It is so close you can smell the new turf, hear the pop of the glove and the crack of the bat. The season is finally here. The Tampa Bay Rays kick off the 2017 season against the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have undergone a youth transition spearheaded by the trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller last July. Chapman is back and they brought in the veteran bats of Matt Holliday and Chris Carter, but otherwise the Yankees are relying more on young players.
They have a few young guys making their first opening day roster including Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. More help is likely to be coming from their farm as the season progresses.
Sunday 1:00 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs Chris Archer
Tuesday 7:10 PM: CC Sabathia vs Jake Odorizzi
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Michael Pineda vs Alex Cobb
New York Yankees:
Yankees Starters vs RHB Last 3 Years
Yankees Starters vs LHB Last 3 Years
The Rays start the season off with a tough test. Masahiro Tanaka has been very effective against batters regardless of which side of the plate they bat from. He shows virtually no split. If Tanaka’s splitter is on we’ll see a lot of ground balls and likely a long day for the Rays bats.
CC Sabathia has lost a lot of velocity, but last year he learned how to use what he has left effectively. Right handed bats have had much more success against him, but the many lefties in the Rays line up will be in for a tough first test in the second game.
Michael Pineda looks to be a great pitcher if you just look at his numbers. He doesn’t walk very many hitters and strikes out his fair share. If batters are able to get the ball in play, however, a lot of damage has been done. The last 2 years his ERA has been in the mid fours despite his FIP being in the mid threes.
Yankees Relievers vs RHB Last 3 Years
Yankees Relievers vs LHB Last 3 Years
The Yankees bullpen looks to be a strength once again. They were able to re-sign Aroldis Chapman after loaning him for the Cubs World Series run. They might not have Andrew Miller this year, but Chapman and Betances are two of the most dominant pitchers in the game.
If you are a left handed batter you might as well just pray for a walk as Chapman has struck out almost 50% of those faced. Right handers haven’t enjoyed much more success as they have still struck out over 40% of the time.
On almost any other team Dellin Betances would be the best reliever. He has been one of the best setup men in the league the last couple of years. Striking out 40% of batters is pretty great.
Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren join Chapman and Betances and can be effective against right handed batters. If you can get to the bullpen early this is the weak spot.
This current crop of relievers have been death on left handed bats. Only Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve have posted wOBA north of .270.
The best chance to win is to stake out an early lead and avoid the backend bullpen.
Yankees Batters vs RHP Last 3 Years
|Gary Sanchez||167||9.0 %||22.2 %||0.336||0.401||0.685||0.448||187|
|Gregory Bird||129||9.3 %||29.5 %||0.270||0.341||0.574||0.387||148|
|Matt Holliday||999||9.4 %||15.8 %||0.265||0.351||0.418||0.339||115|
|Chris Carter||1166||10.3 %||33.4 %||0.216||0.303||0.473||0.333||110|
|Brett Gardner||1335||10.8 %||19.2 %||0.258||0.342||0.409||0.331||109|
|Ronald Torreyes||127||3.9 %||10.2 %||0.288||0.320||0.441||0.324||103|
|Starlin Castro||1333||4.2 %||17.5 %||0.274||0.308||0.419||0.314||97|
|Jacoby Ellsbury||1196||8.3 %||13.4 %||0.263||0.326||0.385||0.312||96|
|Chase Headley||1187||9.4 %||23.9 %||0.243||0.323||0.371||0.308||94|
|Aaron Judge||77||7.8 %||41.6 %||0.203||0.273||0.406||0.291||79|
|Aaron Hicks||654||10.1 %||17.7 %||0.228||0.307||0.334||0.285||76|
|Austin Romine||88||4.5 %||23.9 %||0.195||0.227||0.293||0.225||34|
|Pete Kozma||96||9.4 %||18.8 %||0.186||0.271||0.209||0.218||32|
Yankees Batters vs LHP Last 3 Years
|Matt Holliday||371||14.6 %||16.7 %||0.265||0.383||0.506||0.382||144|
|Gary Sanchez||64||14.1 %||32.8 %||0.185||0.297||0.556||0.352||121|
|Chris Carter||510||13.5 %||29.4 %||0.222||0.335||0.486||0.351||123|
|Gregory Bird||49||14.3 %||30.6 %||0.238||0.347||0.405||0.334||111|
|Chase Headley||515||8.2 %||17.7 %||0.269||0.336||0.381||0.317||100|
|Starlin Castro||424||5.7 %||17.9 %||0.281||0.323||0.402||0.315||98|
|Brett Gardner||591||8.5 %||20.1 %||0.262||0.336||0.361||0.311||95|
|Jacoby Ellsbury||566||6.9 %||18.2 %||0.268||0.325||0.377||0.309||94|
|Austin Romine||103||2.9 %||13.6 %||0.276||0.294||0.439||0.308||91|
|Aaron Hicks||322||10.6 %||23.0 %||0.24||0.32||0.376||0.308||92|
|Ronald Torreyes||50||12.0 %||16.0 %||0.182||0.28||0.205||0.231||38|
|Pete Kozma||41||9.8 %||17.1 %||0.167||0.25||0.194||0.211||28|
|Aaron Judge||18||16.7 %||55.6 %||0.067||0.222||0.067||0.164||-8|
The Yankees have a lot of inexperienced position players. Due to their youth we don’t have any real idea what most of these guys will do at the major league level. That doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. They’re just unknown.
Outside of the small sample size destruction of right handed pitchers by Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird the Yankees lineup doesn’t have a ton left. Matt Holliday has been good, but is coming off the worst year of his career. Brett Gardner and Chris Carter join Holliday as the only others that are much more than average with the stick.
Holliday has destroyed lefties in the recent past. Carter joins him as one of the few with a track record of being above average versus lefties.
The injury to Didi Gregorius will cause some pain as they will be forced to play Ronald Torreyes or Pete Kozma everyday.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Rays Starters vs RHB Last 3 Years
|Chris Archer||284||26.0 %||8.0 %||13.0 %||0.239||0.305||0.366||0.297||3.50|
|Jake Odorizzi||256||17.9 %||8.3 %||11.5 %||0.255||0.323||0.445||0.332||4.88|
|Alex Cobb||95.2||23.2 %||6.7 %||6.7 %||0.253||0.316||0.342||0.297||2.90|
Rays Starters vs LHB Last 3 Years
|Chris Archer||324||25.8 %||8.1 %||9.8 %||0.223||0.292||0.348||0.283||3.23|
|Jake Odorizzi||269||26.9 %||6.2 %||8.2 %||0.216||0.269||0.357||0.274||2.98|
|Alex Cobb||92.2||18.8 %||7.0 %||14.3 %||0.229||0.294||0.379||0.296||4.13|
The Rays opening day starter Chris Archer has been very effective against all batters. His plus, plus slider makes him tougher against right handed bats, but he’s still very effective against left handed bats. Let’s hope Archer continues to look as sharp as he has during spring training.
Jake Odorizzi has a large reverse split. His change up plays up against lefties. Left handed bats strike out almost 8% more often and have an ISO almost 50 points lower.
Most of Alex Cobb’s data from the last three years is not very relevant right now. He missed all of 2015 and most of 2016 due to having Tommy John Surgery. If he’s back to his pre surgery self the Rays have a hell of a top three.
Rays Relievers vs RHB Last 3 Years
|Austin Pruitt||No MLB Appearances|
Rays Relievers vs LHB Last 3 Years
|Austin Pruitt||No MLB Appearances|
The top four options against right handed batters have performed well. They don’t have anybody who absolutely kills right handed bats. Bullpens are high variance, but as a group they haven’t been awful.
Xavier Cedeno has been a great pickup off the waiver wire. He has been a high quality reliever against lefties that isn’t too big a liability when forced to face right handed bats.
Despite the bullpen only having one left handed reliever they have a five options that have been good against lefties.
Rays Batters vs RHP Last 3 Years
|Corey Dickerson||990||6.7 %||21.3 %||0.290||0.337||0.562||0.378||132|
|Mallex Smith||158||9.5 %||20.9 %||0.295||0.365||0.453||0.353||120|
|Brad Miller||1160||9.1 %||21.7 %||0.250||0.319||0.459||0.335||115|
|Kevin Kiermaier||985||7.0 %||16.5 %||0.264||0.321||0.446||0.332||113|
|Evan Longoria||1545||6.5 %||20.6 %||0.258||0.310||0.443||0.323||107|
|Logan Morrison||953||9.0 %||17.4 %||0.237||0.312||0.423||0.318||104|
|Steven Souza Jr.||667||8.2 %||33.7 %||0.235||0.307||0.399||0.309||96|
|Tim Beckham||227||6.2 %||31.3 %||0.216||0.274||0.409||0.294||85|
|Rickie Weeks Jr.||303||8.3 %||30.7 %||0.230||0.310||0.327||0.288||75|
|Peter Bourjos||628||6.4 %||23.9 %||0.232||0.293||0.369||0.288||79|
|Derek Norris||1015||7.9 %||26.3 %||0.220||0.288||0.359||0.285||81|
|Jesus Sucre||160||1.3 %||21.3 %||0.169||0.191||0.216||0.182||9|
|Daniel Robertson||No MLB Appearances|
Rays Batters vs LHP Last 3 Years
|Rickie Weeks Jr.||283||10.2 %||20.8 %||0.259||0.353||0.518||0.377||138|
|Evan Longoria||510||9.8 %||17.6 %||0.289||0.359||0.489||0.355||129|
|Jesus Sucre||75||8.0 %||12.0 %||0.308||0.366||0.446||0.354||128|
|Derek Norris||442||10.2 %||20.1 %||0.274||0.348||0.427||0.337||118|
|Tim Beckham||211||6.2 %||30.8 %||0.254||0.300||0.456||0.321||104|
|Steven Souza Jr.||253||9.9 %||33.6 %||0.231||0.310||0.418||0.317||101|
|Logan Morrison||321||6.9 %||19.6 %||0.248||0.309||0.347||0.292||86|
|Corey Dickerson||270||5.2 %||29.6 %||0.251||0.293||0.361||0.288||71|
|Kevin Kiermaier||328||5.5 %||23.5 %||0.240||0.289||0.363||0.285||80|
|Peter Bourjos||274||5.8 %||28.5 %||0.232||0.289||0.348||0.279||74|
|Brad Miller||349||6.6 %||26.6 %||0.213||0.270||0.311||0.258||62|
|Mallex Smith||57||8.8 %||26.3 %||0.080||0.179||0.120||0.150||-16|
|Daniel Robertson||No MLB Appearances|
The Rays bats have a track record of being productive against right handed pitching. Catcher and shortstop are the weakest spots there as Jesus Sucre has been absolutely awful, Derek Norris has been fine for a catcher, and Tim Beckham has been underwhelming in a small sample.
The left handed bats that will be forced into action will have a tough time against Sabathia and the Yankees pen. It doesn’t look great against left handed pitching and the Rays will have to lean on the right handed bats to do the heavy lifting.
The Rays will face a tough challenge to start the season facing Masahiro Tanaka. He has been incredibly effective since coming to the US. The Rays will have their best on the mound and look to make things equally difficult for the Yankees.
When you get to the end of the season these games won’t mean any more or any less than any other series that the Rays will play this year. However, getting off to a hot start and banking some wins is certainly a great way to start the season.