Series Preview: Rays vs. Jays

Jonathan Ferrey

Tonight, the Rays welcome the hottest team in the majors to The Trop. The Blue Jays, winners, of their last 11 games (by a combined score of 70-28) have caught the Rays in the standings

Esmil Rogers vs. Jeremy Hellickson

Esmil throws hard (fastball averages over 95 mph). So hard that the Blue Jays traded Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes for him, and then named a ballpark after him. His four-seam fastball and his sinker have wildly different movement, and are easily distinguishable. His changeup has good drop to it, and his slider is hard.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

Given the quality of his repertoire, it's somewhat surprising that he's only striking out 5.55 K/9. His control is good (2.59 BB/9), but I surmise by the numbers that his command has been suspect. Lurking Toronto fans could confirm or deny.

The other interesting note about Rogers is that he's been very home run fortunate. With nearly a run difference between his FIP and his xFIP, Rogers is a good suspect for some Rays-favorable regression.

Mark Buehrle vs. Matt Moore

Buehrle is a familiar site to Rays fans. The 4.60 ERA makes it seem like he's gotten worse in Toronto, but his overall numbers are similar to what he's put up in the past. He's striking out batters at the highest rate of his career (6.07 K/9) and walking batters at the highest rate (2.45 BB/9), but the balance is similar. His troubles have come in the form of no longer being able to beat his FIP, as he's done for almost his entire career.

R.A. Dickey vs. Roberto Hernandez

Dickey has struggled so far this season, plain and simple, and there's not much in the way of statistical oddities about him. FIP: 5.15. ERA: 5.15. All of his pitches have been less effective, but his knuckle ball in particular is now producing dramatically fewer swings outside of the zone (25% as opposed to 35% last season), which means fewer strikeouts and more walks. He's throwing it in the zone the same amount, so this may be more a matter of hitters adjusting to Rickey than of him losing his feel for the pitch.

The offense

The blue Jays currently have the tenth ranked offense in the league with a 101 wRC+. And for the first time in years, Jose Bautista is not the best hitter (that's a good thing for the Jays). He's now lead in the leaderboards by resurgent Adam Lind (160 wRC+), and a consistently underrated Endwin Encarnacion (145 wRC+). Lind is both lucky and good, Encarnacion is just good, and is carrying an isolated power of .271, while striking out barely more than he walks. (10% BB%, 12% K%).

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