, and, except for the hickup by Howell (he'd successfully converted 13 of his last 13 chances, so I'm inclined to cut him some slack), the bullpen held strong. This game felt like progress, like the kind of gutsy, never-say-die performances we grew accustomed to last year. Then, Sunday happened.

Sunday: RAYS 0, Texas 4

Ok, so first thing worth noting is that David Price pitched pretty well. The one complaint is that two of the three men he walked made it home, but, in fairness, three runs over seven innings is good enough to figure to be in line for the win.

Now, maybe the Rays walked into a guy, in Feldmen, who turned up his stuff and pitched a great game. That kind of thing happens. It happens against you particularly often when you strike out eleven times against the starter (and fifteen times in the game), leave seven men on base and go 0-8 with RISP as a team (BJ alone was 0-3 with RISP). The Rays offense was awful, with the exception of Pat Burrell, who had another multi-hit game and another double.

I wish I could've seen successful work by former Gator Darren O'Day, who I enjoyed watching when he was in Gainesville, in some other context.


I and others said last week that the Rays could afford two losses over their homestand against the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rangers. They had three, winning all three series but sweeping none. I hope that doesn't come back to hurt the Rays, but I think it probably will.

According to Coolstandings, the Rays have a 14% chance at winning the Wild Card, and, since they're not gonna win the division, that's the number that matters. Compared to Texas (20%) and Boston (51.7%), the Rays aren't looking too good. What they need is the kind of statistically unlikely (or at least unpredictable as far as timing is concerned) hot streak that they haven't been able to put together all season. I know we all keep saying that, which we do because it's true. The Rays need (as in NEED) to rattle off a long win streak--not series wins, but sweeps.

Boston welcomes the White Sox to Fenway tonight for a four-game series before facing the Blue Jays, also in Fenway, over the weekend. Hopefully, the Red Sox are heartbroken over the fact that in spite of scoring 29 runs over the weekend, they still lost the series to the Yankees (who also scored 29 runs). Meanwhile, the Rangers visit the Bronx starting Tuesday before they swing into Minneapolis for the weekend. The Bombers are very-freaking-red hot right now, which bodes well for the Rays' chances of overtaking the Rangers.

In Toronto, the Rays are up against Halladay, Cecil, and Rzepczynski. In Detroit, we'll likely see Galarraga, Porcello, Verlander, and Washburn. I don't like our chances to rattle off a major win streak against those guys.

Halladay is, well, Halladay. He's among the best pitchers in baseball, easily amongst the top five. Cecil has a 1.17 ERA against the Rays and one win. Rzepczynski has a 1.50 ERA, but no decisions, in two games against the Rays this year. Further (and probably not surprising) Peña (.179 OBP; .549 OPS) and Burrell (.231 OBP; 492 OPS) have struggled at the Rogers Centre this year.

As for the Tigers, unless I'm mistaken the Rays haven't seen them yet this year. Of the four Detroit pitchers, the only one the Rays have faced this year is Washburn, who beat them in Seattle back in April. He's 3-1 over the past three years against the Rays with a 1.85 ERA and a 14:6 K:BB ratio. Verlander, probably the scariest pitcher of the group, is 2-0 in four starts against the Rays since 2006 with a 4.50 ERA and a 20:8 K:BB ratio, which means you should start him against the Rays if you've got him on your fantasy team.

I don't mean to say that the Rays are cooked, far from it. In fact, if Burrell, Peña, and Upton can come through--if the three of them get hot--then the Rays will be very hard to close out of games, regardless of how shaky their starting pitching or how strong the opponents.

It's such a no-brainer to say that the Rays need more consistent offensive production and better starts that there's really no sense in repeating it. So I won't, and instead I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Who Was That Pitcher?

Rays: 5
Rangers: 3

  • Gregg Zaun. Kazmir will get all the love, but I'm going to have to go out on a limb here and agree with Kevin Kennedy and say that Gregg Zaun had as much to do with Kaz' efficiency as Kazmir himself did. Zaun called a game that played to Kaz' strengths, and when things got a little hairy (men on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out) Zaun imposed his will, worked the batters, and helped Kaz get out of a jam. I was a little critical of the Zaun signing, but all I've seen so far is the glaring difference between Zaun (a hard worker and intelligent game caller) and Navi (a lackadaisical youngster who's got a lot to learn). If the Rays are able to squeeze into the wildcard a good portion of the credit may go to 38 year old Gregg Zaun- and rightfully so.
  • Scott Kazmir. Kaz was efficient, I repeat Scott Kazmir was efficient! Kaz lasted 7 and 1/3 innings,his longest outing of the year (some will call it coincidence, I'll call it Gregg Zaun's game calling ability), allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking-out 4 and walking 2. Kaz threw 67 of his 106 pitches for strikes.
  • Ben Zobrist. Zobrist finished the night 2 for 3 with a walk...oh, and another homer; a 2-run shot which was his 22nd of the season. Zobrist is hitting homeruns at a clip of 1 every 16.4 at-bats. To put that into perspective, your league leading HR hitter (Carlos Pena) is hitting a homer every 13 AB's. Impressive for a utility guy. If the Rays are able to squeeze into the playoffs we'll all know that Zorilla played an unexpectedly huge role.
  • JP Howell. At what point do we start saying that this kid is money?


  • RISP. As a team, the Rays were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. If you think you're going to win games against tough teams without pushing runners across the plate via productive outs you're wrong... I'm talking to you Carlos Pena, sometimes you just have to put the ball in play with 2 men on and 1 out, I understand you're a power hitter and you should dance with who brung ya, but swinging for the fences in that situation is busch-league.


  • With this win over Texas and the Yankees beating Boston, the Rays are once again 3 back of Boston and 2 back of Texas in the AL Wildcard hunt.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Scott Kazmir. The Rays could use more quality starts like that. Well done.

Friday, August 21, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Put Away The Brooms

Rays: 7
O's: 8

  • The Beef. Batters 1 through 5 were a combined 10 for 23 with 4 RBI (all belonging to Zobrist).


  • The Beef. Batters 1 through 5 struck out a combined total of 8 times.
  • BJ Upton. 0 for 4... again.


  • Both Texas and Boston won their games leaving Tampa 4 behind Boston and 3 behind Texas in the AL Wildcard hunt. Simple math tells us that it'll now take a sweep just to pull even with Texas.
  • The Rays have just 2 players batting over .300, Crawford (.321) and Bartlett (.344), and 4 starters batting under .240, Pena (.213), Navi (.221), Burrell (.232), Upton (.239).

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Ben Zobrist. Zorilla hit his 21st homerun of the season, and did all he could to keep the Rays close.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wins are Bigger Vs Texas

One more game against Baltimore, which I'm looking past, but hopefully the Rays are not, and then in comes Texas.

Texas is currently trailing Boston by 1 game and lead the Rays by 2 games in the AL Wildcard race.
Let's say hypothetically that the Rays, Sox, and Rangers all win tonight so Texas rolls into town with a 2 game lead over the Rays.

Here's the pitching match-ups for the 3-game set:

Dustin Nippert, RHP (4-1, 3.52) vs. Scott Kazmir, LHP (7-7, 6.36)
Despite Nippert's impressive ERA, the sample size is fairly small considering that he's only started 6 games this season. He was quite hittable in his only start v. the rays last season, giving up 7 runs in just 4 innings of work.

Tommy Hunter, RHP (6-2, 2.64) vs. Matt Garza, RHP (7-8, 3.73)
Hunter has been on a tear as of late, winning 6 of his last 7 decisions, and has held opponents to a BA of below .220. This is the match-up that intrigues me the most as we're never sure what to expect form Matty G. It'll take a solid outing to keep the Rays in this one.

Scott Feldman, RHP (12-4, 4.06) vs. David Price, LHP (6-5, 5.03)
Feldman at 12-4 has been very good for the Rangers thus far and has a career ERA of 2.50 against the Rays. A win by the Rays in this game would be a nice accomplishment and could go a long way in helping the Rays secure a wildcard spot.

All three games are wide open, and a sweep in either direction is by no means out of the question, but I'm feeling optimistic in light of JoeMa's black hair and think that the Rays will win the first 2 before dropping the third game to Feldman.

If that theory holds true, at the end of the series the Rays would trail the Rangers by just 1 game, and should I dare to dream that Boston were to drop 2 out of 3 during that same time span (v. New York), only 2 games behind the Sox with 39 games to go.

No El Gato

According to Joe Smith over at The Heater the Rays will look to complete the sweep tonight without gold glove first baseman Carlos Pena.

No word as to whether its just a day off or related to an injury/illness.

Willy Aybar will fill-in at first for tonight's 7:07 start.

CHEESE & WHINE: One Run(g) At A Time

Rays: 3
O's: 1

  • Pat Burrell. Pat has found his bat. Burrell hit his 12th homerun of the season last night, his third in 4 games. We've waited very patiently for Pat to get on one of his famous streaks, and hopefully this is just the beginning. PB finished the night 2 for 4.
  • BJ Upton. Speaking of waiting patiently, we've been more than patient with the junior Bossman as well, and he too seems to finally be putting together a little hot streak. Last night BJ was 1 for 3 with a solo homer, his second consecutive night with a dinger. If BJ and Pat can get hot and the pitching can hold up... look out.
  • Ben Zobrist. While we're giving praise for solo homers let's not forget that Zorilla also knocked a solo shot in the 6th inning, his 20th of the season. Zobrist finished 1 for 3 with a homer and a walk.
  • Jeff Niemann. The big man worked 7 and 1/3 allowing just 1 run on 7 hits while striking-out 5 and walking 1. Niemann is now 11-5 with an impressive 3.71 ERA. Unfortunately his name isn't even being bandied about in AL R.O.Y. circles while David Price's (6-5, 5.03 ERA) name is... sad.
  • JP Howell. The gift that keeps on giving. Another converted save for the closer who isn't a closer. Howell pitched the 9th and allowed no runs on zero hits.


  • Roy Halladay. Come on man, you can't do us one little favor and pitch lights-out against the Red Sox like you do v. everyone else. Allowing 5 runs on 8 hits and only lasting into the 5th... thanks for nothing.
  • Evan Longoria. Dirtbag is slumping. Longo was 0 for 3 last night and is 1 for 11 over the last 3 games. Evan also hasn't his a homer since August 8th. BJ getting hot doesn't help if Longo goes cold.


  • Wild Card. Texas lost again, so Boston now takes sole possession of the wild card spot leaving Texas 1 back and Tampa Bay still 3 behind Boston and 2 behind the Rangers with the Rangers headed to town tomorrow. Oh man, how exciting is this series going to be?

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Pat Burrell. PB Blaster is back on track and may still be able to pull-off 20 homers before all is said and done.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cheese & Whine: Orioles @ Rays, Part 1

RAYS 5, Baltimore 4


Probably the most exciting thing about last night's game (other than the W, of course), for me, was watching BJ Upton go 3-4 with a run and a ribbie while hitting a double short of the cycle.

It was also nice to see Burrell have a little success with the bat (though he had two K's to go along with his two hits). The taters he and Gabe Gross hit were absolute no-doubters.

Once again, the Rays' bullpen turned in a strong performance (except for Randy Choate, whose name suggests at least two jokes, neither of which I'll make here). Cormier, Springer, Balfour, and Howell took care of four innings without giving up a run.


Can someone explain why Reid Brignac swings for the fences on every pitch, even when there's a man on third and pretty much any ball in play will score a run? Sheesh.

Nick Markakis robbed Ben Zobrist of extra bases and an RBI in the fourth, which actually upset me somewhat less than did his head-first slide into first base to lead off the third. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the hustle, but that's a great way to get hurt. The Rays need Zorilla in the lineup more than they need him on first base in that situation.

The Rays were 2-8 with RISP.


The Rays are now three games back of both the Rangers and the Red Sox who, with a loss and a win respectively last night, are tied. It's definitely scoreboard-watching time. Hopefully it's less distracting to the Rays than it is to me.

Jeff Niemann is going for the Rays tonight, and he's up against right-handed rookie Chris Tillman. Tillman was ranked the Orioles' number two prospect coming into the season (behind Matt Weiters), and finished last year with a ridiculous 10.2 K/9 ratio at AA Bowie. So far, that hasn't translated to the big leagues, but in combination with the Rays' tendency to strike out and their tendency to stink against pitchers they've never seen before, it's cause to worry.

In two games against the Orioles this year, Niemann is 1-1 with a 6.97 ERA. Let's bring that last number down and the first one up.


- Dustin

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Odds & Ends

The Rays, as expected, failed to sign either of their first two picks. Second-rounder Kenny Diekroeger has committed to play baseball at Stanford, in spite of the "real sales job" the Rays attempted and the "really, really very good" relationship between the organization and the Diekroeger family, according to Rays scouting director RJ Harrison via Marc Lancaster. First-rounder Levon Washington, a Scott Boras client, is not academically eligible to play for his hometown Florida Gators, and will likely spend the year at a junior college. That one's kind of a head-scratcher. Apparently, the Rays and Washington were so far apart on their initial offers that the parties were unable to get together in time to make a deal work logistically.

Montgomery Biscuits' left-handed pitcher Darin Downs took a line drive off his head last night in his second start for the AA team, and though he's still in an Alabama ICU with a fractured skull, he's apparently recovering nicely and only hospitalized for monitoring purposes.

Also, Brett Favre will play for the Vikings this year. What? Wait, sorry. I don't know what came over me. Guess it's just not possible to talk about sports right now without bringing that guy up.

The Rays throw David Price tonight against Jason Berken, a rookie righty who's lost ten of his last eleven decisions and sports a 6.63 ERA. He had a 3.58 ERA and 1.23 WHIP last year with AA Bowie with 7.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9. He's never faced the Rays, which hopefully works in their favor more than it does his.

In this article, Joe Maddon is quoted saying "I still believe in these guys. I still believe we have a really good hot streak that we haven't seen all year. It lies beneath the surface. We've just got to bring it out." Right freaking now would be a great time to find that hot streak, don'tcha think?


- Dustin

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Weekend Wrap-Up: Glimmers of Hope Edition

Saturday: RAYS 8, Toronto 3

Rays fans have to be happy about getting another quality performance from Scott Kazmir who, though he still threw too many pitches over too short a period (103 over 6.1 innings, or almost six-and-a-half per out), struck out seven Jays and gave up only three runs and qualified for the win. His record now stands at 7-7 on the year, and though his ERA is still well over six, he's been better since the break. How great would it be for the Rays if Kaz found a way to get back to form? Even if he never becomes a legit front-end starter, even if he continues to walk people and struggles to get past six innings, he could definitely either (1) hold down the middle of the Rays' rotation or (2) convince some well-heeled team out there that he's worth trading for. Anyhow, it's veeeery nice to see something good from Kid K.

The Rays got good offensive production up and down the order on Saturday. Even Navi showed up, and BJ Upton, though he went hitless, was on base twice and scored a run. If there was anything to complain about on Saturday, it was Carlos Peña's 0-2 with RISP on the day. But, since he did manage to get on base and score a run, and since the Rays collectively went 7-13 with RISP, I'll let it slide.

Sunday: RAYS 5, Toronto 2

Today was yet another shaky performance from Matt Garza, who spent most of the day working, Houdini-like, out of trouble. It started in the first with men on first and third and one out, after which Garza promptly struck out two of the Jays' best hitters to get out of the inning, and it pretty much stayed that way through five innings. The Blue Jays had men in scoring position with fewer than two outs in every inning but the second against Garza, who got them to go 2-13 with RISP on the day. He did that by enacting the Tale of Two Garzas that we've seen all season over and over again, starting out poorly and then becoming untouchable. Man, if he could only figure out how to be always Good Garza and never Bad Garza...

Of course, Greg Zaun's game-winning grand slam in the eight merits a mention too, as does Gabe Gross's ultimately failed but long (ten pitches) at-bat that must've helped to soften up League. Sitting alone in an empty house, I actually jumped up off the couch and looked around for somebody to high five when that tater jumped off Zaun's bat.

The star for the weekend has to be Carl Crawford, who went 3-8 at the plate over the weekend with three runs scored, three batted in, a stolen base, and a sacrifice bunt. Crawford's OPS against the Jays is now 1.103 in 51 at-bats on the year, which rules. Greg Zaun deserves an honorable mention as well for having brought the salami to the Rays picnic this weekend. Plus, alongside Gabe Gross's RBI single on Saturday, it represents something--namely excellent performances in big spots by Rays role-players--that, it seems to me, has been in relatively short supply this year.

Speaking of big performances, we must point out that the Rays' bullpen was sparkling this weekend, giving up only one run in 6.2 innings of work (and that only a solo shot against the long-dormant JP Howell on Sunday). One worries about overworking them, but hopefully the day off will help with that.


I have decided to forget that the Rays ever went to the west coast, so I'm not gonna talk about it. The Rays managed to take two of three from the Jays, and there's really no shame in dropping one to a guy who's among the league's best pitchers. It's too bad that Shields couldn't have locked down earlier in the game than he did, but there's no use crying about it (though if you'd told me after the second that he was going to make it through eight, I'd have called you crazy). Upon returning to St. Pete, the Rays did what they had to do, but...


Having dropped a game to the Blue Jays, the Rays' margin for error is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. This week, they welcome first the Orioles and then the Rangers to the Trop. They can probably afford to drop one of those six games, and no more.

One has to wonder whether Zaun's (and Springer's) veteran presence might give the Rays the kind of lift they seemed to get from having Percy and Floyd around last year. Speaking of guys I miss, Jonny Gomes is hitting a home run every 11.5 at-bats for the Reds. To put that in perspective, Albert Pujols hits one every 10.7 at-bats. Given the extent to which the Rays have struggled at the DH position, it's easy to wish they still had that kind of pop on the bench.

Jason Bartlett is now batting .377 from the lead-off spot with a .449 OBP and an absolutely torrid 1.101 OPS. We like.

The Rays have are eating healthy these days. It'd be nice if digestive regularity made their on-field performances more consistent. I wonder which of the players "still smuggle in greasy bags."

Midnight tonight is the deadline for the Rays to sign their top two draft picks, LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger.

The coming week is huge for the Rays. Starting tomorrow, they have three games against the highly beatable Orioles, followed by three against the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the Red Sox go to Toronto, where they'll face Halladay on Wednesday, before hosting the Yankees over the weekend. This means the Rays have a legitimate shot at closing the gap in the Wild Card race, in which they trail the Sox by three games and the Rangers by 3.5. Helping the cause, the Orioles and Rangers will only send one left-handed starter against the Rays. There's a real chance that the Rays will finish the week at or close to the lead for the Wild Card, thus improving their chances at playing baseball in October (which, according to Coolstandings, is currently at 17.2%). There's no reason to think they won't do it, but I'll be crossing my fingers and holding my breath anyway.


- Dustin

P.S. In the comments over at Rays Index, somebody linked to this article, which offers some evidence in favor of the "Zaun brings much-needed veteran presence to the Rays" thesis.

P.P.S. The Rays' website is reporting that Washington and Diekroeger will not sign by the deadline. Diekroeger will play college ball at Stanford (understandably, I suppose, tho as a ten-year college student holding an advanced degree and a whole lotta debt, I'm not sure the money makes sense), and Washington--a Boras client, so who knows what'll actually happen--will likely find a college program (hopefully one close to home) as well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Losing ground

Rays: 2
Blue Jays: 5

  • Carl Crawford. CC was 4 for 4 with 2 doubles and 6 total bases.
  • BJ Upton. Bossman managed to go 2 for 3 and seemed just a smidge more comfortable at the plate. He still made a poor base running decision, but babysteps are all I'm asking for.


  • Losing. For years everytime we'd turn on the Rays game we expected a solid start to each game but fully expected a loss each time out. A win was a welcomed surprise. Then around the middle of 2007 things started to look a little more promising- we dared to believe that the Rays actually could win any given game. 2008 was pure euphoria, and by the all-star break even if the Rays were behind in the 7th inning we still had this confidence that we knew the Rays were still going to win. This season started with the same confidence; convinced that the Rays could match-up with anyone and with the general knowledge that the Rays would win in the end even if they started slowly. It was an amazing feeling. Its gone. I just can't fool myself into believing that the Rays are going to win a game once they fall behind now. A team which was once at the top of the league in patience at the plate is now reckless at the plate, and they're making the opposing teams' pitching duties very easy. How can I put this in proper literary terminology?... This sucks.


  • The Rays have now lost 5 straight, 6 of the last 7, and find themselves a mere 11.5 games behind NY and 5 games behind Boston.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Carl Crawford. CC is doing all he's able.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

JB & BJ: A Tale of Two Seasons

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For Jason Bartlett times are good.
For BJ Upton, not so much.

The Best Of Times
One year ago we were all just learning to appreciate Bartlett's ability to play SS, and we were all pleased with the obvious upgrade at the position (formerly occupied by Brendan Harris), but offensively Bartlett had just begun to break out of his shell.

I, for one, was still not sold on Bartlett as a legitimate, long-term solution due to his lack of throwing power, and couldn't wait for Reid Brignac to break the line-up in 2009.
I even went so far as to coin the nickname Ol' Noodle Arm whenever I referenced JB (turns out he was having some minor shoulder issues).

At first, I wasn't impressed to say the least.

After the first half of last season Bartlett's stat line was acceptable, but nothing to write home about:
.256 BA/.299 OBP/.293 SLG/.592 OPS with 0 HR's and 20 RBI

Bartlett was essentially a role player. Filling his spot in the lineup and proving that he deserved a starting job, but he had only just begun:

Then came August. JB's line suddenly skyrocketed:
.389 BA/ .413 OBP/ .583 SLG/ .997 OPS with 1 HR and 17 RBI

Bartlett caught lightning in a bottle and he's been riding that wave ever since.
In the last year not only has JB proven to me and everyone else who watches the Rays on a daily basis that he's an All-Star caliber shortstop, but he's also shown that last fall's offensive explosion was not a fluke.

In fact, in the last 365 days Bartlett's numbers are as good as anyone else in the league:
.343 BA/ .396 OBP/ .523 SLG/ .919 OPS with 12 HR's and 72 RBI. Those numbers are all-world. Not bad for a player who was a side-note in the Delmon Young for Matt Garza trade.

Jason Bartlett has arrived. He is at the top of his game. He has become a very good, well-rounded middle infielder, who is a legitimate contender for AL MVP, and has a real shot at winning the batting title this season. At 29 years old he has finally hit his stride.

For Jason Bartlett it is the best of times.

The Worst Of Times
One year ago BJ Upton was taking heat for being a bit of a "slacker", but none of us really cared because he was "fluid" and his natural talent was spilling out all over the place. He was hitting decently, despite the fact that he was playing with a major shoulder injury, and he was playing a darn good center field.

BJ was coming off of a stellar year in 2007 during which he compiled an impressive stat line:
.300 BA/ .386 OBP/ .508 SLG/ .894 OPS with 24 HR's and 82 RBI, and most believed that the drop in power from one season to the next was directly related to the injury, so we gave him a pass for a sub-par 2008.

Then came the playoffs. Cliff Floyd supposedly pulled BJ aside and told him that he had to either man-up and ignore the pain or sit down and let someone else help the team. Upton chose the former. He was an offensive juggernaut during the post season, helping 7 balls over the wall and playing an important role in getting the Rays to the World Series.
Life was good.

Cue the rain clouds.
Upton underwent offseason surgery to repair his damaged shoulder (torn labrum), and was cleared to play shortly after the 2009 season began.

He struggled mightily in April and May, but the baseball world was patient, giving BJ the benefit of the doubt after not having the opportunity to practice in the offseason or spring training due to the shoulder surgery and subsequent rehab.
The season progressed and BJ continued to struggle. The more BJ struggled the more Joe Maddon stuck his neck out for him, "He's my lead-off guy. Period."
The days, then weeks, then months rolled by.
No improvement.

Then out of the blue, in June, the BJ we've all come to know and love, and whose return to glory we had all so patiently awaited, finally came screaming back to stardom.
In June Upton's stats were spectacular: .324 BA/ .395 OBP/ .562 SLG/ .957 OPS with 5 HR's and 22 RBI, and earned him the title of AL Player of the Month. Finally! Upton was back, and the world was right again.

But just as quickly as his talent had reappeared it slinked away into the dark corners of the Trop again. Upton's numbers suddenly dropped back to earth, and have continued to plummet as the season crawls forward.

BJ's mojo has left the building. Since June, Upton's numbers are utterly despicable, and August's embarrassingly slow start: .143 BA/ .189 OBP/ .143 SLG/ .332 OPS with 0 HR's and 1 RBI
has finally triggered Joe Maddon to remove Mr. Upton from the lead-off spot.

Everyone knows the rest of the story; BJ complains about being moved down in the lineup. The whole world turns their back on BJ. BJ complains some more. Joe Maddon is left with no choice but to sit Upton down- give him a few days off so he can clear his head, you know, just in case the Rays want to make a playoff run and need the help of their ultra-talented centerfielder.

It all boils down to this:
BJ Upton is in a slump. Its as obvious as anything we've ever seen. Its painful to watch.
Mark my words though, he will recover.
He will return to the all-star caliber player that he is. I guarantee it.
The only true question is this: will he learn from this?
The difference between a talented player and a great player is not always determined by what happens between the lines- sometimes its about what happens between the ears.

It's always darkest before the dawn.
Right now it's pitch black, and for BJ Upton it's the worst of times.


CHEESE & WHINE: Get Out The Dustpans

Rays: 5
Angels: 10


  • Carlos Pena. El Gato managed to record his league-leading 30th and 31st homeruns yesterday afternoon, but alas it wasn't enough.
  • Jason Bartlett. JB finished 4 for 5 with a double hitting out of the lead-off spot. He did have an ugly throwing error which was very Bad-News-Bears-esque, but 4 hits in 5 tries helps with the forgiveness of sins.
  • Joe Maddon. Should've benched Upton 5 days ago, but at least he did it. Wasn't it around this time last season when Upton was benched for jogging to first? Hopefully he responds the same way. The only problem with Maddon's decision to sit BJ was that he replaced him with Gabe Kapler who, although I didn't think it possible, looked worse at the plate than BJ.


  • Losing. 4 in a row. Instead of smelling blood in the water when Boston lost 4 straight v. NY the Rays decided to show Boston that anything they can do we can do better; even when it comes to losing.
  • Gabe Kapler. You want to know the turning point of this game? Do ya? It was in the 6th inning just after Pena had hit his second homer of the day. With 2 on and 1 out Kapler was ahead in the count 3-1 against a pitcher (Bulger) who had only thrown 1 strike since coming into the game. Instead of waiting for his pitch, Kapler hits into a double play. Inning over. Momentum switches tracks, and BJ Upton smiles knowingly in a dark corner of the dugout, thinking, "Ha, at least all I would've done there was strike-out- I should totally be in the game."


  • The Rays are now 10 games behind NY and 4.5 behind Boston. The time to start winning is!

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Carlos Pena. Pena hit 2 more homers, and just missed a third.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: I'd Like to Buy a Run Please

Rays: 0
Angels: 6

  • David Price. King David looked good, very good in fact, until he didn't. Price was working on a no-no until the 5th, at which point he did his best Matt Garza impression and watched helplessly as the wheels fell off. Price finished the game having pitched 6 innings, allowing 6 runs on 8 hits while striking-out 4 and walking none (he did hit a batter (Izturis)). I've decided to put him in the "cheese" section because for half a game he looked the part of the ace most scouts and pundits have always considered him to be.
  • Gregg Zaun. Zaun is doing everything Navi is supposed to do; call a smart game from behind the plate, and put balls in-play when standing next to it. Zaun finished the night 2 for 3 with a double. I was fairly sceptical about the Zaun signing, but have absolutely loved what I've seen so far especially two nights ago when he cut Garza off at the pass when Matty G was trying to escape down the tunnel during a tough inning. Zaun put a comforting hand on his shoulder and brought the temperamental Garza back down to earth. Priceless.


  • Everything Else. Santana looked good, but the entire Rays lineup made his job as easy as possible.
  • Reality. The pain of having to realize that perhaps these Rays aren't a playoff caliber team. Watching other playoff contenders is starting to make this painfully obvious. The Rays' lineup has more holes than an afghan.


  • Tom Verducci of S.I. wrote an article about the AL wildcard race which seemed fairly accurate and informative- until he mentioned Andy Sonnanstine's crappy ERA as a reason why the Rays can't contend. He also mentions Price as having a great rookie campaign, but failed to mentioned Niemann at all. Last I checked Niemann has been by far the better rookie. Darn professional writers.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • No game ball.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CHEESE & WHINE: Something In The West Coast water

Rays: 7
Angels: 8

  • One Player To Rule Them All. Jason Bartlett is doing everything he can to try to lead this team to the promised land, but apparently not everyone's on-board (I'm talkin' to you Melvin). JB finished a single shy of recording the Rays' first ever cycle; going 3 for 5, with a double, a triple, a HR, 2 RBI, and 9 total bases. Come on JB, is that all you got?
  • Ben Zobrist. Zorilla finished the night 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, and was robbed of a game-tying homer in the 9th.
  • Randy Choate. On a night where everyone else was giving up runs like they were going out of style Randy manned-up for 1 and 2/3 innings, allowing just 1 hit and no runs. Choate's ERA is an impressive 2.21 over 36 games with the Rays.


  • Matt Garza. Matty-G's team kept giving him forgiveness for his sins. They spotted him 2 runs right off the top, but that wasn't good enough. They gave him back the 3 runs he had so hastily given away, but it wasn't enough. Garza lasted an abysmal 3 and 1/3 innings, allowing 6 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits, while walking 4, hitting a batter, and surrendering 2 HR's. Do me a huge favor- stop hanging out with Scott Kazmir!
  • BJ Upton. Still not sure why you're not leading-off? Another 0-fer for the junior Bossman. 0-4 with 1... 2... 3 more strike-outs in the old ball game. Thanks for all the help.
  • Willy Aybar. Maddon has tried his best to get Aybar consistent AB's, but it seems that he's a much more effective batter from the bench. Aybar was 0 for 3 with 2 K's. Do me a favor and stop hanging-out with BJ.
  • Russ Springer. A few reports have said that Springer is just what the Rays needed. Ummm.. really? Last night Jerry's brother pitched to 2 batters, allowed 2 hits, one of which was a homer, and was quickly yanked before Rays' fans mistook him for Shawn Camp or Brian Stokes.


  • Despite the fact that the Red Sox have done everything in their power to help the Rays slide into the wildcard slot the Rays' inability to win in the Pacific Time Zone still has them 2.5 games back of Boston and 2 games behind the Rangers with 50 games to go.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Jason Bartlett. I bet Maddon wishes he'd have listened to the informed masses and made the lead-off switch about 2 months ago. Hey Joe, I told ya so (so did everyone else)! JB is batting .340 over the last 365 days- not bad for an add-on to the Delmon Young trade. No single player has ever re-formed my opinion about them as much as Mr. Bartlett.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Weekend Wrap-Up, West Coast Edition

This post is mostly a place-holder--I'm staying at my parents' house for a couple of days, and as such don't have very good internet access--that I hope to fill in later this afternoon. I've been trying to think of a single sentence to describe the Rays' weekend. I've been unsuccessful, but the onomatopoeic "thbbbbbbt!" which I think covers both the improbable five-inning, four-run, first-win-since-forever outing from James Shields on Saturday (RAYS 10, Seattle 4) and the unpolishable turd of a game on Sunday (RAYS 2, Seattle 11). I mean, I know Kazmir didn't have his best stuff (does anybody remember what his best stuff looked like?), but this Jeff Bennet fellow needs to be either (a) investigated for industrial espionage or (b) DFA'd. Russel Branyon hit a grand slam against the Rays? THAT Russel Branyon? Ugh.

This site would like to echo the Professor's irritation at the Rays' inability to win getaway games.

Fangraphs has an interesting two-part piece breaking down the AL East. Given how the Red Sox have looked lately, you have to like the Rays' chances for second in the division and the Wild Card. I'd like their chances better if they didn't lose 11-2 to the freakin' Mariners, but whatever.

Coolstandings projects a 24.2 percent chance for the Rays to win the Wild Card. We might as well, at this point, consider that number identical with their overall chances of making the playoffs (coolstandings combines the Wild Card chance with the team's chances of winning the division to get the overall number, but the Rays' shot at winning the East this year, barring a total collapse in the Bronx, is functionally zero).

The Rays swing into L.A./Anaheim/the greater Southern California area to face the Angels. The Rays, according to this article and my recollection, have not won a series there since May of 1999, and will have to do better than the past decade's 8-34 record in L.A. if they want to hold on to hopes of competing for the Wild Card. The Rays are sending Garza, Price, and Niemann against Sean O'Sullivan, Ervin Santana, and Trevor Bell, respectively. Neither O'Sullivan nor Bell have faced the Rays before, and, as we all know, the Rays have struggled mightily against young pitchers this year. The good news, however, is that all three pitchers are righties.

If the pitching comes through for the Rays, they've got a shot at this series. Let's all cross our fingers!


- Dustin

P.S. Belatedly (things have been busy, but the problem's mostly that I'm a flake), many thanks to the proprietor of this here site, Mr. DirtbagFan, for trusting me to run things last week, and glad to hear he didn't think I did too bad a job. Welcome back!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Michel Hernandez gets DFA'd

OUT............................ IN..................................

That's all I can come up with. The Rays recently signed veteran back-up catcher Gregg Zaun, so we knew a change was imminent, but I did not see this as the potential change.

Hernandez has had a very good season in terms of what he's done beside and behind the plate, and seemed to be quite good in the back-up catcher role (242, 292, 323 in 35 games).

My first guess when I heard of the Zaun signing was that perhaps Riggans would be sent back to his favorite place on earth, the DL, to make room for Zaun, my second guess was... well I didn't have a second guess, but I can assure you that it wouldn't have been Hernandez to be DFA'd.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Rays know something I don't know because I can't seem to make heads or tails out of this decision.

It is what it is, and time will tell.

CHEESE & WHINE: Stayed Up For Nothin'

Rays: 6
Mariners: 7
(11 innings)

  • Jeff Niemann (innings 1 - 6). Niemann once again looked great for most of this start, but wasn't able to hold-on in the 7th. After allowing a hit in the 1st Jeff retired 17 of the next 18 batters, but then came the 7th inning (see "Whine").
  • Carl Crawford. CC was 3 for 6 with 1 RBI and his 52nd stolen base of the year.
  • Gabe Gross. Beautiful diving grab in the 9th to help ensure that the game would go to extras. Check it out here.

  • Felix Hernandez. Respect the game son, turn your flippin' hat back to where it belongs- this ain't the hood!
  • Jeff Niemann (7th inning). Niemann had the M's at his mercy, and was in-line for the win, but along came the 7th: Jeff had all but shut the Mariners down, but gave up a lead-off homer to Griffey Jr before giving up a walk and 2 singles. That was all Maddon had to see to pull the plug on the R.O.Y. contender, but the damage was done (or was about to be)...
  • Grant Balfour. The Mad Aussie inherited Niemann's runners, but did nothing to help his starter; giving up a hit, recording a hit batsman, and allowing the M's to tie it up at 5 apiece. Yes, homeplate ump, Mark Carlson, missed a call that would've struck-out Sweeney (who was hit by the following pitch to load the bases), but Balfour's job is to get out of trouble, not create it.
  • The Trains. I complained about them back in April and I'm complaining again. Nearly a dozen trains rolled past Safeco Field during the game, background noise at a ballgame should entail cheering, jeering, beer guys hollering, and crackerjack salesguys, not trains.


  • These West Coast swings kill me. Getting out of bed at 7 to come to work today after staying up to watch the Rays last night was pure hell. Would've been easier had they won.

CAVIAR (game ball):

  • Jason Bartlett. I know, he didn't even make the "Cheese", but his only hit should've been the game-winner. He did his part, and the Rays were only 1 strike from the W thanks to his solo-homer in the 11th.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Catching Depth

Our friends over at Rays Index in conjunction with several other sources are reporting that the Rays have acquired Gregg Zaun from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later and a bag of used BP balls (okay- just the PTBNL).

Zaun's stat line is as follows:
.244/.355/.375 in a total of 56 games.

He has thrown out 10 of 39 base-stealers.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Bullpen Help

The Rays have re-acquired RHP Winston Abreu according to Joe Smith over at The Heater.

Abreu was released by the Rays earlier in the season, was picked up by Cleveland and was then DFA'd by the Indians' organization last week.

In his brief stint with Tampa earlier this season, Abreu pitched 3.2 innings over 2 games, allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking-out 3 and walking 2.

He will join Triple-A Durham tomorrow.

Root for The Yankees?

Four words I never envisioned myself saying, or even thinking, but with Boston and New York preparing to square off on a 4-game set I find it most logical to... gulp... root for the Yankees.

For several reasons actually:

Most importantly, the Rays need to start making up ground in the wildcard hunt, so that means catching Boston and Texas. Even if that means New York starts to run away with the AL East. As things stand now, the Rays have to stop dreaming about retaining their title as AL East Champs and start worrying about finding a way past their mediocre start and into the playoffs.

Plus, look at it this way; if you had to decide between playing at Fenway or New Yankee Homerun Derby Stadium in October which venue would you choose?
I'd say, without a shadow of a doubt, "See ya in the Bronx".
Let's dare to dream and say that the Yankees sweep the 4-game set. If that were the case, the standings would have New York at 69-42 and 6.5 games ahead of Boston. Let's also assume that during that 4 day time frame the Rays manage to win 2 out of 3 in Seattle. That would leave Tampa Bay at 62-49, just 1/2 game behind Boston, and left with nearly 20% of their games versus Baltimore.

But on the other hand, if Boston and New York split their series and the Rays manage to win the same 2 out of three in Seattle, that would leave the Rays 2.5 games behind the Sox and 5 games behind New York with exactly 50 games to go-- which isn't horrible either.

The reality is this; the Rays need to pass 2 teams in the standings to make it into the playoffs. Right now those teams are Texas and Boston, so until something changes all Rays fans (in my opinion) should be rooting for whomever those 2 teams are playing against.
The Rays have 6 games against Texas and 6 games against Boston left on the schedule, so they (the Rays) need look no farther than the mirror to see what it'll take to make the post-season, and then all bets are off.

What do you think? Should we be rooting for the Yankees, the Red Sox, or a split?

CHEESE & WHINE: Long Ball - Short Sweep

Rays: 6
Red Sox: 4

  • Sweeping. Although it was only a two-game set, getting the sweep of Boston could turn out to be paramount in the grand scheme of things.
  • The Long Ball. Crawford, Pena, Burrell, and Bartlett all managed to put one over the wall.
  • David Price. King David had a solid outing, lasting 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (2 solo homers), on 6 hits, striking-out 5 and walking 0. That'll do.
  • Setting 'em up and Knocking 'em Down. Dan Wheeler and JP Howell continue to work well together to finish games, and last night was no exception. Wheels came in after the Rays newest bullpen arrival, Bennett, promptly put 2 men-on in the 8th with no outs, and managed to limit the damage to just 1 run. Howell came-in in the ninth and after walking the lead-off batter managed to retire 3 in a row to seal the victory and record the save.


  • The Yankees won.
  • Jeff Bennett. Hmmm... must've been a reason he was just floating around unnoticed and unsigned. Bennett came-on in the 8th and managed to put runners on second and third in a grand total of 7 pitches. Thankfully he got a little help from his friends. Oh, he'll get by with a little help from his friends.


  • All of the Rays' runs were scored via homerun (Crawford (2), Pena (2), Burrell (1), Bartlett (1)).
  • No Rays' player had more than 1 hit.

CAVIAR (game ball):

Carlos Pena & Pat Burrell. Both of these cats needed something to jump start their offense. Hopefully the monster homers they launched last night will be the catapult they needed; for Pena that means better hitting for average, for Burrell that means better hitting for power.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lead-Offs & Walk-offs

In an amazing act of humility Joe Maddon finally stood-down from his stubborn and illogical insistence that BJ Upton lead-off for his defending American League Champion Rays, and for the first time (since Upton returned from injury early in the season) he finally broke-down and put Jason Bartlett in his rightful place in the lineup; leading-off.

Bartlett responded immediately with patience at the plate and consistent at-bats.

Upton responded by saying he was "a little upset". Now you know how the average fan feels when, as the lead-off hitter, you swing first pitch or strike-out on 3 or 4 pitches on a consistent basis. Upton sounds more and more like CC everyday; you don't get to decide where you hit in the lineup, you aren't entitled to anything- you fill your roll, collect your inflated paycheck, and hopefully have some fun along the way, and maybe, maybe if you're lucky you can EARN your way back up to the top of the lineup.

Evan Longoria is a stud. Dirtbag once again proved his worth, not once but twice, coming through in the clutch v. arch-rival Boston.
Longo hit a solo homer in the 8th to tie the game, and eventually push it to extra innings, but that's not the even the good part:
The good part came with one on and two out in the bottom of the 13th when Dirtbag tee-d off on a 1-0 pitch from Boston's Takashi Saito and sent it deep into left-field for a walk-off homer, his 23rd of the season, and quite possibly his most important.
This may seem overly-dramatic, but this may've been the biggest hit of the year for the Rays. Time will tell.

Back from Vacation

A quick shout-out to let everyone know that I'm back from vacation... okay, okay, relax-- oh, thank you, thank you, you're too kind... please hold your applause.

The weather in Pa was nice, the golf not too shabby, and the break from the interwebs was like a cleansing shower (after a few days of horrible withdrawal symptoms, such as, Rays Index-itis, and facebook-ulosis).

Also, just wanted to send a public thank you to our friend Dustin who filled-in remarkably well in my absence, and who has shown over time that he could probably run this ship better than anyone (bear in mind that Dustin does this pro-bono, with no compensation what-so-ever).

Thanks Dustin, we're very appreciative.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cheese and Whine: Royals @ Rays Part 3

RAYS 1, Kansas City 4

Aside from wondering whether James Shields did something to deserve the utter lack of support he gets from his position-playing teammates, I've got very little to say about this game.


James Shields threw seven excellent innings.


Everything else about the game.


Game four of this series, in which the Rays should have been looking for a sweep of the Royals prior to welcoming the Red Sox, is currently in progress (as of now, I'm listing to Dave and Andy over the internets). Though it is still mathematically possible for the Rays to make the playoffs this year, they're gonna need to play better than they did yesterday, and they're gonna need some help from the rest of the division. And from the Rangers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cheese and Whine: Royals @ Rays Part 2

RAYS 7, Kansas City 1


Jeff Niemann gave the Rays eight full innings of mostly dominant pitching. Of course, the opposing offense wasn't much, and he did give up several extra-base hits (including the DeJesus solo shot that accounted for all of the Royals scoring). But that's the point. This was exactly the kind of start Niemann should have against a team like the Royals, exactly the kind of start we were hoping for, and precicely the reason why Rays fans have reason to hope that if the rest of the staff starts pitching as well as the number five guy, the Rays might actually stay in playoff contention through September.

Dionner Navarro hit a single and a double, scored a run and, with an assist from Carl Crawford (who also contributed a two-run homer), made a great play at the plate that prevented a run from scoring and ended the fifth inning. Of course, he also grounded into a double play to end the Rays' eighth, but by then the score was 7-1 in their favor.


The Rays' Offence still struggles against starting pitching--even when that starting pitching is solidly mediocre. I know, it's odd to complain about an offense that puts up seven runs, but this was a closer game than it should've been for longer than it should've been. With the exception of Bartlett's two-run triple in the second (during which he scored on a throwing error--Callaspo sailed the throw to third and nobody was backing up the bag), the Rays didn't manage much against Royals starter Bruce Chen, who is now 0-6 with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Yesterday was his longest start of the year for the Royals at 6.2 innings.

The Rays' Baserunning continues to frustrate me and everybody else. Pat Burrell was gifted first base when the Royals failed to catch a routine pop-up. Unfortunately, Pat the Out almost failed to notice, because he was too busy sulking and half-heartedly shuffling down the baseline. Then, when he did notice, he decided to try for second. He was thrown out, and it wasn't close. If he'd stayed put, he might've been on base when Bartlett hit his triple, thereby giving the Rays another run. Similarly, Gabe "Gabe" Kapler inexplicably tried for home on a long liner by Navi after he'd been waiting to tag up on it. When the ball dropped, Kapler was still standing on second. The Rays should've had runners at the corners. Instead, they got a man on first--a slow man on first--and two outs. If Kapler had gone half way between the bags, maybe he makes it home safe; if stays at third, maybe he scores on the wild pitch later that inning.

Fox Broadcasting is just annoying.


The Rays are looking for a third win against the Royals today, and they need it. Hopefully, tomorrow we're talking sweep and the Rays have a full head of steam ready for Boston on Tuesday. Both the Wild Card and the division are at least hypothetically within reach, but the Rays need every win they can get. Every game against the Royals is a winnable game, so...


- Dustin

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cheese and Whine: Royals @ Rays Part 1

RAYS 8, Kansas City 2

There's more to say than "phew," about the Rays' win over the Royals last night, but it's gonna have to wait. It's the weekend, and there are familial obligations that require attention. Further bulletins as time permits.