Willy Adames may need to change his name to Willy Walkoff. For the second time in his (very young) Rays career, the Santiago native sent the Rays to victory with one swing of the bat. Unlike last time when Walkoff Willy (which way sounds better?) left the yard for his game-winner, this one stayed in the yard, but it was still more than enough to bring the Rays to a season-high 15 games over .500. At 34-19, they are now only one game off their best-ever start to a season (2010), and they kept pace in what is becoming an increasingly fun AL East race already.
However, let’s dedicate this recap to the man who made this possible: Walkoff Willy. (Yeah, I think the “Walkoff” definitely sounds better up first.)
Because Adames came with such high prospect clout, it seems as though there are always certain sectors of the fanbase for whom Adames’ contributions are never quite enough. This was a player who some fans were calling for a demotion not all that long ago, when he started the season by slashing .200/.265/.300 in April.
However, those calls were (clearly) premature. The 23-year-old has posted an OPS well north of .800 in May, with three jacks, five doubles, and 18 RuBIns.
It hasn’t just been with the bat that Adames has excelled the past few weeks, though. It has been a legitimate pleasure to watch the strides Adames appears to be making as a defensive shortstop right before our eyes. In his rookie season, Adames looked a bit shaky in the field, making some sloppy plays and some wild throws. While errors are far from the best metric, they were telling at times for the youngster.
In 2019, though, Adames has looked cool as a cucumber at short.
The numbers bear this out, as well.
After being worth -1 DRS and -5.4 UZR in his rookie campaign, those numbers are up to 4 and 0.7, respectively, in 2019. And that’s before we get to Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA which has Walkoff Willy as the 12th-most valuable defensive player in all of baseball this season!
Add to that that Adames appears to be beloved by his teammates and is also already one of the team’s leaders despite his precocious age (a trend that followed him throughout his minor league career), and there should be nothing but love for Walkoff Willy from the Rays faithful.
Game notes since Willy just stole the show
- That was a bit of a reversal of fortune in the first inning, with the Rays falling behind early, and the opposing centerfielder making an unreal catch to preserve the early lead.
- Big-time recovery from Snell to lock in after a really tough stretch right off the bat. He allowed the first four Blue Jays to reach, and then allowed only four more base runners the rest of his outing (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K).
- Speaking of the rest of the outing. I did NOT love Cash taking Snell out after six. He was at only 87 pitches and was literally just talking about how he wanted to be the dude who would go seven and help save the bullpen some innings. It was the bottom of the lineup, in a one-run game, and we all know Chaz Roe is far from bullet proof. But hey, it all worked out in the end.
- GREAT to see Brandon Lowe in his second at bat double off the same pitch he struck out on in his first AB. It was a slider in a good spot, something that has given him fits all year. Improvements on that front will continue to legitimize Lowe. That’s what good ballplayers do: make adjustments.
- Tommy Pham has been so damn consistent this year. We’re really spoiled to have him. He’s reached base in all but four games this year. That’s some Wade Boggs ish.
- No, we’re not going to freak out over Jose Alvarado. However, while it’s entirely too early to say anything real about this, for his career: Alvarado’s ERA is 3.26 in the 8th inning (38.2 IP) compared to 1.48 in the 9th inning (24.1 IP). It’s food for thought. It’s also incredibly annoying that relievers never get to sample sizes that mean anything
- Hunter Wood, you want late-inning appearances? Here’s bases-loaded nobody out situation for you. And he got out of it. We’ll almost certainly see more of him in late-game situations now.
- Extra innings were nervy as hell for both teams. There were runners in scoring position in five of the six frames from the end of the eighth inning on.
- Interesting tidbit: The Jays went with a five-man infield for Adames on that walkoff. There’s no way any centerfielder is making the throw from where Adames’ shot ended up, but it’s interesting that there wasn’t even one there. Honestly, it was probably the right call given Adames’ ground ball tendencies. They just didn’t know it was Walkoff Willy Time.