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Rays vs. Redsox, first series: Previewing the matchups

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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After being swept at home by the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays will now host the division-leading Boston Red Sox in a three-game series. The Sox currently sit at 8-5, with the Rays two games behind at 6-7.

Follow this link to an interactive graph showing the matchup projections 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 Tropicana field (so both teams are also on the same footing, but it's scaled slightly different than the overall projections). Here is the overall projections (straight Steamer in a neutral park).

SoxOverall

Some notes on these projections:

  • While projection systems like Steamer are our best bet most of the time, they work best when they have plenty of Major League data to work with. That means you should take the numbers for Tim Beckham, Allan Dykstra, Ryan Brett, Steven Souza, Sandy Leon, and Mookie Betts with even more grains of salt than you would otherwise.
  • I'm tired of saying this. You're tired of hearing this. But the Rays are simply not a very good hitting team at the top of their lineup right now. Evan Longoria and Steven Souza belong there, but the bats of John Jaso and James Loney against righties are sorely missed. Once they come back, things will look less dire, but for right now, all of the Rays opponents feature better offensive players.

Chris Archer vs. Wade Miley

Miley-Archer
This is the game that most favors the Rays. Archer has become quite a nice pitcher (wouldn't he look nice as the number three? Soon.) And he's especially difficult against righties with his plus-plus fastball-slider combo. Moreover, the absence of Jaso and Loney doesn't mean all that much against a lefty like Miley. We have other guys for him.

Nate Karns vs. Joe Kelly

Kelly-Karns
You try to put good inputs into your spreadsheet and then accept what comes out for however much you think it's worth. I think my pitcher projections are underrating Karns. Regardless, they think of Kelly and Karns as having a pretty similar split, but with Kelly significantly better overall.

Both pitchers are much tougher on righties than they are on lefties, with Kelly looking like a very tough matchup for the likes of Souza and Desmond Jennings.

Jake Odorizzi vs. Clay Buchholz

Buchholz-Odorizzi
Here's another case where what the spreadsheet knows isn't the whole story. Odorizzi has added a re-vamped cutter this season in place of his bad slider. He's also throwing a bit harder. I'm confident he's a better pitcher than this.

As expected for a pitcher who relies on a splitter and a curve (both relatively platoon-neutral), Odorizzi hasn't shown much of a split so far. These projections see him as average for a righty against right-handed hitting, and very slightly below average against lefties. His opponent, Clacy Buchholz, is more like Kelly and Karns in that he's very tough on righties but merely average against lefties.

Like the Yankees series before it, this looks like something of a "survive" matchup. The Rays have talented players coming back from injury relatively soon, but right now they need to rely on youngsters without much experience or even top pedigree. Archer-Miley is the best chance to grab a win, and then after that, anything else is gravy.