The Rays World Series roster is out, and now facing the not so right handed heavy lineup of the Dodgers, some changes needed to be made.
One of the more surprising moves was swapping out the hard throwing, electric Jose Alvarado for Ryan Sherriff. Both LHP who were not used extensively in 2020, but with the Dodgers lineup featuring mighty sluggers like Max Muncy and Joc Pederson, and MVP caliber superstars like Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, LHP in the Rays bullpen will be called upon to get vital outs in the World Series.
I think the entire reason for this switch comes down to one thing: groundballs.
The Dodgers are an incredible offense. They were the best hitting team in baseball in 2020 with a 122 wRC+ as a team. They are an incredibly good hitting team, precisely because they are so disciplined. They strikeout the second least of any team in baseball at 20.3% K rate. They will be pesky, they will foul off pitches, and they will make every single Rays pitcher work and work hard.
There is a lightning bolt directly from the hand of Zeus to Alvarado’s left arm. However, the command for Alvarado has come and gone. Jose is working back from injuries which really derailed his 2020 season. I am very excited for the future of Alvarado, but what he does best does not matchup well with the discipline and hunting of Dodgers hitters.
Alvarado is a strikeout pitcher. The Dodgers do not strikeout. Long at bats that eventually lead to an amazing 101 MPH 2-seam fastball breaking down and in to a lefty could lead to walks rather than PitchingNinja gif-able Ks vs the Dodgers.
And here is where Ryan Sherriff saunters into the saloon.
Sherriff is not a strikeout pitcher. Doesn’t want them, can’t get them. Career he has just a 16.5% K rate (and a far cry from the nearly 30% K rate of Alvarado). Ryan Sherriff had just 2 more strikeouts than you had in 2020.
But what can he do? Get groundballs!
Ryan Sherriff for his career has induced groundballs at an eye opening 60.4% of the time! For comparison, that’s in the range of the Greek God of Grounders, Chad Bradford, and his career GB rate of 63.7%. In 2020 he still showed off that ability to get batters driving the ball into the dirt and turf 56.7% of the time.
The Dodgers are not a groundball heavy team. They actually hit a GB in just 38.8% of their contact (3rd lowest in baseball). Keeping the Dodgers on the ground and in the park, to allow Willy Adames to make some highlight sliding plays, BLowe turn some nifty double plays, and Ji-Man Choi to get his deep splits on as the picking machine at 1B, may just be the key to saving some games in the World Series.
The Rays Stable of arms also contains a multitude of arm angles to stymie batters.
Giving new looks, and importantly single looks, at each Dodgers hitter could be key to win on the margins.
From Mike Petriello’s brilliant deep dive into the array of Rays arm angles, he found that the Rays have the most “unique” arm angles in baseball:
Most pitchers with “unique” release points, minimum 300 pitches
13 — Rays
10 — Dodgers
10 — Giants
10 — Rangers
9 — Braves
(“Unique” meaning not within six inches of more than one’s teammate’s release)
With Sherriff, the Rays have added an arm to the “Octupus”, somewhere a tick higher than Yarbrough and Loup and a good bit below Snell.
In Game 1 of the ALCS, the Rays used 5 pitchers to give the Astros 5 wildly different looks. Meet Dr. Octopus, if only Otto Octavius also had nasty stuff. (Thanks to @AlexFast8 for the cool video.) pic.twitter.com/5imvCT6KQm— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 13, 2020
The Rays already had 4 RHP horseman. In the World Series it might come down to the six southpaws of Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough, Aaron Loup, Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, and Ryan Sherriff to wrangle the Rays out of a big inning.