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Rays 2022 Postseason Preview: Rays at Guardians

The wildcard round will see the Rays play a best of three in Cleveland.

American League Wild Card Game 1: New York Yankees v. Cleveland Indians Photo by Joe Sargent/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays made it to the finish line and accomplished their primary goal of making the playoffs. Their results haven’t been good the last couple of weeks, but they have gotten healthier and set up their pitching staff to be as effective as possible.

Now it’s time to start the journey to win a World Series Championship.

Randy’s already got new boots, so you know it’s about to get real.


Friday 12:07 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Shane Bieber
Saturday 12:07 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Triston McKenzie
Sunday 4:07 PM (If needed, time may change): TBA vs Cal Quantrill

Game one will feature the battle of Shane’s.

The Guardians will send Shane Bieber to the mound to take on the Rays top starter in 2022. Bieber has put up a 2.88 ERA/2.87 FIP/2.98 xFIP over 200.0 innings. The numbers have been similar to his best seasons except the big drop in strikeouts to 25.0% from 30%+ over the last few seasons. It’s not surprising the strikeout rate has dropped with his four-seam fastball dropping from 94.1 mph to 91.3 mph over the last three seasons. Part of the reason he has been able to sustain elite results is a 4.6% walk rate. Bieber adds a 85.0 mph slider, 82.0 mph curveball, and 86.9 mph cutter to complete his four pitch mix.

Triston McKenzie had a very good first full season in the majors in 2022 after spending parts of the 2020 and 2021 seasons at the major league level with middling results. In 2022 he put up a 2.96 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.77 xFIP over 191.1 innings. He does it much the way Bieber has gotten his results this year. He posts an above average strikeout rate (25.6%) while limiting walks (5.9%). McKenzie has ran a .232 BABIP this year that suggests that his ERA should be higher but even an additional half a run to put it in line with his FIP and xFIP he had a very good year. McKenzie works off a 92.5 mph four-seam fastball, 87.3 mph slider, and 79.4 mph curveball as his three pitch mix. The slider has been the pitch to do damage against (.337 wOBA against) while his curveball has been his go to swing and miss pitch (45.0% whiff rate).

Game three on Sunday, if necessary, and the time is subject to change depending on the number of game threes that will be required. The Rays haven’t named a projected starter for game three as they will want to have the flexibility to use either Drew Rasmussen or Jeffrey Springs to piggy back Tyler Glasnow in game 2.

Cal Quantrill is set to get the ball for the Guardians, should that game occur. Quantril had a solid 2022 season putting up a 3.38 ERA/4.12 FIP/4.39 xFIP over 186.1 innings. Quantrill is a pitch to contact pitcher who posted a 16.6% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate. Quantrill throws a 93.6 mph sinker, 88.5 mph cutter, and 85.3 mph changeup as his primary three pitch mix. He will occasionally throw a 82.6 mph curveball to steal a strike. None of his pitches get very many whiffs.

Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Guardians Bullpen

The Cleveland pitching staff gets by mostly on the ability to limit walks, rather then the ability to get strikeouts. The Rays batters should likely look to be aggressive early in the count, but the risk is you let the starters pitch deeper into the game and get to one of the most dominant backend bullpens in the game.

The Guardians bullpen has put up a 3.05 ERA/3.39 FIP/3.47 xFIP during the 2022 season and lead the league with a +10.50 WPA (Win Percentage Added). Here are their key weapons:

Emmanuel Clase (1.36 ERA/1.98 FIP/2.18 xFIP) has been one of the most dominant relievers since coming to Cleveland in the trade that sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. He throws a 99.5 mph cutter and 91.9 mph slider.

James Karinchak (2.08 ERA/2.29 FIP/3.11 xFIP) has an elite 38.8% strikeout rate but has struggled with command (13.1% walk rate).

Trevor Stephan (2.69 ERA/2.19 FIP/2.81 xFIP), Sam Hentges (2.32 ERA/2.48 FIP/2.67 xFIP), and Enyel De Los Santos (3.04 ERA/2.63 FIP/3.17 xFIP) are the arms that Cleveland relies on to try to get to the end of a game if they get a lead early.

Cleveland’s offense is very similar to the Rays.

Cleveland has hit .254/.316/.383 and put up a 99 wRC+ as part of an offense that puts them middle of the pack. They hit for less power than the Rays as they trail 139 to 127 in homers. They run more on the bases as they hold a 119 to 95 lead in stolen bases. They are aggressive hitters that don’t walk that frequently (third lowest walk rate) while they are able to make contact with a league leading 18.2% strikeout rate.

This should all sound familiar, because the Rays are quite similar in terms of roster construction.

3B Jose Ramirez (.280/.355/.514, 139 wRC+), 2B Andres Gimenez (.297/.371/.466, 140 wRC+), and LF Steven Kwan (.298/.373/.400, 124 wRC+) lead the way at the top of the lineup. 1B Josh Naylor (.256/.319/.452, 117 wRC+) and SS Amed Rosario (.283/.312/.403, 103 wRC+) typically are mixed in the top five spots in the lineup as well.

Myles Straw (.221/.291/.273, 64 wRC+) plays everyday as an elite defensive center fielder, but provides little production with the bat. The Guardians will mix and match the bottom of the lineup with offensively challenged options.


Will the Rays defeat the Guardians in the Wild Card round?

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