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Toronto Blue Jays series preview

The Jays are a dangerous offensive team. Can the Rays superior pitching hold Bautista and Co. in check?

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays will open up the season today by hosting the Toronto Blue Jays in a four game series. Here are the matchups (Fielding Independent Pitching stats cited below are from the Steamer projection system):

  • Monday: LHP David Price (3.31 FIP) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (4.35 FIP), 4:10 PM
  • Tuesday: RHP Alex Cobb (3.39 FIP) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (4.27 FIP), 7:10 PM
  • Wednesday: LHP Matt Moore (4.09 FIP) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (4.48 FIP), 7:10 PM
  • Thursday: RHP Chris Archer (4.23 FIP) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (4.39 FIP), 7:10 PM

Steamer expects the Rays to have a pitching advantage in every game of this series. Unfortunately for the Rays, baseball series are not decided based on year-long pitching performances. The Rays pitchers will be forced to face the Toronto offense, and those Jays hitters are not to be trifled with.

Click here for 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.

Some notes:

  • Keep in mind that these are not park-adjusted numbers, and that means that the Rays, who play in a pitchers' park, look a little bit worse than they are. Still, that's two Jays with an overall projection higher than that of Evan Longoria, the Rays' best hitter.
  • ZiPS really doesn't like James Loney (other projection systems like him better), and to a lesser extent, Yunel Escobar.
  • Price is extremely difficult for opposing lefties to handle, and he effectively turns Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus (lefties with large splits of their own) into players who should sit near the end of the bench. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are as tough a pair of righties as Price will face all year, though.
  • On the other hand, given Chris Archer's primarily fastball/slider repertoire (which means he is more apt to struggle with opposite-handed hitting), Lind and Rasmus are the danger men for him.
  • Alex Cobb is a very good pitcher, and a particularly tough matchup for the Jays. His right-handedness will help him against their two main sluggers, but he doesn't have much of a split, so their lefties shouldn't have a field day with him either.