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Rays vs. Blue Jays: Previewing the matchups

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Lots of offense north of the border.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a four-game series tonight at 7:07 PM.

For everyone who's been wondering where all the offense has gone in baseball, here's the answer: north. Offense has gone to Toronto, and this Blue Jays team can flat-out hit. They have three (!)  batters with a better overall projection than Evan Longoria. Two more have a better projection than Steven Souza. And then a full three more check in before you get to the next pack of Rays (Of course, the Jays seem bent on doing us a favor by batting Dalton Pompey -- likely one of their lesser batters -- second in the order).

Don't worry though, Rays fan, because your team can pitch. I mean, you're the guys leading the "The Half-Decade of the Pitcher," right? And good pitching beats good hitting, right? And Matt Andriese in his first start and TBD is good pitching, right?

In case my writing isn't coming through clearly enough, what I'm trying to say is that yes, you would be justified in worrying about this series. It's a tough matchup coming at a tough time.

Follow this link to an interactive graph showing the matchups for every game.

The projections are made using a tool Jason Hanselman of Dock of the Rays and I created together. It combines regressed platoon splits based off The Book and Bojan Kaprovica's work, with Steamer projections, and uses a log5 method to calculate the matchups. Overall projections and projections vs. average lefties and righties are park-neutral (meaning everyone is on the same footing). Projected matchups are placed in Toronto's park (so both teams are also on the same footing, but it's scaled slightly different than the overall projections).

Jake Odorizzi vs. R.A. Dickey

Odorizzi was fantastic in his first start, attacking and befuddling the Orioles with four pitches, including a shiny new cutter. There's a chance he's better than his projections this year, just as he improved his game last spring by adding the split changeup. This will be a tougher test for him than Baltimore was, making it mandatory viewing for anyone wishing to jump on the Odor Train.

As for Dickey, knuckleballers are weird. He doesn't have much of a split, but he is a little bit worse against lefties than against righties. I'm calling Allan Dykstra's first major league home run.

Odorizzi-Dickey

Matt Andriese vs. Daniel Norris

So, we really don't know much about either of these guys. Andriese is 25 and will be making his fist career start. Steamer projects him for a 4.21 ERA. Norris is 22, and will be making his seventh start. Steamer projects him for a 4.02 ERA, and ZiPS projects him for a 4.53 ERA. In these graphs, I'm representing each of them as average (Andriese as a righty, Norris as a lefty). I imagine that they're both a bit below that, although I have a bit less confidence in Andriese than in Norris.

Still, the handedness of this matchup does even things up a bit, with Desmond Jennings, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Guyer, Rene Rivera, and Logan Forsythe all hitting significantly better against lefties

AndrieseNorris

TBD (played here by Erasmo Ramirez) vs. Mark Buehrle

If Andriese can go long enough to deliver the middle game of this series to the regular bullpen, I'd guess that TBD will end up being Erasmo Ramirez. If not, who knows?. There's a chance it could be Drew Smyly for a limited outing while he tries to build up his strength. There's a chance it could be Dylan Floro, who just won International League Pitcher of the Week honors. That would likely not be pretty, though, so as odd as this sounds after the stinker he laid against the Marlins, hope to see more Ramirez.

TBDBuehrle

Chris Archer vs. Aaron Sanchez

As I say every time I make this graph for him, Chris Archer is tough on righties. Right now I've got him at 9% better than the average righty against righties. That certainly helps against Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, although those guys are good enough that it doesn't actually make them a bad hitter, just not quite as good a hitter as they are otherwise. It will shift some of the pressure over to Smoak, who does hit righties well. Watch to see if Archers's developing changeup seems to have turned him into a more complete pitcher, rather than just a righty-killer.

Sanchez has started off his major league career in style, but also mostly in the bullpen. His numbers so far suggest that he too is very tough on righties, but I'm not going to read too much into 36.1 innings. In this graph, I've represented him as an average righty. Steamer predicts a 4.77 ERA and ZiPS a 4.67 ERA, so he may actually be below average, despite the current gaudy career numbers.

ArcherSanchez