Over on Dock of the Rays, Jason Hanselman has made a startling discovery, which began with this observation:
The Rays have allowed 144 FBs 16 H, 14 HR, 2B, 1B 2/130 BIP failed to be caught, good for a .015 BABIP
How could this be possible? Jason explains:
Naturally, I was skeptical. I mean surely, more than 2 fly balls have fallen for hits. I went to the incomparable Baseball Savant and pulled every ball hit against the Rays pitchers. Then I filtered down to what they have labeled as fly balls. This is a work in progress, but I'm mostly able to show where these balls have been hit using their data:
Here's just the fly balls. The lines are an approximation. The two balls that were labeled doubles have been highlighted in green. I've labeled all the home runs in black, except Alex Rodriguez's bomb to deeeep CF. Look how freaking far he hit that.
Baseball Savant allows for database queries of the information provided by MLB Advanced Media, which includes mistakes. Funny enough, their data codes three hits on flyball thus far but one of those happened to be a groundball. So it takes some interpretation, as Jason provided above.
On to the tape of the two flyballs:
Here's the first double from the young stick Devon Travis.
Here's the other double as Josh Donaldson took an injured Jeff Beliveau to the wall.
AND THAT IS IT! Everything else on that map is an out or one of the 14 homers, which just strikes me as a ton of ground being utterly blanketed. Notice that it's not just side to side coverage, but also front to back.
The Rays outfield so far this year has been one heck of a net. If they can keep defending this well as the pitching gets better then you're really going to see serious run prevention. It's about to get fun, Rays fans. Just for funsies here's a look at each of the pitchers still in play:
Jason concludes by looking at the early fly ball rates of each pitcher, with a few quick thoughts on each, and then provides made-and-missed outfield spray charts for each outfielder to prove it's not fluke.
We knew that the outfield defense in Tampa Bay was going to be pretty good this year. That's what happens when you play a gold-glove-level center fielder in center (Kevin Kiermaier), move a good center fielder to left (Desmond Jennings), and then slot a guy into right field who could play a fine center field for plenty of other teams (Steven Souza Jr.). And fourth outfielder Brandon Guyer is no slouch either.
But two hits? Lord Almighty.
Go find the rest at Dock of the Rays.