Here are the announced Rays and Indians lineups and how they should be expected to perform versus the starting pitchers. The wOBA projections are regressed platoon splits calculated using ZiPS RoS projections (note: projections are from early September) and Bojan Koprivica's platoon research.
The Rays vs. Danny Salazar:
Note: The wOBA projections come from a tool created by Jason Hanselman and our own Ian Malinowski.
This hard-throwing youngster has a bit of a problem pitching high in the zone and permitting a high-than-usual SLG% for his low OBP vr RHH—as noted by Jonah Keri, that's a .574 SLG on the fastball! (image)—so the Rays may be wise to keep their power-hitting right-handers batting second and fourth. That also explains the surprising inclusion of right-handed slugger Delmon Young.
The grain of salt with that SLG% would be that Salazar only has ten major-league games under his belt.
Maddon called the choice to leave left-handed designated hitter Luke Scott off the Wild Card roster the most difficult decision in building tonight's play-in game's roster, but in putting the starting line up together, he's left Matt Joyce on the bench -- again, in favor of Delmon -- as well as Sean Rodriguez, the players with natural platoon splits against the starter.
Exactly why may be found in the secondary offering of Salazar. The Rays will also get a taste of their own medicine in facing an excellent changeup, and the pitch just might be his best. It's with that logic that Maddon is going with a Danks Theory approach, starting only two lefties vs the right-handed rookie.
Further in favor of keeping Joyce on the bench may be whiff rates.
Salazar's changeup is really more of a splitter (it's categorized that way by Brooks Baseball). That means that it doesn't really run away from a left handed batter the way a traditional changeup might, but rather dives straight downward. As Ian noticed while perusing the Brooks Baseball hitter pages today, Matt Joyce has whiffed in 50% of his swings at what Brooks calls a splitter from a righty. By comparison, DeJesus has whiffed at only 21%, while Sean Rodriguez, the other candidate to man left field, has whiffed on 40%.
But here's the rub: Choosing Young and DeJesus over S-Rod and Joyce means rolling the dice on a very nontraditional move. Of course, scouting has certainly played just as strong of a roll, but from the blogger's perspective, Maddon is going way off the tracks and into "trust the numbers" territory.
Let's just hope Maddon and the Rays are reading those numbers right.
The Indians vs Alex Cobb:
Cobb's best feature will be his changeup and his lack of a platoon split. The match up tool behind our analysis gives the slightest of edges to the Rays (0.11%).
Get Ready and GO RAYS!
Some early tweets from the stadium:
Saw someone walk into Rays clubhouse with 24 Silly String cans. Assume it's for celebration, but pre-game Silly String fight so Maddon-like.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 2, 2013
Joe Maddon,"this is the time for simplicity and we shouldn't have to change anything." #Rays— Chris Fischer (@ChrisFischer07) October 2, 2013
Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 2, 2013
^Look at KK's big, goofy grin. That's living a dream.