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Series Preview: Misery Loves Company

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The Rays have certainly had their share of injuries this season, but they welcome in a team can shares their pain in many ways. Toronto currently has seven pitchers on the 60-day disabled list including 3/5ths of their pre-season rotation and their closer. Add to that losing their opening day catcher, first baseman, and their franchise player, and it is no wonder the Toronto Blue Jays have fallen below .500 after being competitive for most of the season.

In all,the Jays have used ten different starting pitchers this season and 30 different pitchers have taken the mound.That includes a completely retooled bullpen after additions at the trade deadline to replace some of the injured relievers. One of the new faces to Rays fans will be J.A. Happ who takes the mound tonight as one of the two lefties the Rays will face in this series. The Rays have had their fare share of offense struggles this season which have been exacerbated when they face left-handed pitchers of any shape and size. Hopefully, tonight's return of Evan Longoria will help that situation.

Longoria was sorely missed as the team went 41-44 without out and scored just 3.86 runs a game. Before the injury, the team was 15-8 and scored 4.61 runs per contest. How much has Longoria's bat been missed? In his extended absence, the 3rd and 4th hitters in the lineup have gone 146 for 643 (.227) and have hit just 12 home runs and driven in 55 runs (from Rays communications department)

Stats Rays Blue Jays
wOBA 0.300 0.323
wRC+ 91 102
BB% 9.7% 8.1%
K% 21.4% 19.3%
BABIP 0.274 0.281
FIP 3.67 4.67
xFIP 3.74 4.24
SIERA 3.61 4.15
K/9 8.42 7.12
BB/9 3.17 3.60
BABIP 0.285 0.292

Regressed ZIPS RoS batter platoon splits (sortable):

Player Projected wOBA vs. RHP Projected wOBA vs. LHP
Edwin Encarnacion (R) 0.361 0.393
Brett Lawrie (R) 0.338 0.361
Colby Rasmus (L) 0.343 0.304
Yunel Escobar (R) 0.310 0.320
Kelly Johnson (L) 0..321 0.333
Jeff Mathis (R) 0.265 0.286
David Cooper (L) 0.302 0.279
Anthony Gose 0.289 0.316

I answered some questions for our SBN friends at Bluebird Banter today and their site manager, Tom Daker, answered some for us:

DRB: I've been on record saying Edwin Encarnacion had a 40 home run season in his bat but I am a renowned E5 fanboy. Did Jays fans ever think they'd see this kind of season out of him?

BB: As always, it depends on the fan, I've always thought he could be good, but I didn't expect 40 home runs this quick. The average Blue Jay fan hated him, he was called lazy and worse. Even the team lost faith in him, letting him go to Oakland, on a waiver claim, back in 2010. Fortunately the A's didn't realise what they had either. He has always been a streak hitter, prone to long slumps, but this year he's been very consistent. If he has had slumps, they don't last long. He goes up looking for his pitch and if he doesn't get it, he's willing to take the walk.

DRB: Has the Jays' training staff run out of ace bandages yet this season? The amount of injuries the team has dealt with has been unreal. Any updates on health status and who may be back in this series?

BB: Man, I hear the M*A*S*H type in my head at the start of every game. It is possible that Brett Lawrie and/or Colby Rasmus could be back this series, both are listed as day-to-day, Lawrie with a muscle strain in his side and Rasmus with groin tightness, but every injury we've had has turned out to be worse than first expected. As for the rest:

Brandon Morrow should be back in the next couple of weeks, he is rehabbing in the minors from an oblique strain.

Jose Bautista hurt his wrist or forearm on a swing, he went on the DL, but we were told he was progressing 'better than expected'. Well, his 15 days were up last week and he's not back. They have given us no suggestion of when he might be back. The injury is apparently worse than what we were led to believe.

Adam Lind is on the DL with 'back tightness'. At first we were told he was only on the DL to open a roster spot. Since we were running with an 8 man bullpen, bench spots were at a premium. His 15 days are up at the end of the week but it sounds like he might be out longer

. • J.P. Arencibia broke his hand, he might be back in September.

• The others: Jason Frasor, Kyle Drabek (Tommy John), Drew Hutchison (Tommy John), Sergio Santos, Luis Perez (Tommy John), Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch will not be seen on a playing field again this year.

DRB: When the Rays do get on base, they do like to run. How are the Jays doing in controlling opponents' stolen bases this season?

BB: Our new full-time catcher (see injury list), Jeff Mathis has been very good at cutting down base stealers, catching 38% of those trying to take a base on him. I'd be careful about running on him. Yan Gomes, who'll likely catch one of the games, hasn't been run on yet in his 6 games behind the plate. I'd think you would want to run on him

DRB: Are things really that bad that Yunel Escobar has to hit cleanup vs. LHP as he did Sunday against the A's? How has John Farrell been putting lineups together with all of the injuries?

BB: It isn't the way I'd do it but Farrell has had as many as 5 recent call ups in the lineup. Add in that Jeff Mathis has been the main catcher and there isn't much that Farrell can do to make it look like a major league lineup. Pity us. On the flip side of that, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and David Cooper have added some life to the team.

DRB: Romero had his best start in eons his last time out but still walked four batters. In fact, it was his second straight start of allowing 3 runs or less. Was this from improvements or just a side effect of pitching at Seattle and at Oakland?

BB: Yeah, he has looked better the last couple of starts. I guess he best was to say it is that he went after the batters. For the longest time, he seemed to be afraid to throw strikes. He'd get himself behind in the count and either give up a walk or serve up a batting practise fastball right down the middle. The last two starts, for the most part, he was getting ahead of batters and then having them chase his pitches. I wouldn't say that he is 100% back, we are moving in the right direction.

DRB: The bullpen had to throw over 17 innings in the series against the A's and now the team is flying from coast to coast adding jet lag issues to the arm slag issues. What is the state of bullpen these days and what is the pecking order in front of Casey Janssen now?

BB: The pecking order is something that Farrell is still working out. We've made a couple of trades, that have added some arms to the pen, and I think Farrell is still trying figure out where everyone fits. Casey has been great in the closer role, but we haven't had many chances to make use of a closer for the last couple of weeks. Darren Oliver has been great in the 8th inning slot. I think Farrell is going to have Brad Lincoln share that role with him. Earlier innings will go to some combination of Brandon Lyon, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup. The bullpen is greatly improved, and much deeper, than what we had earlier in the season.

DRB: Anything else Rays fans should know about the Jays?

BB: A season that started with so much hope has disintegrated into a mess of injuries and inconsistent play. The fun part now is watching the young players. Adeiny Hechavarria, Gose, Sierra and Cooper have given us something to watch, as we try to fight our way back to .500. We've been .500 19 times this season. If we can pick up a couple of wins, we'll be there yet again. It really feels like the Jays are underdogs right now, so any win feels that much sweeter.