clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays

New, 1 comment

Two teams are sporting losing streaks of at least three games. Somebody has to win, so why can't it be the Rays.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend the struggling Oakland Athletics head to Tropicana Field to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Atheltics have given up 51 runs over their last four games.

It would be nice if the Rays could take advantage of some pitchers that are struggling, but first they have to get through the only Oakland starter who has pitched well in Rich Hill. The good news is he's a left handed pitcher and that's the side of the plate the Rays have been feasting on.

Matchups:

Friday: Rich Hill vs Jake Odorizzi

Saturday: Kendall Graveman vs Matt Andriese

Sunday: Sonny Gray vs Matt Moore

It is not always sunny in Oakland

The Oakland starting rotation has been a mess to start the season. They lead the American League and second in MLB in ERA, 5.47, and FIP, 5.10, by starters. Rich Hill has been a great free agent signing as he's posted a 2.39 ERA with 28.9% K and 10.1% BB rates.

Sonny Gray has struggled mightily this year as he's posted a 6.00 ERA with an elevated 10.3% walk rate.

Athletic Starters Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Rich Hill 69.1 31.2% 10.5% 8.5% 0.207 0.312 0.290 0.272 3.63 3.07
Kendall Graveman 76.2 16.6% 5.2% 23.6% 0.286 0.326 0.503 0.356 5.52 5.31
Sonny Gray 248.1 20.4% 6.9% 8.5% 0.231 0.289 0.331 0.276 3.55 3.35

When Rich Hill has managed to stay healthy he has been able to handle right handed bats very well. Going back three years Hill has only managed to pitch 110.2 innings, and over his career he has been about .020 wOBA worse against right handed batters.

Kendall Graveman has had a homerun problem this year as he's posted a 28.1% home run per flyball rate. That should bode well for the Rays homer happy bats. Graveman has been absolutely terrible against right handed batters. This would be a great opportunity for Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce to see the starting lineup against a right handed pitcher.

Over Gray's career he has shut down right handed batters, but we haven't seen that Gray appear this year. Hopefully the Rays offense isn't the antidote to get him on track as he can be dominant when he's at his best.

Athletic Starters Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Rich Hill 41.1 27.6% 13.8% 5.7% 0.222 0.344 0.293 0.293 3.48 3.32
Kendall Graveman 75.0 16.2% 9.6% 10.1% 0.260 0.343 0.384 0.323 3.24 4.38
Sonny Gray 281.2 21.4% 8.8% 11.1% 0.220 0.293 0.330 0.280 2.72 3.52

Hill and Gray have had better ERA results versus left handed batters, but their FIPs would suggest they should allow a little bit more against the lefties. With Hill the Rays batters should get some opportunities as long as they are patient and take a few walks or force him into the zone.

Graveman has been better against left handed batters, but that's only because he has been so bad against right handed batters. His ERA looks nice, but if continues to allow that line to left handed batters his ERA won't stay that way.

Athletics made a splash to shore up the bullpen

This offseason the Athletics made two big signings for a small market club to add to their bullpen that led the AL with a 4.63 ERA in 2015. They signed Ryan Madson to a three year 22 million dollar contract and John Axford to a two year ten million dollar deal in free agency. They also acquired LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski through a trade with the Padres.

The overall results haven't really materialized as they hoped after spending a big chunk of change on the bullpen. The Athletics have the third highest ERA at 4.24 behind only the Rangers and Twins.

Madson has looked good as he has ousted the incumbent closer, Sean Doolittle, and has posted a 1.23 ERA with eight saves. There is concern for Madson as he's lowered his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate, but hasn't allowed a homer.

Over the last week covering six games the Athletics bullpen has had to cover 26.1 innings and has allowed a 9.57 ERA over that span. The bullpen has been overworked, but Madson and Axford have only pitched one inning this week. Luckily for the rest of the pen the Athletics were off yesterday.

Athletic Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Ryan Madson 39.2 21.6% 8.0% 8.6% 0.218 0.290 0.345 0.276 2.72 3.48
Sean Doolittle 102.2 28.3% 5.4% 6.7% 0.215 0.262 0.335 0.263 3.33 2.67
John Axford 103.0 23.1% 10.0% 14.1% 0.257 0.340 0.406 0.328 4.98 4.09
Fernando Rodriguez 53.2 24.2% 8.1% 6.2% 0.181 0.252 0.293 0.245 3.52 3.20
Marc Rzepczynski 46.2 18.5% 13.8% 13.8% 0.316 0.424 0.466 0.380 7.14 4.69
Ryan Dull 24.2 28.0% 2.2% 11.1% 0.198 0.215 0.404 0.260 2.92 3.35
Zach Neal 1.2 12.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.375 0.375 0.500 0.378 5.40 1.90
Andrew Triggs 3.2 14.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.154 0.214 0.231 0.204 2.45 2.85

The Athletics have four solid options against righties in Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Fernando Rodriguez, and Ryan Dull. The only really terrible option has been Rzepczynski which is to be expected as he's been a really effective LOOGY for a long time.

Athletic Relievers Last 3+Years vs Left Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Ryan Madson 38.1 23.3% 4.8% 6.3% 0.194 0.233 0.275 0.225 1.17 2.58
Sean Doolittle 56.1 30.1% 440.0% 5.6% 0.162 0.202 0.263 0.207 2.72 2.29
John Axford 87.1 24.3% 13.0% 14.1% 0.246 0.348 0.363 0.314 2.89 4.09
Fernando Rodriguez 34.1 27.5% 10.6% 2.9% 0.205 0.291 0.286 0.260 2.36 2.54
Marc Rzepczynski 78.0 27.4% 5.2% 8.3% 0.214 0.273 0.287 0.251 1.73 2.30
Ryan Dull 11.2 19.2% 15.4% 28.6% 0.209 0.346 0.524 0.351 6.17 8.18
Zach Neal 1.1 20.0% 0.0% 50.0% 0.200 0.200 0.800 0.412 13.50 11.35
Andrew Triggs 1.1 50.0% 16.7% 0.0% 0.200 0.333 0.200 0.262 6.75 0.85

The Athletics have a lot of options that have been really good at shutting down left handed batters. Madson, Doolittle, Rzepczynski, and Rodriguez have been really good. Doolittle has struggled this year, but has a track record of success.

If you're a left handed batter the only pitchers you'd like to see are Ryan Dull, Zach Neal, and Andrew Triggs out of the pen. If they do get at bats against those pitchers it's likely in a blowout.

Where has all the OBP gone?

The originators of Moneyball has gone to the other side of the spectrum. They have posted the sixth lowest OBP, .298, coming in just one spot ahead of the Rays, .296. The Athletics have a 6.5% walk rate good for second to last in MLB, but they have the third lowest strikeout rate. The team has put up a .247/.298/.378, .295 wOBA, 89 wRC+ line.

The Athletics have been better against right handed pitching, .249/.305/.381, .300 wOBA, 92 wRC+, than they have been against left handed pitching, .236/.269/.367, .278 wOBA, 76 wRC+. They have a lot of guys who that have bats that play well in a platoon.

Their big trade acquisition offensively in Khris Davis has been a slight disappointment as he's hit at a .232/.267/.440, .305 wOBA, 95 wRC+ clip. Their big free agent signing last year in Billy Butler has been a huge hole in the lineup as he's lost playing time after a .212/.226/.308, .232 wOBA, 43 wRC+ start over 53 plate appearances.

Athletics Batters Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Pitching:

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Billy Burns 479 3 30 4.6% 12.7% 0.282 0.319 0.373 0.302 92
Chris Coghlan 1066 28 18 9.8% 19.2% 0.263 0.338 0.441 0.338 114
Josh Reddick 1131 38 16 8.8% 14.4% 0.280 0.341 0.470 0.350 126
Khris Davis 945 48 7 7.1% 23.4% 0.253 0.315 0.490 0.348 118
Billy Butler 1405 26 0 7.7% 16.1% 0.270 0.331 0.382 0.315 99
Stephen Vogt 867 31 1 8.4% 17.2% 0.272 0.333 0.445 0.335 116
Josh Phegley 338 8 2 3.8% 22.5% 0.208 0.244 0.338 0.255 57
Marcus Semien 759 19 9 7.9% 26.5% 0.224 0.287 0.362 0.287 81
Danny Valencia 506 19 1 4.5% 26.1% 0.254 0.289 0.438 0.314 99
Yonder Alonso 924 16 12 8.7% 10.4% 0.274 0.335 0.394 0.318 105
Coco Crisp 931 23 38 12.1% 11.9% 0.254 0.342 0.404 0.329 112
Tyler Ladendorf 13 0 1 7.7% 30.8% 0.167 0.231 0.167 0.188 19

The Athletics are led by Josh Reddick and is helped by Chris Coghlan, Khris Davis, and Stephen Vogt against right handers. The Rays right handers should look to avoid as much damage as possible against their only real offensive threats.

Yonder Alonso hasn't been the answer at first base as he's posted a .219/.281/.324, .269 wOBA, 70 wRC+ line through 114 plate appearances.

Athletics Batters Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Pitching:

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Billy Burns 208 2 7 4.3% 13.9% 0.309 0.351 0.397 0.329 111
Chris Coghlan 194 2 3 9.8% 21.1% 0.219 0.309 0.308 0.283 77
Josh Reddick 429 10 6 8.9% 16.8% 0.213 0.286 0.325 0.275 74
Khris Davis 328 19 6 7.0% 27.4% 0.233 0.296 0.483 0.336 110
Billy Butler 520 13 0 12.5% 15.4% 0.267 0.358 0.418 0.335 113
Stephen Vogt 198 3 0 6.6% 18.2% 0.232 0.283 0.359 0.281 78
Josh Phegley 195 8 0 4.1% 17.4% 0.269 0.297 0.462 0.327 108
Marcus Semien 294 12 8 5.8% 18.0% 0.302 0.340 0.495 0.360 132
Danny Valencia 391 11 2 8.2% 14.1% 0.325 0.379 0.506 0.381 144
Yonder Alonso 255 3 2 7.8% 20.4% 0.231 0.302 0.310 0.277 77
Coco Crisp 430 11 8 8.8% 14.0% 0.224 0.291 0.352 0.284 80
Tyler Ladendorf 9 0 0 0.0% 11.1% 0.222 0.222 0.444 0.275 73

Marcus Semien and Danny Valencia are the two biggest threats for left handed pitchers to worry about. Davis, Butler, Josh Phegley, and Billy Burns have been productive complimentary pieces against right handers.

What to expect?

Both team's starting pitchers have struggled of late with the Athletics having bigger problems recently. Tonight the Athletics send out their only reliable starter in Rich Hill. The good news for the Rays is he pitches with his left arm as they have had more success against southpaws.

It might be a series that would play against your thoughts about what an Oakland versus Tampa Bay series would be about. There could be a lot of runs scored this weekend at Tropicana Field. This would be a great spot for the Rays hitters to breakout against two struggling right handed pitchers.