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Series Preview: Rays Kickoff the 2017 MLB Season

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Pitching Matchups:

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

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Masahiro Tanaka 245 23.4% 4.7% 12.9% 0.229 0.271 0.384 0.284 3.54
CC Sabathia 313.2 18.1% 7.4% 16.3% 0.286 0.345 0.465 0.350 4.76
Michael Pineda 218.2 24.4% 3.8% 13.8% 0.258 0.292 0.436 0.313 3.63

Yankees Starters vs LHB Last 3 Years

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Masahiro Tanaka 245.0 22.1% 3.9% 15.7% 0.230 0.263 0.397 0.284 3.52
CC Sabathia 194.0 24.9% 5.8% 12.9% 0.255 0.301 0.424 0.312 3.18
Michael Pineda 79.1 27.0% 7.1% 11.8% 0.192 0.278 0.313 0.264 3.52

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

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Aroldis Chapman 137.1 43.0% 10.0% 6.9% 0.160 0.252 0.226 0.223 1.62
Dellin Betances 128.2 41.2% 11.0% 12.9% 0.160 0.261 0.264 0.242 2.36
Tyler Clippard 99.2 28.3% 9.8% 8.3% 0.195 0.287 0.333 0.276 3.63
Adam Warren 159.1 20.5% 7.5% 10.1% 0.250 0.320 0.394 0.314 3.92
Chasen Shreve 66.0 24.5% 11.3% 16.7% 0.202 0.297 0.394 0.301 4.93
Bryan Mitchell 39.0 10.6% 8.8% 11.1% 0.288 0.361 0.408 0.340 4.52
Jonathan Holder 6.0 14.3% 14.3% 9.1% 0.292 0.393 0.458 0.372 5.98
Tommy Layne 46.0 17.4% 14.2% 13.2% 0.286 0.401 0.467 0.371 5.12

Yankees Relievers vs LHB Last 3 Years

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Aroldis Chapman 41.0 49.1% 12.9% 0.0% 0.136 0.259 0.174 0.213 0.92
Dellin Betances 118.1 39.3% 7.7% 6.7% 0.173 0.244 0.243 0.221 1.54
Tommy Layne 65.1 23.5% 10.0% 2.3% 0.175 0.269 0.209 0.227 2.82
Adam Warren 116.0 20.4% 9.0% 8.3% 0.197 0.275 0.310 0.255 3.53
Tyler Clippard 104.2 23.7% 9.3% 8.0% 0.202 0.277 0.336 0.270 3.82
Bryan Mitchell 26.2 23.4% 12.9% 7.4% 0.274 0.379 0.415 0.350 3.96
Chasen Shreve 37.2 26.6% 10.7% 16.7% 0.264 0.361 0.462 0.358 4.49
Jonathan Holder 2.1 12.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.125 0.125 0.286 0.155 2.29

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

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
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

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
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

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
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

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
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

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Alex Colome 97.2 23.8% 4.4% 10.1% 0.241 0.285 0.361 0.281 3.37
Tommy Hunter 87.2 19.9% 6.6% 8.5% 0.247 0.307 0.353 0.292 3.35
Jumbo Diaz 79.1 29.5% 7.1% 15.1% 0.233 0.295 0.401 0.301 3.47
Xavier Cedeno 44.2 26.1% 8.5% 18.5% 0.267 0.330 0.395 0.313 3.48
Erasmo Ramirez 163.2 18.5% 5.1% 14.6% 0.268 0.325 0.424 0.327 4.27
Danny Farquhar 88.1 25.3% 8.0% 14.0% 0.245 0.320 0.430 0.327 4.12
Austin Pruitt No MLB Appearances

Rays Relievers vs LHB Last 3 Years

Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Name IP K% BB% HR/FB AVG OBP SLG wOBA FIP
Xavier Cedeno 49.2 22.4% 5.4% 4.4% 0.208 0.261 0.271 0.239 2.60
Alex Colome 92.1 20.3% 10.0% 6.4% 0.244 0.321 0.328 0.288 3.43
Tommy Hunter 67.1 16.2% 4.0% 9.1% 0.266 0.296 0.403 0.296 3.45
Danny Farquhar 69 27.4% 8.2% 17.0% 0.230 0.302 0.376 0.297 3.69
Erasmo Ramirez 165.2 17.5% 9.4% 10.8% 0.234 0.311 0.387 0.305 4.54
Jumbo Diaz 58.2 18.9% 11.0% 16.4% 0.237 0.328 0.423 0.321 5.03
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

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
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

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
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.

Play Ball.

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.