The beginning of a baseball season is like a Sunday trip to Costco. There are small samples everywhere, and people buy into them without much thought. In the Rays’ tough start to 2018, we have quite a few of these. But which ones do we buy into? Which ones to we pass on? And which ones do we just have to wait and see?
Yonny Chirinos’s hot start: Buy it
Chirinos has been fantastic so far. He’s pitched at least 4 innings in all of his appearances, so he’s turned over lineups in all of his outings. What’s most impressive? He has yet to allow a run. Now, there are areas where he’s clearly going to regress. For example, he’s going to allow runs. Also, his 5.0 H/9 is simply not sustainable. Teams are going to make adjustments and he will have to as well. With that said though, his K/9 and BB/9 rates have been nearly identical to his career minor league numbers, meaning he’s not pitching far above his ceiling. Let’s also forget that he, not Honeywell, was awarded the franchise’s minor league pitcher of the year in ‘17. Will he be this good all year? No. But he is good, and he’s here to stay.
Chris Archer’s rough start: Buy it
Chris Archer is an enigma. At times, he shows flashes of great stuff. At times, he can get the big strikeout when he wants it. But at other times, he just can’t find a way to limit damage. It’s really hard to be an elite starter as a two pitch pitcher—Even David Price needed to develop a curveball and a changeup before he cemented himself as a major league starter. Unless Archer can make an adjustment, and can do it quickly, it’ll be hard to justify keeping him around. At 29, it’s getting to be too late to say he’s still young. I wonder if changing speeds on the slider, and throwing it more often–now known as ‘McCullersing’–could benefit Archer.
Bullpen day success: Buy it
Now, lets make a few things clear about the bullpen day. One, the Rays will clearly not keep a three man rotation. Unfortunately, untimely injuries made it a necessity. But the recent use of Chirinos as a starter, and Banda pitching well so far in AAA, the Rays will eventually move to a 5 man rotation, and it will be soon. Two, the Rays always had the intention to keep‘super utility pitchers’ in the bullpen. Whether it be Andriese, Kittredge, Pruitt, Yarbrough, or whoever comes up on the Durham shuttle, those options will still be there, 5 man rotation or not. So, what does this mean for bullpen day? Simply put, every day will be bullpen day.
Kevin Kiermaier’s -0.5 WAR- Pass on it
KK has gotten off to a horrendous start. He’s swinging out of his shoes, he’s trying to do too much on defense, and he’s visibly frustrated. As we all know, baseball is a humbling game. But we all know how good Kevin Kiermaier is. Not only is he the best centerfielder in baseball, he’s one of the best baserunners in baseball. Once he finds a way to get on base with some consistency, he will become on of the best players in baseball.
Alex Colome’s 9th inning struggles- Pass on it
Almost every 9th inning this year has been dramatic. Even in the saves that Colome has converted, he’s found a way to make it interesting. The biggest reasons? His strikeouts are way down, and his walks are way up. His velocity and movement, however, have remained the same, so there’s something to hold onto here. For better or worse, the Rays need to stick with him, for at least two reasons. First, if the Rays are going to win games, he needs to be the guy. Roe, Romo and Alvarado have been great in the middle innings, and that’s where they need to stay as well. Moving Colome out of the 9th would just be moving a problem to another inning. If he’s going to find his groove at any point, it needs to be in the 9th. Second, if the Rays fall far out of contention, Colome will become a highly valuable trade chip. How does he achieve maximum value? By pitching in the 9th inning.
Jake Faria getting the Blake Snell treatment- Wait and see
We know what happened with Snell last year. He struggled, got sent down, came back, was a new person. Though Faria has gotten off to a similarly poor start, it’s really only been because of one poor start, efficiency has definitely been the issue, but he showed major improvements in his last start against the Phillies, needing just 78 pitches to get through 5.1 innings. Outside of his Fenway Park debacle, his run prevention has been pretty good. Let’s not add him to the Durham shuttle just yet.
Finally, The Rays Offense- Wait and see
To put it nicely, this offense has yet to find it’s stride. Pitchers have attacked them with little fear. Many have pointed to the defense not living up to expectations, or Colome ‘blowing it,’ but the fact of the matter is, no team is going to win a lot of contests scoring less than four runs a game. Errors aside (they’re still below league average), the defense has taken far more runs off the board than they’ve put on. The pitching has about league average as well in sole terms of runs allowed. One thing the offense has done well? Draw walks, the Rays are well above average in this regard. Extra bases hits, however, have been non existent—just 26 total coming into Sunday’s game, including home runs. To put that in perspective, the Angels have 26 home runs alone. It’s been ugly so far, but at least we have gotten a taste of what could happen if and when they can string a few hits together.
So we’ve taken our Sunday trip to Costco, we’ve tried so many samples that we can skip lunch, but at least now we have a clearer idea of what to do with them.
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