Last night the Rays made the cross country trip to southern California in preparation for the weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Rays will hope to get their left handed bats on track against a lackluster right handed heavy Angels rotation that was delivered a big blow this afternoon when tonight's starter is going to be out with a tear in his UCL that will lead to Tommy John Surgery.
Friday: Chris Archer vs Cory Rasmus
Saturday: Jake Odorizzi vs Jared Weaver
Sunday: TBA (likely Matt Andriese) vs Nick Tropeano
The Rays have moved Matt Moore's spot in the rotation back to the Seattle series as the Angels have posted a 113 wRC+ vs LHP and 92 wRC+ vs RHP compared to the Mariners who have posted a 102 wRC+ vs LHP and a 116 wRC+ vs RHP.
It doesn't really change the rotation as they would have needed to use a spot start at some point during this six game stretch and this is the most beneficial for all the pitchers involved.
What's left of the Angels' starting rotation?
This morning news broke that tonight's schedule starter and staff ace Garrett Richards has a torn UCL and will need Tommy John Surgery after yesterday being reported that he would be skipped due to fatigue.
This afternoon another Angels young starter Andrew Heaney was reported to have a tear in his UCL, but is going to try to rehab through it without surgery as Masahiro Tanaka recently attempted with the Yankees.
That gives us the following starters.
Angels Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:
Cory Rasmus's stats are almost entirely out of the bullpen as he has only made one career start where he lasted three innings and allowed 2 runs on three hits (1 home run) while striking out three and walking none. This season Rasmus has been used a multiple inning reliever as he has pitched 2+ innings in four appearances with a maximum of 3.2. (Editor's note: Man he walks people.)
Jared Weaver has seen complete loss in velocity as you will see his fast ball consistently in the low 80s while dipping into the 70s on occasion. He has had trouble getting batters of any handedness out, but he's had better strike out and walk numbers against right handed batters even if the results haven't been better.
Nick Tropeano walks very few batters, but allows damage when batters put the ball in play.
Angels Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:
Left handed batters should look to feast against these underwhelming right handed pitchers. This is a really good spot for our batters to start producing.
Tropeano has had trouble limited walks against opposite handed hitters, so the Rays left handed bats will need to be patient and force him into the zone where they can do damage.
A potential wrench in the plan as Matt Shoemaker could be recalled to start tonight's game:
Matt Shoemaker was optioned to AAA earlier this week, but by putting Richards on the DL they could call back up and make tonight's start as he missed his scheduled start last night.
Obviously, if Richards news is true, I would expect Matt Shoemaker back. He didn't pitch yesterday, so he might even start tonight.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) May 6, 2016
Jeff Fletcher is the Orange County Register's Angels beat writer. It could just be his opinion, but it would make sense.
If Shoemaker does make the start he has been pretty average against batters of both hands and shows very little split besides striking out more right handed batters. It would be a good opportunity to get Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer in the lineup if they are so inclined against this string of right handed pitchers.
Is there anybody available to pitch in the bullpen?
The bullpen has been worked hard as many of their pitchers have barely reached five innings per start and the Angels bullpen has been forced to cover 94 innings or just over three and a third innings per game through their first 28 games. Huston Street was placed on the disabled list last week.
Joe Smith is a capable backend reliever, but the quality options behind him are very limited. The Angels bullpen isn't a traditional high strikeout, huge fast ball pen. They have only have two pitchers who have struck out 20%+ of their batters faced in Fernando Salas (21.8%) and Cam Bedrosian (41.7%) in a very small sample size.
Angels Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:
As a group they have been successful against righties and are led by their current closer, Joe Smith.
Jose Alvarez and Greg Mahle are left handed pitchers and have a harder time against right handed batters.
Angels Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:
The two LOOGYs (Alvarez and Mahle) are joined by Fernando Salas as good options against right handed batters. Joe Smith has been hit pretty hard, but he's been lucky according to FIP.
The Rays should get to the bullpen early and have opportunities to put up runs when they do.
Mike Trout could really use some help.
Mike Trout continues to terrorize pitching around the league with his .317/.400/.596, .416 wOBA, 181 wRC+ line. The problem has been help as the only productive bats this season have been former Ray Yunel Escobar (.297/.363/.459, .358 wOBA, 139 wRC+) and Kole Calhoun (.304/.377/.431, .357 wOBA, and 138 wRC+).
Please don't let Mike Trout beat you as he's one of the very few landmines in this offense.
Albert Pujols has seen his production decline to a .198/.280/.387, .291 wOBA, 90 wRC+ line this season. While that would be great for a Rays first baseman, that isn't what you want for a guy you still owe $175MM over the next five plus seasons.
The Angels as a team have a completely polar opposite approach as they have the lowest strikeout rate in the league at 14.2%, but combine it with a second lowest hard hit percentage at 25.7%. They have been approximately as successful as the Rays high strikeout while hitting the ball hard approach. They have allowed Mike Trout to do his thing as he has the highest strikeout rate (23.3%) of players with at least fifty plate appearances this season.
Angels Batters Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Pitchers:
Trout is a beast and doesn't care which arm you throw with. He is joined by Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols as the only real threats for right handed pitchers. Don't let these guys beat you and the Rays should be put in a good position to win.
Angels Batters Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Pitchers:
|Ji-Man Choi||Zero MLB At Bats|
Mike Trout is joined by Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun as the batters that are the real threats against left handed pitchers.
The biggest surprise is Pujols' line against left handed pitchers where he has been below average in his time with the Angels.
Any left handed pitchers out of the pen should be used on the bottom of the lineup and mostly just to cover innings. The only high leverage situation they should really be facing is Calhoun in a big spot.
How should the Rays fair?
I've said it many times, but this is as good as a spot as any for the left handed bats to breakout and bring some production to the field. If they are successful this is a good opportunity to bank some road wins while on the west coast.
If the Angels call up Shoemaker for the start tonight it would definitely be helpful for their bullpen and ability to get more innings out of their starter tonight. It would be really nice to see this team perform like they are capable of against right handed pitching as they have only been successful in the one start against Michael Pineda in New York.
Tonight's game won't be on Fox Sports Sun, so the only local option will be to listen via WDAE 620. The radio option is really solid for those who don't listen to many games. Saturday night's game will be the first Late Night with the Rays of the season, so it should be entertaining.