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Rays first half grades: Pitchers

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Oh god, so many pitchers

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Rays have played one game in the second half already (losing another one to those pesky Miami Marlins), but we’re basically still at our favorite arbitrary cutoff point. Earlier this week, we handed out grades for the Rays hitters. As was noted in that piece, the DRB grades are going to be just a bit different from your typical sports blog grades. We’re handing out a first half grade based strictly on what the player did, and a second half grade based on some of the peripherals that often tell the story of what is to come. Today we do the same for the pitchers of Tampa Bay.

“Rotation”

Blake Snell: 12-5, 119.0 IP, 134 SO, 18.3 K-BB%, 2.27/3.42/3.57 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 4.1/2.3 rWAR/fWAR

After a slightly delayed earning of the plaudit, Snell was a deserving first-half All-Star, making the breakout that many believed was in his future last season and in years past. Snell made 20 first-half starts, 14 of them being of the “quality” variety, and six of them being of the “quality-plus” (at least 7.0 IP, two or fewer runs allowed) variety.

Snell had four starts with at least 10 strikeouts and another six more with at least eight. He made it into at least the seventh inning in half his starts, and he reached the 100-pitch in 13 of 20. He was, in most ways, the true ace Rays fans have been looking for over the past few seasons.

First half grade: A

Second half predicted grade: B

This is where it gets a little tricky. As can be seen by Snell’s ERA-FIP (-1.15, fourth-highest among qualified pitchers), Snell is due for a bit of regression. However, if before the season, you had told Rays fans Snell would complete the whole season, doing so with a top ten strikeout rate and an ERA of 3.42, they would snap it up. The resulting “B” is merely a result of the bar being set so high in the first half.

Now, of course, there’s the distinct possibility that Snell is able to maintain his sub-2.50 ERA, but he’ll have to continue his dominant streak with runners on base. His 86.3 percent left on base rate, and his .205 wOBA allowed with runners on base rank first and second, respectively, among qualified pitchers this season, and if they regress, Snell will too.

Ryan Yarbrough: 8-4, 89.2 IP, 84 SO, 13.5 K-BB%, 3.61/4.11/4.18 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.6/0.6 rWAR/fWAR

Are you surprised that Yarbs is second on the Rays in innings pitched in 2018? I know I was. For all that talk about how the Rays are screwing over their young talent with their “Opener strategy,” Yarbrough has more wins than any other rookie pitcher, and only Tyler Mahle has more innings pitched among rookies. For my money, Yarbrough has been one of the most impressive Rays this season, as he has taken to his role — arguably the most unique role in all of baseball — with aplomb. In his piggyback outings, he has tossed 59.2 innings and allowed just 18 runs (2.72 ERA), but his flexibility and willingness to take on any and every role needed for the Rays is what has really made him invaluable in the first half.

First half grade: A

Second half predicted grade: B+

By FIP and xFIP, Yarbrough should see a slight uptick in his run prevention, but honestly, even if Yarbs’ ERA was closer to 4.00 by the end of the season, the flexibility he has given the Rays is what has made him truly valuable. Unless he starts rebelling against his role, he’ll end up with a great debut season for the Rays.

Chris Archer: 3-4, 84.0 IP, 86 SO, 15.9 K-BB%, 4.29/3.80/3.79 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.5/1.3 rWAR/fWAR

What an odd run of seasons this has been for Archer, huh? In many ways, 2018 has felt eerily similar to 2016 and 2017 for Arch. In all three seasons, he has had an ERA over 4.00, with a FIP and xFIP under 4.00.

However, 2018 has been the worst of the bunch. His K/9 rate (9.21) is his lowest since 2014, and his walk rate (3.11) is the highest since that same season. He also missed a month with an abdomen injury, meaning his streak of three straight seasons with at least 200.0 IP is likely to end.

First half grade: C-

Second half predicted grade: C+

There are just so many factors that could play into this second half grade. Will Archer continue to struggle to go even reasonably deep into games (he has combined to go 7.2 IP in his two starts since coming off the DL)? Will he be traded? If so, what kind of return will he get? Would it have been better to move him this past offseason?

Or maybe none of those troubling questions will come to fruition, and he’ll put together a second half like 2016 where he posted a 3.25 ERA for the Rays after a 4.66 first half ERA. It’s tough to tell with Archer.

Nathan Eovaldi: 3-4, 57.0 IP, 53 SO, 20.1 K-BB%, 4.26/4.28/3.49 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.4/0.7 rWAR/fWAR

In many ways, Eovaldi is being judged on criteria so much different than the man just above him here. Whereas Archer comes into every season with ace-level expectations, Eovaldi came into 2018 with question marks abound, having not pitched since 2016.

As such, the first half was a dream (with a one brief nightmare towards the end). Eovaldi made nine first half starts (he also started the first game of the second half, and it has been counted towards his statistics above), and of his ten total starts, half have been quality starts. He had only one real blow up (right after we wrote an article calling him elite, too, of course), and he has flirted with no-hitters or perfect games on several occasions already.

First half grade: B+

Second half predicted grade: B+

Like so many of the Rays players, there are question marks surrounding Eovaldi’s second half. There are rumors swirling around Eovaldi as possible trade bait for the “contenders” around the league, but the Rays would also love to have him in the rotation should they find themselves making a push (though the Miami losses are starting to make that seem like more and more of a dream).

As far as actual production goes, we’re basing a second half predicted grade off less than 60 innings of a pitcher who was on the shelf for over 18 months. He’s certainly looked strong, however, and the further he goes into 2018, the more rust he shakes off, and the closer he gets to being his full self.

(From here on out, we’re going to give a second half predicted grade, but any comments on potential improvements/declines will just be mentioned in one main section. Blame the Rays for using 28 different players on the mound in 2018 so far.)

Ryne Stanek: 1-2, 34.2 IP, 44 SO, 21.3 K-BB%, 2.08/2.67/3.71 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 1.2/0.9 rWAR/fWAR

Similar to Yarbrough, Stanek’s first half value has been more than just his statistics show. He has take to The Opener role with historic success, a fact not lost of any Rays fan. As such, he has already received plenty of ink here at DRB.

First half grade: A+

Second half predicted grade: A-

Bullpen

Matt Andriese: 2-4, 56.0 IP, 54 SO, 15.2 K-BB%, 4.34/3.92/3.73 ERA/FIP/xFIP, -0.2/0.4 rWAR/fWAR

Andriese has had a few different runs already in 2018. He started the season allowing eight runs in his first five outings (8.2 IP), but then he looked to turn things around, with just seven earned allowed in his next 14 outings (32.2 IP). Of course, a couple rough outings right before the break (12 ER in 14.2 IP) pushed his ERA back up, and even more than that, he looked noticeably off after it looked like he had figured things out. Relievers are bound to run hot and cold, but Andriese seems even more prone than others.

First half grade: C+

Second half predicted grade: B-

Sergio Romo: 1-2, 42.1 IP, 46 SO, 16.7 K-BB%, 3.83/3.79/4.03 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.4/0.3 rWAR/fWAR

Five games started, 18 games finished, and another 23 overall outings, Romo is yet another Rays pitcher who has done a bit of everything this year. The 11-year vet has been solid, if not spectacular in his many roles, as he has had moments where he has seemed to just lose focus for a second and groove a pitch, and it has come back to haunt him. His team-leading 46 appearances boost his grade a bit, but his six blown saves also lead the team, by far (no one else has more than two) bringing his grade back down a bit.

First half grade: C+

Second half predicted grade: B-

Jose Alvarado: 1-3, 38.1 IP, 42 SO, 14.2 K-BB%, 2.58/2.87/3.77 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.6/0.8 rWAR/fWAR

Number one in my heart, Alvarado hasn’t been far behind on the actual field. The lone lefty in the pen at times this season, he has been even harder on righties than he has been on lefties so far this season (.303 wOBA vs. lefties; .221 wOBA vs. righties). There’s a bit of worry that his HR/FB rate is due for a bit of regression (3.4 percent), but pitching half of one’s games at the Trop is a useful way of keeping that figure nice and low.

First half grade: B+

Second half predicted grade: B

Diego Castillo: 1-1, 21.1 IP, 24 SO, 17.4 K-BB%, 3.38/2.92/3.61 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.4/0.5 rWAR/fWAR

The only man to rival my Jose Alvarado Baseball Crush, Castillo has been excellent in his rookie season for the Rays. Only recently has Castillo bumped into a few hiccups, giving up two runs in an outing each of his last two times out (the only two times giving up two runs in an outing all season). Overall, however, it’s hard to complain about a rookie season with a 2.92 FIP.

First half grade: B+

Second half predicted grade: A-

Walking Wounded

Jake Faria: 3-3, 47.2 IP, 37 SO, 7.4 K-BB%, 5.48/5.09/5.37 ERA/FIP/xFIP, -0.4/0.1 rWAR/fWAR

The sophomore slump was strong in Faria in the first half of the season. After a rookie season in which Faria posted a 3.43 ERA, that figure has jumped nearly two runs, and he has been on the DL since late May with an oblique injury. He’s currently working his way back with rehab outings in the minor leagues, but those haven’t gone as swimmingly as planned, and it will be interesting to see if Faria can recapture the magic of 2017 at any point down the stretch this season.

Faria’s potential presence in the Rays rotation would be a massive factor in both how the Rays perform, as well as the Rays potential approach to feeling comfortable moving certain other arms in the rotation. There’s an article to be written about just how much of an x-factor Faria is for the Rays long-term future.

First half grade: D

Second half predicted grade: C

Chaz Roe: 1-2, 35.0 IP, 38 SO, 17.7 K-BB%, 3.60/4.01/3.83 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.4/0.2 rWAR/fWAR

Roe only recently got hurt, but he’ll be out until likely around September, if the Rays decide to return him at all in 2018. The news is a shame, as Roe was one of the most consistent Rays relievers this season, both in the stat sheet, as well as in his appearances on “Nasty Pitch Baseball Twitter.”

First half grade: B

Second half predicted grade: N/A

Wilmer Font: 2-1, 27.0 IP, 20 SO, 8.4 K-BB%, 1.67/3.97/4.94 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 1.1/0.4 rWAR/fWAR

Vidal Nuno: 3-0, 24.0 IP, 17 SO, 8.5 K-BB%, 1.50/4.49/5.38 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.8/-0.1 rWAR/fWAR

Font and Nuno both posted excellent actual results, while skirting the line of whether or not those results would be possible before much longer before joining the list of the Rays walking wounded. Nuno’s return should be right around the corner, with Font not long after. Both pitchers may not remain among the top options for Tampa Bay, but both did their job well in the first half.

First half grade(s): B

Second half predicted grade(s): Font: C, Nuno: C-

Anthony Banda: 1-0, 14.2 IP, 10 SO, 12.5 K-BB%, 3.68/3.29/3.96 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.1/0.2 rWAR/fWAR

Banda won’t be making any Rays appearances for a while, as he became one of the many Rays to require Tommy John this season. It’s too bad since he showed some nice flashes, but his long-term potential remains high.

First half grade: B

Second half predicted grade: N/A

Jonny Venters: 1-1, 13.2 IP, 11 SO, 8.8 K-BB%, 3.95/3.81/3.70 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.1/0.1 rWAR/fWAR

Venters’ return from his hamstring injury should be relatively soon, which is nice because Venters was arguably the feel-good story of the season, regardless of how he pitched. And Venters actually pitched well for the most part, allowing just one run outside of an ill-fated Opener outing in early June.

First half grade: A

Second half predicted grade: A (when you come back from “three and a half” TJ surgeries to pitch at the major league level, you get full-season A’s).

Small Sample Crew

Hunter Wood: 0-0, 11.1 IP, 8 SO, 6.4 K-BB%, 2.38/4.21/4.80 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.3/0.0 rWAR/fWAR

Jaime Schultz: 1-0, 7.2 IP, 14 SO, 31.0 K-BB%, 3.52/1.85/3.77 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.0/0.2 rWAR/fWAR

Adam Kolarek: 0-0, 6.1 IP, 2 SO, 3.0 K-BB%, 12.79/3.47/5.79 ERA/FIP/xFIP, -0.7/0.1 rWAR/fWAR

Hoby Milner: 0-0, 1.1 IP, 2 SO, 0.0 K-BB%, 6.75/14.41/8.33 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.0/-0.2 rWAR/fWAR

Schultz has been the most intriguing of this bunch, while Kolarek has been the most infuriating. We’re dealing with a combined innings total below three full games for this entire collection, so we’re not going to hand out grades.

Back in the Minors

Austin Pruitt: 2-3, 56.0 IP, 32 SO, 8.7 K-BB%, 4.18/4.10/4.58 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.0/0.0 rWAR/fWAR

Yonny Chirinos: 0-1, 26.2 IP, 24 SO, 13.0 K-BB%, 3.71/3.79/4.41 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 0.4/0.3 rWAR/fWAR

Andrew Kittredge: 1-2, 22.0 IP, 15 SO, 4.8 K-BB%, 7.77/4.93/4.64 ERA/FIP/xFIP -0.7/-0.1 rWAR/fWAR

Chih-Wei Hu: 0-0, 7.2 IP, 5 SO, 13.3 K-BB%, 5.87/5.63/5.01 ERA/FIP/xFIP -0.1/-0.1 rWAR/fWAR

Ryan Weber: 0-1, 5.1 IP, 1 SO, -4.0 K-BB%, 5.06/4.47/6.31 ERA/FIP/xFIP, -0.2/0.0 rWAR/fWAR

Of this group, Pruitt and Chirinos will almost certainly be a part of the Triple-A shuttle in the second half for the Rays, with Chirinos having a chance to stick in the rotation. Hu remains intriguing, but he hasn’t been able to put everything together when pitching at the top level just yet. Good riddance to Andrew Kittredge. You’ll be remembered as the first actual Opener by true Rays fans (sorry, Sergio).