There was not a lot to dislike in this one, and a couple really positive developments. So many, in fact, that we wonder if Cash is reading our column...
With the Rays up 2-1, Cash tried to squeeze a few more outs from a very good Matt Andriese. This move was neither bad nor good, but it was certainly defensible given the way Matty was pitching, working the fastball and change very well all around the fringes of the zone for the most part.
Unfortunately, Victor Martinez and especially Justin Upton worked great at bats to start the seventh, drawing a walk and delivering an opposite field single respectively. And you could be forgiven for getting a little anxious with two lefty bats due up next. It was the type of situation Kevin Cash had repeatedly called on Xavier Cedeno so far this young season, usually without success.
But this time, Cash flipped the script. He brought in his other “lefty,” Danny Farquhar.
Danny Farquhar is happy to answer questions with media.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 19, 2017
Landon is a bit more skeptical. pic.twitter.com/VFYoqNqmD0
Presumably because of his excellent change, lefties have a .274 wOBA against Farq, while righties fair much better at .325. His strikeout rate also ticks up against lefties a full K/9 to 11.2, and his ground ball rate skyrockets, getting them at 1.67 GB/FB versus 0.9 GB/FB to righties.
This was soooo the right move.
And it even worked! How weird was that? Farq retired Tyler Collins in a 3.40 LI at bat, getting the right fielder to ground into a forceout at second. He followed that by striking out catcher Alex Avila in another moderately high leverage at bat (2.99 LI).
And then Cash did his second smart thing of the inning. He got Farquhar out of there, and brought in righty Tommy Hunter.
Righties have a .295 wOBA against Hunter, while lefties fair better at .351. When you look at just his relief numbers it looks even better, with a .252/.328 righty/lefty wOBA split.
In other words, this is the ROOGY you’ve been looking for.
And it’s really nice when the results reward a manager for good process. JaCoby Jones ended the Tigers last scoring chance of the night with a soft liner to Corey Dickerson in left on the first pitch.
One pitch, one out for Tommy Hunter.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 19, 2017
We'll stretch with a 3-1 lead. pic.twitter.com/BHbGYbQqgK
Verdict: Who’s a good boy?
April 19: Rays 8, Tigers 7
Can you coach lolfense? Because there sure was a lot of display here. Still, some interesting manager moves to look at.
Sixth Inning Relievers
Danny Farquhar to open the sixth was not an ideal choice.
No, the ideal choice was for Chris Archer to still be pitching after having not given away a 5-1 lead. Especially with a Erasmo and a bullpen game looming the next day for an afternoon start. But sometimes baseball happens during a baseball game, so you have to roll with it.
Due up for the Tigers was a righty in McCann, and switch hitter in Romine, and then another righty in Jones. As mentioned earlier, Farq is best used against lefties and switch hitters. At the same time, when your starter gets knocked out earlier, sometimes you’re stuck playing a bad hand. Farq has been one of the more reliable relievers this year. So this was fine(ish).
That Farq couldn’t hit the broad side of Jumbo Diaz is irrelevant.
Calling on Jumbo Diaz in relief to face ‘80s Spanish pop singer Jose Iglesias with two outs and a man on third was also fine, if a little weird. This was a 2.22 LI at bat. With two outs, Ks are less important as you just need any kind of out to get out of the jam. So personally, I’d have gone with Tommy Hunter instead. (I know I’m starting to sound like a Hunter fanboy, but I’m really not. I just think it’s being underutilized in situations where he can help the team.)
Still, Diaz has been okay most of the season so far. The Rays seem to like him in high leverage, though he’s been less than stellar there. But you only needed one stinking out with a slew of righties due up. The move was fine(ish).
That Jumbo was awful and the Trop was extra Trop-y is beside the point.
Verdict: I blame the Amish
Pinch Hitting Weeks
This one will fly under the radar because it didn’t work out, but down by one in the eighth, pinch hitting Rickie Weeks Jr. for Shane Peterson against lefty Justin Wilson was a good move. Getting the lead off runner on in any inning is huge. Down by one late, doubly so.
Verdict: Obvious moves can be smart too
Pinch Running for Longo
This was strange to me. After his double in the ninth pushed Kevin Kiermaier to third, Evan Longoria was lifted for pinch runner Peter Bourjos.
This is a clear upgrade on the basepaths. And it’s the would-be winning run, so obviously he’s an important baserunner. The chance to score from second on a single definitely increases with Bourjos running.
At the same time, if the Rays only tie and this goes to extras, you are without your best player. Evan isn’t the guy who at the start of his career stole 16 bags before his first caught stealing, but it’s not exactly like middle aged Longo is slow.
So what’s going on here?
To be clear, if we only get the tie and it does go to extras, the defense would have been covered. Robertson, who had taken over in left after the Weeks pinch hit, moves in to cover third, and Bourjos takes over left. So there’s no boneheadedness in this move. Cash didn’t leave us exposed.
Was this just an aggressive play by Cash?
Maybe. But it’s also peculiar, and it makes us wonder if there is something else going on health-wise with Evan. I’ve been racking my brain trying to recall if he’s been more station-to-station this year, but confirmation bias keeps getting in the way.
Maybe I’m just paranoid.
Verdict: I hope I’m just paranoid
I love manager ejections when a manager is sticking up for his players. Do they have any real effect on the play of those players? I dunno. But they are visceral and fun, and if it keeps the occasional disgruntled hitter in the game at the manager’s expense, it’s worth it for that factor alone.
Plus, after the last couple days around the league, the check swing K to Souza, while not super-egregious, seemed as good a thing to vent about as any.
Verdict: Kick some dirt on it!
I saved the best for last.
Austin Pruitt was an interesting choice to get out of that abomination that was the sixth inning. Honestly I wasn’t a fan. It felt very white-flag-ish. His usage in the innings after that? Sure. But I didn’t like asking AP to come in and get out of that jam.
At the same time, we had already used two of our better relievers in a game that went from 5-1 in favor of the good guys to a 7-5 deficit. How many bullets do want to waste on this? Again, there’s a day game the next day, and it’s being spot-started by Erasmo Ramirez, who, yeah, did a nice job under duress in Boston but is far from stretched out. So I’m pretty confident Cash sending Austin back out inning after inning had less to with how well the kid was pitching than it did a “save the pen” strategy. Which is fine. This is April, not the World Series.
Plus, there’s this: Eventually, Austin Pruitt will figure it out, or he won’t. You simply can’t hide a guy all year. Or at least you shouldn’t. So Cash has to keep finding situations to send Pruitt out until they have enough info on whether he is (or isn’t) a big league pitcher. There’s just no other way to do it.
For one night at least, Austin Pruitt rewarded his manager’s faith: working toward the edge of the zone especially after getting ahead, showing decent command of all his pitchers, and even missing the occasional bat.
Congratulation, Austin: Today you are a Major Leaguer.
Verdict: Disney movie?
April 20: Rays 8, Tigers 1
If you’re kvetching after this one, you, my friend, have issues. This was maybe the most complete game no one in the Tampa Bay area has ever seen, because it wasn’t on television. An excellent spot start from ErACEmo, good handling of the pen (And for those of you wondering why Whitley was pulled after “just” three innings, it’s because he got a late start to the Spring and is not as stretched out as you’d like, so even that made sense) clutch hits, and gobs of lolfense. What’s not to like?
Bunting in the first
After a leadoff double by Souza, KK pushed a bunt toward Castellanos at third. He was retired 5-3 as Souza moved up to third, and was awarded a sacrifice for his efforts.
Now, IF this was indeed a sacrifice called from the bench, it was idiotic. But it clearly wasn’t. KK had in fact attempted the same play the game prior, and reached safely on a bunt single. This is part of his game, and he’s probably somewhere around the break even point in executing with it.
Verdict: Lighten up, Francis
But really, that was it. Enjoy the sweep, and get ready for Houston and the return of Todd Kalas.