Series Preview: Twins at Rays

The face of Italian baseball? - Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Mauer comes to town.

The 9-10 Tampa Bay Rays will welcome the 9-9 Minnesota Twins to The Trop for a three-game series. The Twins offense is off to a hot start this season, with a 112 wRC+, the third highest in baseball. Their pitching has not backed the offense up, however, posting the worst xFIP in the majors at 4.59.

Here is an interactive graph of batter-pitcher matchup projections for every game of the series. The matchup projections come from a tool I made with Jason Hanselman (Dock of the Rays) that incorporates Bojan Koprivica's research on regressing platoon splits and ZiPS projections. The grey line is at an average wOBA of .320.

Thanks to Jason's work, these projections are now park-adjusted. The overall and vs. average L/R pitchers displayed are park-neutral, and the matchup is paced in the park where it will be played.

David Price (3.39 FIP, 999 IP) vs. Kyle Gibson (4.69 FIP, 70 IP), 7:10

Pricegibson_medium

For Kyle Gibson's overall number, I've used the Steamer projection of 9% below average, rather than our normal rough regression method for pitchers. There's some wiggle room in projecting rookie pitchers, but this one really isn't close. It's David Price, and like every game Price pitches, the Rays are supposed to win.

I think this is a matchup chart that very well explains the power of Price. Joe Mauer is a great hitter, but he's a lefty, and he has a sizeable split. Over his career, he's been 48% above average against righties, but only 7% above average against lefties. David Price, even with his splits regressed, is expected to be 20% tougher on lefties than the average lefty. That's nearly unheard of, and it takes Joe Mauer into unfamiliar, below average territory.

Jake Odorizzi (4.04 FIP, 53 IP) vs. Mike Pelfrey (4.24 FIP, 1063 IP), 7:10

Pelfreyodorizzi_medium

Pelfrey is off to a bad start this year, and Steamer/ZiPS projections are more pessimistic than our regression, so this matchup may skew more heavily in the Rays favor than is represented here, but still, there's enough to worry about. Against Odorizzi, Joe Mauer will be the best hitter in the park, and he'll be backed up by the left-handed Jason Kubel and a coterie of serviceable righties.

Erik Bedard (3.78 FIP, 1233 IP) vs. Ricky Nolasco (3.78 FIP, 1336 IP), 1:10


Bedardnolasco_medium
This is the difficult game. Hopefully the Rays will already have two games in hand by this point. Almost surely, Bedard is overrated in these numbers. And even if he's not, the Twins have some guys who can hit lefties well in Chris Colabello, Josmil Pinto, Trevor Plouffe, and Brian Dozier.

Let's talk about Colabello for a second, since he's an interesting story. A thirty-year-old in only his second major league season, Colabello was playing in the independent leagues only three years ago. He doesn't walk a ton, and that .469 BABIP is certainly not going to stick around, but the Italian international (he grew up in Italy, and played on their World Baseball Classic team) has done enough in his short time in the majors and the minors to make the projection systems at least into believers.

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