Before I went on vacation, we held a DRaysBay FanPost Competition in the month of July, which brought in ten robust submissions. We held a post for voting on the contest entries, a lot of folks didn't take the voting seriously. Alternate accounts were used, people were ridiculed, comments were hidden, classic fare for this site.
In the end and through the noise, however, a top three has emerged. The winners of the competition is as follows:
Brad Boxberger and Tipping Pitches, by zgreer39
My favorite article in the bunch, using my tie breaking vote to jump into the top three, was a first-time post from zgreer39, who answered the "Say what?" to the surprise statement that "Brad Boxberger has been tipping pitches." Here's a sample from the article:
From opening day to May 22, Boxberger threw his 4 seamer 56.58%, changeup 36.3%, and curve 7.12%. From May 26 until July 7, he threw his 4 seamer 55.09%, changeup 38.62%, and curve 6.29%. Throughout the entire season, his pitch tendencies have been relatively equal. The first red flag came when looking at whiff percentage.
From 4/1 to 5/22, Boxberger recorded a 4 seam whiff percentage of 15.72% and 17.65% for changeups. Out of 18 games, he was able to record a whiff percentage over 40% for a single pitch 7 times. Compared to only 2 games out of 19 from the period from 5/26 through 7/7, Boxberger was also only able to record a whiff percentage of 7.07% for fastballs and 11.63% for changeups.
The slugging percentage numbers against Boxberger are even more absurd. From 4/1 through 5/22, batters slugged .108 against the fastball and .389 against the changeup. From 5/26 through 7/7, they slugged .650 against the fastball and .423 against the changeup. Batters are putting up a slugging percentage against Boxberger's fastball similar to Albert Pujols in his prime!
While I am not a baseball expert, it does appear that there is evidence of Boxberger's pitch tipping.
I remember reading this and thinking, 'Blimey there it is!' Quite a lot of inconsistency for the Rays closer who is on an island unto himself in the high leverage portion of the bullpen. That and nine losses to his name have made it a roller coaster season not much unlike the graphs above.
The Rays are Not Buyers. But What if They Were?, by WilMyers'BatFlip
Achieving a second place vote, due to some ignored shenanigan voting, is a fun stroll through the odds of the Rays' playoff chances with improvements at each positions, community stalwart WMBF provided some food for thought on what an active Rays team might allow the team to accomplish in the near future.
And in Other News, the Sky is Still Blue
Another season, another result of disappointing production from 1B and Catcher. I'll just go flip on over to the Travel Channel and brush up on my vapid platitudes by listening to that Captain Obvious guy from the Hotels.com commercials. Wow that over-water bungalow in Fiji looks super sweet, even that ambiguously multiracial tactically assembled stock photo family seems super excited about it. Now I want to go to Fiji, how much is left on my United Mileage Plus Awards card credit limit? You only live once right?!? But alas, I digress. On purpose. Because anything is better than talking about the Rays offensive production from the catcher and 1B slots.
[Shakes off the sadness, Taylor Swift style]. Anyhooo, back to our improbable scenario where the Rays are buyers. How shall we improve those black holes?
Warning, another caveat ahead. I know I know, I ran through my allotment in the beginning under this loony "rays as buyers" scenario, but I just went ahead and traded some international bonus pool money in my other fantasy league to get one last caveat (yeah our league is into complex rules, what's it to you fella??)
Here is the actual caveat: Since we are already assuming an improbable scenario where the Rays are buyers, let's also assume they are looking to be bold by adding significant pieces that have the potential for longer term value as well. This is bold by Rays standards, not the kind of stupid bold that sells the farm for a short term rental of a bat like Justin Upton.
WMBF went on to offer several trade targets with great consideration, thought I would offer his focus on position players over pitching removed the winning edge.
The Curious Case of Evan Longoria's Missing Power, by JRTW612
With an overwhelming majority of the votes among the ten posts, JRTW612 preempted a long article at Grantlandof the decline of Longoria's power with a thoughtful take on how Longoria continues to be useful, even past his power's prime.
It's easy to be discouraged and frustrated by Longoria's power decline, and absolutely, the Rays could use some of the power they'd become accustomed to seeing from him. But just because his power hasn't rebounded this season doesn't mean it never will, or that it's time to declare him a 15-20 home run guy for the rest of his career. Just look the way some of the sluggers of yesterday like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Albert Pujols have rediscovered their power strokes this year.
At the respective ages of 39 and 35, in a season not many people expected much from either of them for various reasons, Rodriguez and Teixeira are posting their highest slugging percentages since 2009. In 82 games this season, Rodriguez has already hit as many home runs (18) as he did in 122 games in 2012. Teixeira's 22 home runs through 82 games are as many as he had in 123 games last year. Prior to missing almost all of 2013, he hit 24 in 123 in 2012. Pujols is posting his highest slugging percentage since 2011, and is on pace for his first 40-home run season since 2010. He, too, is 35 years old.
It's true that, while Longoria's been a great player, he was never quite the kind of prodigious slugger that those guys were in their prime, but the point is that, being a three-time 30-home run hitter who hit 32 homers (the second highest total of his career) as recently as 2013, and being a guy who doesn't even turn 30 until October, it's far from out of the realm of possibility that he can still return to being a 25-30 home run guy. And I, for one, will be surprised if he doesn't see a power resurgence at some point.
And whether or not he does, he's still doing lots of great things for the Rays (including outperforming his salary), and is still one of the best third basemen in the game. While we can be frustrated with his current lack of power, let's still try to keep that in mind.
Well said. You can read his full thoughts, and a rundown of stats, behind the hyperlink above.
Congrats to our three community members on their well-written submissions!
These winning authors have received a quick message from me, but if that failed to reach you, give me a shout. Legit prizes are to follow, including Rays tickets for first place, a new hat for second place, and the choice of whatever I pick from the clearance section for third place, or a skype date with Hatfield. You choose, zgreer39!
Let's do this again sometime soon.