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Series Preview: Rays Look To Avoid The Sickness In Boston

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Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox

The Tampa Bay Rays head into Boston to face the Red Sox in an extended Friday through Monday series, coming off a frustrating sweep in New York. In addition to the losses the Rays could be forced to make a couple roster moves due to injury. The Rays have already placed Smith on the disabled list and called up Shane Peterson.

Unfortunately for them, the Red Sox have been dealing with issues of their own. Yesterday was a scheduled off day, but they had to make up a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates that was postponed. Meanwhile, the flu has been going around the team, so they’ve had to play short handed to start the season. Jackie Bradley, Jr. was also placed on the disabled list earlier this week.

Anything less than a series split could be demoralizing for either squad.

Matchups

Friday 7:10 PM: Chris Archer vs Rick Porcello

Saturday 4:05 PM: Jake Odorizzi vs Chris Sale

Sunday 1:35 PM: Alex Cobb vs Drew Pomeranz

Monday 11:05 AM: Blake Snell vs Steven Wright

Starters

Former Rays ace and Cy Young Award winner David Price is currently on the disabled list and likely a month away from returning to their rotation. In addition due to the makeup game yesterday the Rays avoid having to face three lefties this series.

Red Sox Starters vs RHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Rick Porcello 281.0 19.6 % 3.8 % 0.261 0.299 0.403 0.306
Chris Sale 520.0 28.4 % 5.3 % 0.223 0.276 0.365 0.280
Drew Pomeranz 242.0 24.5 % 9.2 % 0.215 0.291 0.367 0.289
Steven Wright 144.1 18.7 % 8.6 % 0.258 0.329 0.410 0.322

Rick Porcello is the reigning Cy Young Award winner despite the objection of Kate Upton. Porcello hasn’t gotten the results he did last year as he’s currently owns a 4.38 ERA, but does have a 2.38 FIP through two starts. He’s allowed seven runs, six earned, in 12.1 innings. He doesn’t post big strikeout numbers, but he limits walks. Right handed bats haven’t done a lot of damage.

This off-season the big splash of Chris Sale to the Red Sox was made to strengthen their rotation. The Lakeland, Florida native is one of the three best left handed pitchers in Major League Baseball. Sale has gotten off to a terrific start allowing two runs over 14.2 innings in his two starts. Right handed batters haven’t had a lot of content, but left handed bats don’t hit that well.

Drew Pomeranz has a place in the rotation in part due to David Price being on the disabled list. His first start of the season was quite good. He threw six innings where he allowed one run while striking out six and walking one. Pomeranz had an incredible start to the season with the San Diego Padres. Since being traded to the Red Sox he has struggled more often than not and battled injuries.

Steven Wright is a knuckleballer. When they are on they are near unhittable and when they aren’t they suffer from whiplash watching balls being launched. In two starts he’s allowed 12 runs in eight innings. His last start saw him allow eight runs in 1.1 innings. He had an incredible start to the season last year, but hasn’t seen a lot of success since.

Red Sox Starters vs LHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Rick Porcello 144.1 18.70% 8.60% 0.258 0.329 0.410 0.322
Chris Sale 104.0 34.00% 4.40% 0.204 0.261 0.270 0.240
Drew Pomeranz 89.2 25.70% 8.70% 0.208 0.283 0.302 0.261
Steven Wright 114.0 19.10% 8.00% 0.225 0.297 0.351 0.288

Porcello allows more damage to left handed bats. Most of the difference comes from increased walk rate. Similar strikeout rates, batting average, and slugging percentage, abide but the OBP is elevated due to the increased walks.

Chris Sale allows next to nothing against left handed batters. Left bats strike out a lot, don’t walk, and don’t hit for power. That combination leads to no production, so it will be incumbent upon Odorizzi to hold the line in game two.

Some of Pomeranz’s sample comes out of the bullpen, but he has done well limiting extra base hits to same handed batters.

Left handed bats haven’t had quite the success as their right handed brethren against the dancing knuckler from Wright. Lower numbers across the board in results with similar strikeout and walk rates.

Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen has put up fantastic results to date as a group. They have a combined 2.12 ERA and 2.82 FIP. They have played five days in a row heading into the long holiday weekend series. None of their relievers have thrown two days in a row heading into game one. Joe Kelly is the only reliever that could be unavailable as he threw 44 pitches in two innings Wednesday.

Red Sox Relievers vs RHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Craig Kimbrel 90.0 38.2 % 11.4 % 0.151 0.254 0.238 0.229
Heath Hembree 60.2 21.2 % 8.2 % 0.222 0.286 0.361 0.281
Fernando Abad 79.0 17.7 % 12.3 % 0.218 0.316 0.352 0.289
Matt Barnes 72.0 22.6 % 8.5 % 0.278 0.348 0.430 0.339
Joe Kelly 141.0 19.0 % 8.4 % 0.272 0.346 0.433 0.340
Robbie Ross Jr. 119.2 17.2 % 8.2 % 0.291 0.367 0.431 0.351
Robby Scott 3.1 23.5 % 11.8 % 0.333 0.412 0.400 0.362

Last year’s big acquisition Craig Kimbrel has a very impressive 38.2% strikeout rate against right handed bats. He will walk more than his fair share. When he’s wild you have a shot at getting multiple base runners and putting some runs on the board.

Heath Hembree and Fernando Abad are the only other guys in the pen who have put up good numbers against right handed batters.

If you can get to the bullpen early there are spots to exploit especially while Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg are on the disabled list.

Red Sox Relievers vs LHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Robby Scott 4.1 20.0 % 0.0 % 0.200 0.214 0.214 0.188
Craig Kimbrel 88.0 36.7 % 10.8 % 0.168 0.274 0.263 0.249
Fernando Abad 73.2 27.0 % 5.2 % 0.213 0.272 0.367 0.281
Robbie Ross Jr. 74.2 20.9 % 9.0 % 0.231 0.317 0.347 0.297
Joe Kelly 135.0 18.1 % 11.2 % 0.248 0.338 0.377 0.318
Matt Barnes 52.1 23.4 % 10.1 % 0.252 0.338 0.432 0.336
Heath Hembree 30.2 13.8 % 8.7 % 0.310 0.370 0.516 0.374

Left handed batters have a little more success against Kimbrel than right handed batters, but it’s not a significant difference.

Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross, Jr. have been very effective against left handed bats, and could be difficult to overcome.

While the Rays left handed bats won’t have a fun time against Chris Sale they should be able to get some work done against the bullpen.

Offense

The Red Sox offense has not been at full strength to start the season. The offense has been hit hardest by the flu. The offense is tied for fewest homers in the league with the Blue Jays. Who would have thought that coming into the season?

Mitch Moreland has been their top performer through the first week and a half. Mookie Betts has had a tough start after missing a few games due to the flu. Betts hasn’t hit an extra base hit this year and let’s hope that continues this weekend.

Red Sox Batters vs RHP Last 3+ Years

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Andrew Benintendi 118 8.5 % 13.6 % 0.317 0.390 0.529 0.392 147
Mookie Betts 1257 7.7 % 12.2 % 0.305 0.360 0.497 0.367 128
Pablo Sandoval 814 6.3 % 13.5 % 0.289 0.338 0.444 0.340 116
Hanley Ramirez 1195 8.2 % 17.0 % 0.271 0.338 0.440 0.339 112
Dustin Pedroia 1353 7.6 % 10.6 % 0.304 0.356 0.417 0.339 110
Mitch Moreland 937 6.7 % 22.1 % 0.259 0.319 0.451 0.330 104
Xander Bogaerts 1497 5.6 % 19.3 % 0.280 0.324 0.397 0.316 94
Brock Holt 985 7.8 % 16.9 % 0.271 0.330 0.378 0.313 92
Chris Young 622 6.9 % 20.9 % 0.229 0.292 0.401 0.305 91
Sandy Leon 354 7.1 % 24.3 % 0.250 0.308 0.350 0.289 75
Marco Hernandez 58 6.9 % 17.2 % 0.241 0.293 0.333 0.277 66
Steve Selsky 44 2.3 % 40.9 % 0.262 0.279 0.357 0.276 66
Christian Vazquez 309 5.8 % 18.8 % 0.245 0.296 0.326 0.275 67

This offense is a lot less intimidating for right handed bats without David Ortiz. Mookie Betts is their big threat. Most of Pablo Sandoval’s damage was done three years ago. He only picked up a handful of plate appearances last year before being shut down due to injury.

Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and in a small sample Andrew Benintendi have been above average bats against right handed hitters.

Due to injuries the lineup isn’t as deep as you would expect from the Red Sox when they are full strength. Chris Young has been forced to play more than you would like from someone who is best used as a short side platoon bat.

Red Sox Batters vs LHP Last 3+ Years

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Steve Selsky 16 6.3 % 43.8 % 0.400 0.438 0.733 0.490 211
Marco Hernandez 17 5.9 % 23.5 % 0.438 0.471 0.438 0.403 157
Hanley Ramirez 390 10.8 % 19.0 % 0.288 0.367 0.535 0.381 142
Chris Young 358 12.0 % 18.7 % 0.281 0.370 0.497 0.370 135
Xander Bogaerts 492 9.3 % 15.7 % 0.311 0.380 0.457 0.366 129
Mookie Betts 367 6.3 % 10.9 % 0.291 0.333 0.488 0.351 118
Dustin Pedroia 419 11.9 % 14.3 % 0.272 0.359 0.420 0.343 113
Sandy Leon 150 7.3 % 20.7 % 0.278 0.333 0.436 0.332 104
Brock Holt 355 9.3 % 25.9 % 0.276 0.349 0.378 0.324 101
Mitch Moreland 304 6.9 % 25.0 % 0.247 0.301 0.405 0.307 88
Christian Vazquez 86 12.8 % 17.4 % 0.233 0.329 0.329 0.296 80
Pablo Sandoval 370 4.6 % 16.5 % 0.193 0.236 0.274 0.226 39
Andrew Benintendi 41 9.8 % 31.7 % 0.171 0.250 0.171 0.201 13

The Red Sox offense is definitely more intimidating to left handed pitchers right now.

Hanley Ramirez, Chris Young, and Xander Bogaerts have been elite bats against left handed pitchers. Blake Snell will have to be careful navigating the middle of the lineup that leans very right handed.

Have a safe holiday weekend

This is a big weekend for Major League Baseball. Saturday is Jackie Robinson Day. Sunday is Easter. Monday is the annual Patriot’s Day morning game in Boston, where there is a regional holiday for the Marathon. The games this weekend all start at different times than usual.

This is the first time the Rays have been in Boston for Patriot’s Day since the Boston Bombing three years ago, which occurred shortly after the game ended. Hopefully nothing as heinous happens this weekend and everybody stays safe.

Chris Archer takes the ball tonight and the Rays need their ace to put up a performance that allows their bats to win the game.

This will be a tough test for the Rays coming off a disappointing series in New York. Being .500 would put the Rays in solid shape after the series. Give them time to get healthy and put the team that the front office envisioned heading into the series.