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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.