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Rays – Rangers Series Recap

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The reigning World Series Champions Texas Rangers marched into Tropicana Field and won two of the three games. Although it is incredibly early in the season, the Rangers are playing at the same pace as last season. The Rangers are 4-2 after six games, same as last season. In the first six games this season, the Rangers scored 35 runs and allowed 23. Last season, the Rangers scored 36 and allowed 22. Eerily similar run differentials (DIFF). Any dialog with any prediction of a repeat championship is extremely premature.

Last year the Rays opened the season undefeated in their first 13 games. They swept their first four series defeating the Tigers, Nationals, Athletics, and Red Sox. This season the Rays are 3-4, far off their 13-0 start last season. In their first seven games last season, the Rays were offensive juggernauts by scoring 51 runs and allowing 18 to their opponents. The team’s DIFF was a +33. Fast forward to this season and the Rays scored 26 runs and allowed 36 calculating the team’s DIFF at -10.

So, what is wrong with the Rays? They need to score more runs and prevent more runners from scoring. The offense is off to a slow start. Many of the batters are below the “Mendoza” line with their batting averages (BA). The concern is not their BA, it is their mediocrity in isolated power (ISO) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Patience at the plate is missing too. The Rays post a 7.2 BB%, ranked 12 in the American League. The American League East division is too competitive to waste opportunities for free passes.

Injuries are a factor for the Rays, especially in the pitching department. Every team faces injuries. It is how you deal with it and manage your personnel in camp and down on the farm. The reigning Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole is missing from the Yankee’s rotation, and they are off to a 6-1 start. I am not going to regurgitate Adam Berry’s “throw more strikes” article on MLB.com. Anyone can say “score more runs” or “prevent more runs from scoring” but facts drive change. If you do not measure it, how do you know if it is improving? FanGraphs ranks the Rays’ team ERA at 13 (in the AL) at 4.86. Opponents scored at least four runs in four of the seven games the Rays played. In addition, the Rays allow way too many walks. The team is ranked 14 out of 15 with 4.43 walks per nine innings. It is not the increase in strikes that is needed. It is the decrease in walks. Theoretically, if the Rays issue their average four walks to the first four batters of the game and no other walks for the rest of the game, the Rays will start the game down one to nothing.

The Rays’ batters are too good to stay this cold. Batting averages will bounce back. Jose Caballero is having a hot start. Kevin Cash should take a chance on the kid and move him up in the lineup. He did have an excellent spring too. Brandan Lowe’s injury is unfortunate but let us see want Curtis Mead has to offer. So far, he is batting .357.

Aaron Civale ran into bad luck during his last start by facing Nathan Eovaldi. Civale matched Eovaldi’s performance. Kyle Seager’s homer in the sixth inning was really the determining factor of the game. Civale has ace potential if he continuously pitches in this manner. He could be the crutch the pitching staff needs until others come back from the injured list.

Next up is the one and six Rockies. There is nothing better to spark up batting averages than a trip out west to Denver. That Denver thin air should boost ISO numbers.

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