There's been a lot of action in the Rays blogosphere recently, so check it out:
- FanGraphs came out with new heat maps tool yesterday, allowing you to look at pretty heat maps for any pitcher in the majors. This lets you to see where a pitcher throws each of his pitches and how often. Tommy Rancel used them to take a look at The Danks Theory, his name for the fact that midway through the 2010 season, Joe Maddon started playing same-handed batters against pitchers with dominant change-ups. The idea is that change-ups are most effective against batters of the opposite hand of the pitcher, so by going unconventional and playing right-handed batters against right-handed pitchers (and vice versa), Maddon eliminated a pitcher's strongest weapon. The concept is pretty strong, and Tommy finds some more support for it with the heat maps.
- The Process Report is running a series on keys for the Rays in this upcoming season, and two of the recent articles focus on Wade Davis and Ben Zobrist. There are so many interesting players on the Rays, but these two are extra big question marks for this upcoming season. Will Zobrist's power return somewhat? Will he hit balls with more authority, get some BABIP regression, and have his average rebound? Will Wade Davis improve upon his 2010 season, and if so, by how much? Check out the links to RJ's pieces if you're curious.
- I don't know how I've neglected to cover this, but Dirk Hayhurst signed with the Rays a week ago, and he's possibly the most entertaining career minor leaguer that you'll find anywhere. He's written a book "The Bullpen Gospels", he's working on another one, he keeps an updated blog and Twitter feed, and his wife works in music therapy with kids with special needs. Oh, and he refers to himself as the Garfoose, an imaginary creature he created for his wife's job of working with children with autism. Check out his most recent blog post: Four Preseason Predictions. Also, Jason Collette has a video of Hayhurst up over at Dock of the Rays.
- According to Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times, Manny and Damon are set to be announced at a noon press conference today. The Rays will need to remove two players from their 40-man roster before these moves are completed, so we'll see who is being removed soon enough.
- And finally, I've got some good visuals and research to pass along. First, Justin Bopp over at Beyond the Boxscore created an impressive graphic showing how the Rays performed at home versus on the road last season. The data isn't predictive and shouldn't bet taken as such, but it's fun to see how the Rays performed last season and partly why they were so good on the road.
Also, Jason Hanselman from Dock of the Rays did an impressive amount of research and work to compile the Rays' regressed platoon splits for this upcoming season. You don't have to understand all the math involved, but in short, Jason took past data on players and used it to estimate their true talent level against both righty and lefty pitchers. Keep this information handy, because we can be sure Joe Maddon will be using something similar when deciding how to construct his line up on a day-by-day basis.