The Tampa Bay Rays have gotten off to a less than stellar start of the second half going 2-5 on the road trip. Now the Rays have one series before the trade deadline comes Tuesday evening at 6 PM.
The Rays currently hold a 2.5 game lead on this weekend’s opponent, the Cleveland Guardians. Said another way, Cleveland is fourth in the WC standings where three teams make the playoffs. They are also 2.0 games back of the Twins in their division.
The Rays hold the last playoff spot if the season ended today with four teams within 2.5-3.5 games including the Guardians, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox. This series could have serious implications for the Wild Card Standings.
Friday 7:10 PM: Shane Bieber vs Jeffrey Springs
Saturday 1:10 PM: Zach Plesac vs Corey Kluber
Sunday 1:40 PM: TBA vs Shane McClanahan
Shane Bieber was next in line to be a top pitcher in baseball to don the Cleveland uniform; however, he’s had some injury problems over the last couple of years that have kept him from posting enough innings to solidify himself as one of the absolute best pitchers in the game. Over 614.2 innings he’s posted a 3.34 ERA/3.05 FIP/3.05 xFIP with a 29.7% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate. His results haven’t been that different in 2022 with a 3.55 ERA/3.07 FIP/3.28 xFIP over 111.2 innings but his strikeout rate has plummeted to 24.3%.
Bieber has seen a significant decline in velocity with his four-seam fastball dropping from 94.1 mph in 2020 to 90.9 mph in 2022. His 84.8 mph slider is still his primary weapon that posts an insane 40.3% whiff rate. Against left handed batters he leans on a 81.8 mph curveball instead of a slider. The curveball isn’t quite as good as the slider but it does well getting a 37.0% whiff rate.
Zach Plesac continues to be a solid middle of the rotation starter that doesn’t get many strikeouts but limits walks. He’s posted a 4.09 ERA/4.18 FIP/4.39 xFIP with a 17.0% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate. His numbers are similar to his career rates.
Plesac works off a 92.0 mph four-seam fastball. Against right handed batters he uses a 85.5 mph slider as his second pitch. Against left handed batters he uses a 85.8 mph changeup as his secondary offering of choice. He will add a 79.3 mph curveball early in counts to get ahead.
The Guardians may start Kirk McCarty on Sunday, but that has not been announced.
Cleveland’s offense is similar to the Rays.
As a team they have hit .252/.315/.389 and put up a 100 wRC+. They go about it in a different way as they have the league’s lowest strikeout rate at 18.4% and are one of only two teams under 20% (Washington Nationals at 19.4%).
Jose Ramirez is what the Rays hope Wander Franco becomes at the plate one day. He leads the team in most categories with a .285/.361/.564 line and 155 wRC+, as well as homers (20) and stolen bases (14). Ramirez has been one of the league’s best hitters over the last six seasons. Since 2017 his 141 wRC+ ranks tenth in the majors and his 32.5 fWAR trails only Mookie Betts (32.9) and Mike Trout (32.7) among position players.
Also starring is Andres Gimenez, who was one of the primary pieces the Guardians received from the New York Mets for Francisco Lindor. He’s posted a breakout season with a .296/.360/.479 line and 139 wRC+. Josh Naylor (136 wRC+), Steven Kwan (116 wRC+), and Amed Rosario (108 wRC+) have provided solid support as well.
The bottom of the lineup looks very similar to the Rays current situation. Owen Miller (87 wRC+), Franmil Reyes (73 wRC+), Myles Straw (72 wRC+), and Austin Hedges (47 wRC+) are in the lineup most days.
How many games will the Rays win against the Guardians?
This poll is closed