Series Preview: Rays at Astros

USA TODAY Sports

The Rays are about to get the perfect respite from their tough AL East division race, a four game series against the last place Astros. The Astros are bad. Their hitting ranks second to last in the AL with an 85 wRC+ (only the Yankees have been worse). Their pitching ranks last in the AL with a 4.68 FIP. And their fielding ranks last in the AL with a -35 UZR.

The most dangerous bat in their lineup is Chris Carter, who's striking out 36.5% of the time, but hitting with enough power to still make himself useful (15 home runs).The best player overall is probably Jason Castro, Houston's 26 year old catcher. He possesses an average to somewhat above average left-handed bat (currently with a 119 wRC+), with all of that production coming against righties. In 155 career plate appearances against lefties, he's only produced a 10 wRC+.

Our old friend Carlos Pena has brought his strikeout rate down to a manageable 26%, but his once vaunted power has not returned, making him an average bat and a below average first baseman.

LHP Matt Moore vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel, 8:10

Keuchel is a 25 year old, soft-tossing, groundball-inducing, control lefty with an incredibly deep assortment of pitches. I'm going to simply throw up his scatter plots from Texas Leaguers, because the more organized categorizations on Brooks Baseball don't do him justice.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

That is legitimately six pitches (four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider, curve). I would be very tempted to call it seven, breaking the changeup into a more traditional change and a splitter. Also, I don't really know what to call a fastball like that. There's huge variation within the four-seam. Sometimes it rises over ten inches, sometimes it drops. Is that all the same pitch?

One thing's for certain, the kid is interesting. He's currently suffering from a HR/FB over 18%, but xFIP and SIERA are sold on him (3.69, 3.67).

LHP David Price vs. LHP Erik Bedard, 8:10

Once an ace, the man who brought Adam Jones to Baltimore has been reduced to merely an occasionally satisfactory journeyman. He's got good movement on his fastball, but the velocity is gone (averaging 89 mph). He can miss bats with his excellent secondary stuff, but poor command and control keep him from far exceeding replacement level.

Hope that the Rays can hold their strike zone against him, and take him as a warning about Matt Moore's downside.

RHP Roberto Hernandez vs. RHP Bud Norris, 8:10

For Bud Norris, everything builds off his 84 mph, biting slider. He throws the pitch over 30% of the time, and always has, although he is throwing it a bit less often this year than he has in the past and is missing fewer bats with it (leading to a low-for-him 16% K%). Unsurprisingly for a starter with such an unusual approach, he holds a large career split. Righties have hit for a .310 wOBA against him, lefties for a .346 wOBA.

RHP Chris Archer vs. RHP Jordan Lyles, 2:10

Lyles, like Keuchel, is another young (22 year old) groundball pitcher. He has a bit more velocity than Keuchel, and a bit less variation on his pitches. Look for him to pound the zone with a low-90s sinker, but then drop in good sliders and curves when he wants to put batters away. He has a changeup, but he only uses it against right-handed batters.

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