Wade Davis To The Disabled List

For the second-consecutive season, Wade Davis will hit the disabled list in the second half of the season. Last year, a shoulder strain got the best of Davis in August, and this year, it is a forearm strain.

I’m not going to talk about this all haphazardly, because nobody knows what role this injury has played in Davis’ performances—if any—but it would seem that Davis needs more than just rest. Tommy and I have written enough about him over the last few months to publish a book on his season. The biggest issues can be summed up by what a scout told John Perrotto in an article yesterday:

Rays right-hander Wade Davis: “His stuff has taken a step back this year. He’s not throwing as hard, and he doesn’t have a real feel for the changeup. He’s having trouble putting hitters away because he doesn’t have an out pitch to rely on.”

That’s 2011 in a nutshell. Hopefully the rest helps Davis in some way, any way, but it probably will not be a silver bullet that saves the day.

The corresponding move is Brandon Gomes returning to the majors. Don’t fret too much about Alex Cobb not being the guy here, as the Rays won’t have a need for another starter until mid-July and there is no reason to pull Cobb off his regular schedule until it’s necessary.

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Matt Moore’s Domination of Double-A Continues

After Matt Moore’s latest gem—seven innings, 10 strikeouts, one hit (a home run), and one walk—it’s time to have some fun with the Rays lone pitching representative in Sunday’s Futures Game and his impressive season for Montgomery.

- To start, the basics: Moore is striking out 33.4 percent of batters faced, and only walking around seven percent—his previous career-low is 8.6 percent, set in 2008 when he pitched at short-season rookie ball.

- Unsurprisingly, Moore is toting the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career.

- Moore has struck out at least as many batters as hits allowed in all but one of his 17 starts, and has fanned more than baserunners allowed in 12 of those starts—including five starts with five or more strikeouts than baserunners.

- Moore has allowed more than two runs in three of his starts, which is fewer than the amount of times he has allowed zero runs (four). If you go by earned runs, Moore has allowed more than two runs just twice this season, with those coming in back-to-back starts in mid-April.

There just isn’t much else to say about Moore shy of gushing over his potential, as he has been as flawless as you could ask for. It makes you wonder if the Rays don’t push him to Triple-A sometime after Sunday, because on the surface, there is nothing else for him to do. Not that I’d expect Triple-A to give him a challenge either. If you can pitch at Double-A, usually that’s a good sign, and when you pitch like Moore has at Double-A, it’s generally a very, very good sign.

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Optimizing Reid Brignac Playing Time

Similar to Carl Crawford – who was an everyday player regardless of his splits – there was some thought to Reid Brignac being above platoon duty prior to the 2011 season because of his defensive ability at a premium position. An early season slump quickly ended Brignac’s “Carl Crawford exemption.” Coupled with the lack of his own production and the ability of Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson to play shortstop as well, Brignac quickly went from everyday player back to platoon player. The slump has now turned into a half-season of baseball, cutting into his playing time even further. So much so that the left-handed batter is sitting against select right-handed pitchers in favor of the switch-hitting Johnson.
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Rays Sign Nine International Free Agents

Per the team, the following players were signed:

Signed from Venezuela:

Pos. Name Age Ht. Wt. B/T Birthplace
RHP German Marquez 16 6-1 184 Bolivar, Bolivar;
LHP Benjamin Molina 16 6-0 144 Margarita, Nueva Esparta
RHP Jorman Duarte 16 6-2 190 Carupano, Sucre
INF Cesar Hernandez 16 6-0 174 R/R Valencia, Carabobo
INF Norlys Suarez 17 5-11 156 R/R Valencia, Carabobo

Signed from the Dominican Republic:

C Eric Otanez 16 6-2 195 R/R San Pedro de Macoris
LHP Cristopher Crisostomo 17 6-2 177 La Romana
LHP Eddy Castillo 17 6-1 155 Villa Riva
RHP Francisco Javier Martinez 17 6-3 187 Montecristi

The signing of Otañez was covered last night.

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How Sharp Are The Rays?

The marvelous Nate Silver wrote a series of articles in 2007 about teams looking—and being—sharp and what it meant to their contention possibilities. Within the series, Silver pegged the Devil Rays as a good bet to improve quickly, as they relied on the stars and scrubs strategy. As Silver wrote, teams in that phase can improve quickly, as marginal upgrades should be available at a low cost—people forget this sometimes, but going from awful to okay is about as valuable as going from okay to good. Using his same methodology, I wanted to see where the Rays stand now, relative to the other teams in the division.

First up are the position players. To make this as simple as possible, I took FanGraphs Runs Above Replacement and subtracted the Replacement runs from it. That gives us runs above or below average for each position, and while there is going to be some argument about the defensive and baserunning values, remember that this isn’t about nailing each player’s value to a decimal point. Here are the Rays numbers through Monday’s game for players with 100-plus plate appearances:

Player			RAA		RBA
Ben Zobrist		24		--
Matt Joyce		13.7		--
Evan Longoria	        13.1		--
Casey Kotchman	        9.4		--
Sean Rodriguez	        4.1		--
Elliot Johnson		3.2		--
Kelly Shoppach	        0.4		--
Sam Fuld		--		0.9
B.J. Upton		--		1.3
John Jaso		--		2.5
Johnny Damon	        --		3.3
Felipe Lopez		--		6.9
Reid Brignac		--		12.2
Total			67.9		-27.1
Net			40.8

Here are the same numbers for the other American League East teams:

Team			RAA		RBA		Net
NYY			116.8		-18.9		97.9
BOS			115.7		-28.7		87
TOR			70.7		-56.4		14.3
BAL			20.4		-49.3		-28.9

As you can see, the Rays are closer to the Jays than the Red Sox or Yankees, but next we need to evaluate the pitchers. This is trickier, as there is no quick way to evaluate the league-average versus the pitcher’s production while taking the park factors into account. At the same time, evaluating pitchers by earned run average can double count the defensive factors already credited to the team with the defensive values in FanGraphs numbers. In the end, I went with FIP, in order to avoid double counting, while giving the pitcher credit for things he can control.

I took the average ERA for starters and relievers, and figured out how many runs the average pitcher would allow over x amount of innings, I then subtracted the actual amount (using the pitcher’s FIP) from that total, thus runs above or below average. It’s not perfect—I gave everyone with a start credit for being a starter—but it works as a quick and dirty calculation. Keep in mind, there is no defensive or luck considerations, so these aren’t intended to be definitive value statements:

Player			RAA		RBA
David Price		16.3		--
James Shields		12.7		--
Kyle Farnsworth	        3.3		--
Juan Cruz		1.9		--
Alex Cobb		1.5		--
Joel Peralta		0.3		--
Brandon Gomes	        --		0.1
Jeff Niemann		--		2.3
J.P. Howell		--		3.3
Cesar Ramos		--		3.6
Adam Russell		--		4
Jeremy Hellickson	--		4.4
Wade Davis		--		11.2
Andy Sonnanstine	--		12.7
Total			36		-41.6
Net			-5.6

And the division picture:

Team			RAA		RBA		Net
NYY			43		-28.7		14.4
BOS			24.2		-30.9		-6.7
TOR			23.1		-36.7		-13.6
BAL			9.9		-57.1		-47.2

Now, you may be asking, “What does all of this really mean?” And, once you take the absolute values of all the runs above and below average, then the sums, you get the Rays with the second-lowest total in the division. Silver says the higher the total, the more sharp the team, and the Rays simply aren’t as sharp as the Jays, Red Sox, or Yankees. They are more sharp than the Orioles, but mostly because that roster has performed horribly this season and it works both ways—teams with many good players and few bad, or teams with many bad, and few good.

This analysis shows that, while the Rays don’t have too many star players, they also don’t have many players in over their heads either. The 25-man roster is filled with average producers, which can work, but this current collection is headed for a win total in the mid-to-upper 80s. Acquiring impact talent is no easy feat, and the Rays have to be self-sufficient given the revenue constraints. That means producing impact talent from within, and while the Rays have some pieces on the way, it’s hard to say if they can close the gap enough to make the playoffs a real possibility.

Until those pieces arrive, I’m reminded of what Shields said after the Rays fell behind 0-2 to the Rangers in the American League Divisional series, “We got to fight our way back. We’ve been fighters ever since ’08 when we started turning this organization around so it’s time to go.” With New York and Boston on the schedule for most of the next few weeks, it’s time to go—the Rays are going to keep fighting, but winning a few of the next few rounds will not get them a shot at the title, and they aren’t built to win a fight with Boston or New York.

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