I won’t bury the lead: The Rays are 0-4 and have scored six runs. That’s bad. Still, I believe this is an above .500 team. You can call me an optimist or a Kool Aid drinker, but I trust the projection systems a lot more than my personal observations after four admittedly poor games. The season is too young for anyone to think Player A is done or that Player B is due for a bad year. It just is. If you believe you can tell based on 10-to-15 at-bats who is and isn’t going to play well or who no longer has talent, then you just might be the best baseball evaluator in the world.
I have concerns. Take Johnny Damon’s contact rate and Dan Johnson’s pop ups (I’ll have more on these topics in the coming days), but it’s far too early to pretend the 2011 sample outweighs the past three years or even the last 365 days.
The Rays drew five walks tonight. People won’t take solace in that, but they’ll respect the process once the batted balls start turning into hits. The collective batting average on balls in play is under .200 and there’s just no way that continues for long. Even the hapless Mariners, who had an internet meme formed from their offensive inability, had an aggregate .282 BABIP. The Rays are going to start getting hits and they’re going to start getting runs. It’s going to happen.
Manny Ramirez was booed tonight by Rays fans. Part of me is relieved, but the other part is mortified. We’re four games –not even a full week—into the season and folks are booing Ramirez. And, for what? Because he’s hit a number of pop flies and struck out a few times? Maybe it’s never been a B.J. Upton thing. Maybe it’s something else. What it is, I’d rather not explore, but I will write this: it’s not a good look. Not for an area constantly maligned and mocked as uncaring and infertile. If you want to front as hard as New York or Philadelphia, that’s great, but at least flood the gates like those towns. Otherwise, it’s false bravado. Especially if you were offended by Carl Crawford‘s comments about Fenway Park and its lively atmosphere or David Price and Evan Longoria‘s critical comments about attendance last season.
Yeah, they’re well-paid relative to the normal person. They’re still human beings.
For me to write that it’s actually a mixed bag of results for Niemann tonight shows you how this season has gone. Yeah, he was pretty poor early on, but give him credit for lasting into the seventh inning. I’m not going to play the “you take that one inning away” game or anything. It just speaks to his pitch economy and the Angels’ ineptitude that he was able to extend beyond three or four innings.
Oh, and allowing Torii Hunter to steal second before he went into his delivery is just bad. Niemann is poor at holding runners on, but that takes it to a whole new level.
As for the rest of the game, Joe Maddon made the right decision pinch-hitting for Reid Brignac and John Jaso against Hisanori Takahaski. In a limited data sample, he’s fared much worse against righty batters.
By the way, Boston is also winless four games into the season.