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Series Preview: Time to shashtros the Astros

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Rays face formidable challenge in weekend series.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros
 Houston Astros mascot Orbit performs in honor of Prince before a Prince themed Friday night fireworks at Minute Maid Park on June 3, 2016 in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays enter this weekend bout with one of the American League favorites entering the season, Houston Astros. The Rays have won three in a row after completing the series sweep against the Detroit Tigers yesterday afternoon.

Tampa Bay owns an 8-2 home record and will look to continue the hot start with a series victory against the Astros.

Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Mike Fiers vs Alex Cobb

Saturday 6:10 PM: Charlie Morton vs Blake Snell

Sunday 1:10 PM: Joe Musgrove vs Matt Andriese

Astros Starting Pitchers:

The Rays are fortunate to avoid the two best starters in the Astros rotation this series in Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, Jr.; the Rays will only face right handed starters.

Mike Fiers last start came nine days ago after he was skipped last time through the rotation. In his two starts he has allowed seven runs, six earned, in ten innings. He’s allowed three homers while striking out eight and walking four. In two starts against the Rays last season he allowed five runs and two homers over 13.1 innings.

Charlie Morton surprisingly received a two year deal this off-season totaling $14MM. In his first three starts of the season he has allowed five runs over 16 innings while picking up 13 strikeouts and walking six. He didn’t allow a run in his last start against the Angels over five innings, but did allow five hits and walked two.

Joe Musgrove is a good pitching prospect that made his debut late last season. In his first three starts of the year he has allowed ten runs and three homers over 15.1 innings. He has struck out nine and walked five. He’s coming off an outing he got hit around as he allowed five runs and two homers over five innings against the Angels.

Astros Starting Pitchers vs RHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mike Fiers 232.0 22.8 % 7.0 % 0.249 0.311 0.451 0.327
Charlie Morton 167.0 17.9 % 6.3 % 0.244 0.310 0.361 0.298
Joe Musgrove 43.2 19.6 % 5.8 % 0.263 0.317 0.489 0.344

Mike Fiers has shown reverse splits through his MLB career. Most of the difference is in an elevated .202 ISO allowed. On August 21, 2015 he threw a no hitters against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has the stuff to shut down a lineup when he’s on.

Charlie Morton has avoided extra base hit damage from right handed bats. His .117 ISO is quite good. Morton had surgery last April on his hamstring that put him out for the season.

Joe Musgrove doesn’t have a large sample but same handed batters have done damage. He hasn’t gotten a lot of strikeouts in the majors or limited hard contact.

Astros Starting Pitchers vs LHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mike Fiers 198.2 21.2 % 7.1 % 0.238 0.296 0.383 0.295
Charlie Morton 152.2 19.1 % 10.0 % 0.265 0.361 0.408 0.338
Joe Musgrove 33.2 19.9 % 7.4 % 0.264 0.324 0.435 0.326

Mike Fiers has very similar strikeout and walk numbers against batters of both hands, but he has done a much better job at limiting the damage from left handed batters. Left handed bats have only managed a .145 ISO that is .057 lower than that allowed to right handed batters.

Charlie Morton’s walk rate climbs as does the OBP against left handed batters. Left handed batters hit for a few more extra bases.

Joe Musgrove has done a better job of limiting extra base hits to left handed bats in his short time in the majors.

Astros Bullpen:

The Astros are running an eight man bullpen right now. The Astros have one of the best bullpens in baseball. So far they have posted a 3.02 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and 3.37 xFIP. As a group they boast a 29.7% strikeout rate, but can be wild at times as they have posted a 10.0% walk rate.

Their multiple inning relief ace Chris Devenski threw three innings yesterday using 39 pitches. The earliest the Rays would likely see him is Sunday.

Outside of Devenski their bullpen should be at full strength entering the series.

Tony Sipp is the only left hander currently in their bullpen, but like the Rays, that doesn’t mean their RHRP’s aren’t up to the task.

Astros Relievers vs RHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Chris Devenski 62.2 27.5 % 3.4 % 0.184 0.219 0.251 0.209
Luke Gregerson 106.2 29.3 % 3.9 % 0.193 0.236 0.340 0.251
Will Harris 88.1 26.1 % 8.1 % 0.215 0.283 0.329 0.269
Ken Giles 102.1 37.3 % 8.0 % 0.214 0.284 0.342 0.275
Michael Feliz 43.1 32.4 % 7.8 % 0.224 0.285 0.380 0.289
Tony Sipp 75.1 33.1 % 7.5 % 0.221 0.282 0.429 0.305
James Hoyt 13.1 33.3 % 13.0 % 0.191 0.296 0.413 0.306
Brad Peacock 79.0 21.7 % 12.1 % 0.224 0.322 0.422 0.328

Right handed bats have done absolutely nothing against Chris Devenski in his time in the majors.

The Astros have many options to go to late in the game against right handed bats. Luke Gregerson, Ken Giles, and Will Harris are great options.

Astros Relievers vs LHB Last 3+ Years

Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Name IP K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Will Harris 82.1 26.5 % 5.8 % 0.178 0.233 0.283 0.229
Ken Giles 86.0 29.7 % 8.7 % 0.203 0.277 0.288 0.251
Chris Devenski 59.0 29.2 % 5.8 % 0.215 0.266 0.353 0.268
Luke Gregerson 91.2 18.8 % 8.0 % 0.222 0.286 0.343 0.273
James Hoyt 8.2 27.0 % 5.4 % 0.206 0.278 0.424 0.291
Tony Sipp 76.2 20.4 % 9.8 % 0.214 0.297 0.367 0.292
Michael Feliz 36.0 32.3 % 8.4 % 0.234 0.303 0.414 0.311
Brad Peacock 97.0 20.6 % 11.1 % 0.257 0.345 0.430 0.339

The Astros options that have been good against right handed bats have typically not had much problem with their left handed counterparts.

Their only left handed option out of the pen Tony Sipp has typically handled left handed bats well, but last season he was a disaster. The Astros will have to chose which left handed bats they’ll want to target with Sipp.

Astros Offense:

The Astros have been one of the league’s better offenses to start the season. This has been the team that most expected coming into the season. They have hit a combined .266/.339/.414 and put up a 117 wRC+ this year. They have brought power, 19 homers, and speed, 11 stolen bases.

Astros Batters vs RHP Last 3+ Years

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Josh Reddick 1090 8.3 % 11.8 % 0.300 0.357 0.496 0.366 138
Carlos Correa 812 9.6 % 20.7 % 0.282 0.356 0.473 0.356 127
Jose Altuve 1603 5.4 % 8.4 % 0.321 0.361 0.463 0.353 128
Yulieski Gurriel 120 5.0 % 10.8 % 0.306 0.350 0.459 0.349 124
Carlos Beltran 1140 7.9 % 16.4 % 0.273 0.332 0.469 0.344 118
George Springer 1131 10.2 % 27.3 % 0.253 0.337 0.439 0.339 117
Alex Bregman 200 7.5 % 22.5 % 0.262 0.325 0.459 0.336 115
Evan Gattis 1074 7.0 % 24.8 % 0.243 0.304 0.475 0.333 112
Nori Aoki 1075 7.3 % 8.2 % 0.278 0.341 0.384 0.321 105
Brian McCann 1218 9.4 % 16.8 % 0.230 0.311 0.409 0.314 97
Marwin Gonzalez 853 4.7 % 21.3 % 0.258 0.300 0.390 0.302 92
Jake Marisnick 598 4.2 % 28.8 % 0.231 0.271 0.330 0.264 65

Josh Reddick, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve are great bats to put in the middle of your lineup against right handed pitchers.

The lineup is deep against right handed pitchers. There is a combination of veterans, Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, with high impact young talent in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman.

Astros Batters vs LHP Last 3+ Years

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Jose Altuve 580 8.6 % 12.2 % 0.356 0.418 0.520 0.401 160
George Springer 483 13.7 % 22.6 % 0.266 0.390 0.525 0.392 154
Evan Gattis 467 5.6 % 17.3 % 0.274 0.315 0.500 0.342 118
Marwin Gonzalez 392 5.4 % 20.4 % 0.277 0.326 0.463 0.340 118
Carlos Correa 337 12.5 % 17.5 % 0.253 0.344 0.449 0.340 117
Brian McCann 396 7.8 % 18.4 % 0.256 0.326 0.448 0.338 115
Nori Aoki 371 8.1 % 9.2 % 0.309 0.376 0.358 0.330 111
Carlos Beltran 493 5.9 % 18.9 % 0.266 0.310 0.452 0.324 104
Alex Bregman 83 8.4 % 22.9 % 0.260 0.329 0.411 0.321 105
Jake Marisnick 342 6.1 % 26.0 % 0.233 0.287 0.405 0.298 89
Josh Reddick 374 7.2 % 16.8 % 0.204 0.263 0.268 0.241 51
Yulieski Gurriel 62 0.0 % 8.1 % 0.194 0.194 0.258 0.194 17

Jose Altuve and George Springer have absolutely crushed left handed pitchers. They are joined by a group of hitters that do well except for Josh Reddick which should avoid any left hander.

The Rays look to continue their hot start at home.

The Rays are 8-2 at home and will look to continue against a very good Houston Astros team. The Rays are fortunate that they will avoid their two best starters in Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, Jr. Their multi-inning relief ace was used yesterday.

The Rays have home field advantage which plays to Fangraphs projecting all three games pretty much as coin flips. Currently Fangraphs has the Rays with 49.5%, 49.7%, and 50.6% chances to win the three games. Time to break out the extra 2%.

The Rays have their chance to keep up with the peloton in the American League East race while they get the team healthy and ready to make their push this summer.