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Series preview: Rays at Texas Rangers

The Rays fly into Arlington to face two hard throwers and one unknown.

Better than Longo?
Better than Longo?

The Rays are out in Arlington to face the 4-2 Texas Rangers, lead by the only current player with a legitimate claim to being a better third baseman than Evan Longoria. Although Josh Hamilton is gone, they still have a deep and dangerous lineup that makes their bandbox of a park a scary place to pitch (especially for a flyball pitcher like Jeremy Hellickson).

Pitching Matchups

RHP Jeremy Hellickson vs. RHP Alexi Ogando, 8:05

Injuries have made what might have been a difficult decision very easy for Texas. Alexi Ogando is now a starter. He has a very live arm, easily sitting in the mid 90s with his fastball. His first start was quite successful, but it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up, as his repertoire is not very deep. He throws his fastball, a changeup, and a slider, and when he worked out of the bullpen, he used his changeup against left-hadned batters only. I'm really not sure how successful it will be in an expanded role. Look for the Rays to draw a bead on him the second and third time through the order.

RHP Roberto Hernandez vs. Nick Tepesch, 8:05

I have never seen Nick Tepesch pitch, I have access to no PITCHf/x data about him, I've never read scouts discussing him. He only just moved up to double-A last year, where he pitched decently, but not spectacularly. Oliver expects him to be about 20% below average. He's in Arlington now because there weren't any better options, not because he's ready to be a big league pitcher.

LHP Matt Moore vs. LHP Derek Holland, 2:05

If you like hard throwing lefties, this is the matchup for you. Holland took a step forward to become one of the better pitchers in the league last season, although a high 14% home run per fly ball rate in the live Texas air obscured that a bit. He can also get his fastball up into the mid 90s, but his best pitch is a wipeout slider, which he uses to great affect against hitters on both sides of the plate. If you were dissapointed not to see Scott Kazmir last series, just squint a little bit, ignore the sinkers and the curves, and you can pretend you're watching Kaz this Wednesday.

Regressed Splits

Here's a graphical representation of each team's platoon splits (via my and Jason Hanselman's tool). From the drop down box at the top, select which matchup you want to display. The overall projected wOBAs are from ZIPS, except for that of Nick Tepesch, about whom neither I nor ZIPS know very much. In his case, I've gone with an Oliver projection and assumed an average split. Be aware that none of these numbers are park adjusted, so Texas players look better than they probably are, and Rays players look worse.

It's a work in progress, so tell me what you like, and what you'd rather see done differently.

Also check out the corresponding preview over on Lone Star Ball. They don't appear to know much about Tepesch, either, but it's a nice preview overall, and they're good enough to ask themselves the question, "on what day does Jurickson Profar become a Tampa Bay Ray?"