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Series Preview: Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

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Perhaps a border crossing will help the offense?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are leaving the country in order to try to get their bats back on track. The are coming off a 2-7 home stand in which they were shut out five times. The good news has been that the pitchers have been doing work this month. In August the Rays lead the majors with a 2.83 ERA and their 3.20 FIP only trails the Cleveland Indians. What a shame that the offense has not been able to provide the three runs or so per game they need to log a few wins.

The Rays will take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a four game set. The Blue Jays are coming off series victories over the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Matchups:

Monday 7:07 PM: Jacob Odorizzi vs Nick Tepesch
Tuesday 7:07 PM: Blake Snell vs Marco Estrada
Wednesday 7:07 PM: Jacob Faria vs Marcus Stroman
Thursday 4:07 PM: Chris Archer vs Chris Rowley

Aaron Sanchez continues to miss significant time due to blisters.

Nick Tepesch makes his third start of the season tonight. In his career he’s made 42 starts and thrown 229 innings with a 4.79 ERA and 4.84 FIP. He has a 14.1% strikeout rate and 7.2% walk rate. He has not seen much action in 2017, logging a total of six innings between the Twins and the Blue Jays. In his last start he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings to the Yankees.

Marco Estrada is having a rough season. He has a 4.85 ERA and 4.35 FIP. The past two seasons he had very good results with an ERA below 3.50. Now his BABIP is up to .305 after posting .216 and .234 BABIP in 2015 and 2016. His 23.8% strikeout rate is his highest since 2012, but his 9.5% walk rate is his highest since 2010. In his last start he held the Yankees scoreless through seven innings. In his three previous starts against the Rays they have scored five, five, and six runs.

Marcus Stroman has gotten much better results this year despite similar peripherals. This year he has a 3.00 ERA and 3.75 FIP compared to last year’s 4.37 ERA and 3.71 FIP. His strikeout rate comes in at 19.6% and has a 7.6% walk rate. In his last start he gave up four unearned runs in eight innings to the Pirates. In two starts versus the Rays he has allowed three runs in 13.1 innings.

Chris Rowley has gotten good results in the minors despite not being on the prospect radar. He’s split time between starting and relieving. In his first major league start he allowed one run in 5.1 innings to the Pirates. He struck out three and walked one.

The Blue Jays bullpen has been good by fWAR.

The Blue Jays bullpen has collected 4.2 fWAR which ranks sixth in MLB. Part of the reason is they have thrown the third most innings in baseball. Their 4.44 ERA is eighth highest. Their 4.05 FIP ranks eleventh.

Joe Smith had been one of their more effective late game options, but they traded him to Cleveland at the deadline (indeed he was one of the Cleveland pitchers who stymied Rays hitters this past weekend)

Roberto Osuna is the man you have to go through late in a game. He has a 3.33 ERA and 1.47 FIP. He has a 35.5% strikeout rate and 3.7% walk rate.

Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Joe Biagini have been their more reliable options.

Ryan Tepera and Leonel Campos have thrown each of the last two days. The rest of the bullpen should be good to go.

The Blue Jays offense has disappointed.

This year the Blue Jays offense has put up a .242/.318/.412 line and a 93 wRC+. They’ve suffered many injuries. Josh Donaldson missed a lot of time. Troy Tulowitzki is out for the rest of the year. Russell Martin is on the disabled list.

Justin Smoak continues to be their most potent offensive weapon. He has 32 homers and a 152 wRC+.

Josh Donaldson hasn’t been the offensive force he has been in recent years, but he still has put up a 134 wRC+.

Ezequiel Carrera (121 wRC+) and Steve Pearce (110 wRC+) have put up positive results at the plate in limited playing time.

Kendrys Morales has a 101 wRC+. Not exactly what the Blue Jays were expecting when they signed him to a 3/$33MM deal this winter to replace Edwin Encarnacion. As a DH and one of the worst base runners in the majors he has managed to be worth -0.3 fWAR.

The Rays offense needs to get out of this funk.

There hasn’t been much to cheer about when the Rays have been at bat over the last ten days. The pitching keeps giving them the chance to stay in games. One day one will fall in the gap and the offense we were accustomed to in the first half will reappear. If there is a time to turn that around, it would be this series against a Blue Jays rotation that has not impressed.

Fortunately the Rays haven’t been buried in the wild card race. They aren’t in a great position, but if they put some wins on the board that can change in a hurry.