Apr 3, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Sam Fuld (29) catches the ball against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Line Drives: Early Season Thoughts, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Sam Fuld

It’s the start of another baseball season and it has me thinking about some issues that surround the Tampa Bay Rays and baseball in general.

Close Games and Late Rallies: After the first game of the Cincinnati Reds series, the Rays are 6-5 for the season. That’s OK at this point, but what is not OK is the pattern of the loses. Four out of the five loses were by three runs of less. While the 2014 Rays team is never going to be a collection of power hitters, we had all hoped that this seasons team would be clutch hitters who drove in key runs at key times. When you have a team built on pitching and defense, you can’t lose a lot of games by three or less runs. If you do, forget about October baseball.

Juan Carlos Oviedo: The Oviedo circus plays on. Oviedo hasn’t thrown a pitch in a regular season game in over two years. He only threw 2 innings in spring training due to visa problems. He’s now in Durham on a rehab assignment. When are the Rays going to say enough is enough with this guy? Even if he pitches well at Durham, he would be the fifth or sixth guy in the bullpen for the Rays and they would have to DFA Josh Lueke or option out a very hot Brandon Gomes. Is it worth it for a guy who is probably gone after the year as a free agent anyway?

Platooning: It didn’t take long for the over reliance on platooning to bite the Rays. David DeJesus had to sit out a game with a sore foot and, facing a right-hander in the next game, they needed a left-handed hitter to replace him. Guess what? Nobody was on the bench who hit from the left side. I have nothing against a platoon situation, but in the American League where the DH only gives you four bench position players, you had better keep it at one platoon. Having too players who need platoon partners in DeJesus and Joyce is not a good thing.

Instant Replay and the Length of the Game: There has been a lot of talk about instant replay addition more time to the already lengthy process of a baseball game. I haven’t seen that so far, but it sure doesn’t speed it up. However, if baseball people are concerned about the length of the game, the first place that ought to look is pitching changes. A relief pitcher throws as long as he wants in the bullpen and only enters the game when he is ready. He then goes to the mound and throws another ten or so pitches. That’s crazy! Does an NFL quarterback throw ten passes to his receivers when he enters the game? Throw one pitch to get used to the mound and play ball!

Phantom Cam: Sunshine Sports, who broadcast the Rays games in Florida, has introduced a new feature called Phantom Cam. I’m not sure what the purpose of this feature is and it is already being overused. However, it has produced some fantastic shots of the abuse a pitchers arm takes when throwing pitches like cutters, sliders, split fingered fastballs and even changeups with movement. The torque on a pitchers’ arms, though, is almost painful to watch. It is no wonder that Jeremy Hellickson and probably Matt Moore are going under the knife at any early age.

Sam Fuld: Our fan favorite, Sam Fuld, has made the Oakland Athletics and is playing quite a bit with Coco Crisp banged up. He’s batting leadoff, getting on base and playing well in centerfield. I miss him!

So those are my early season thoughts. What’s on your mind?

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Tags: Juan Carlos Oviedo Sam Fuld Tampa Bay Rays

  • buddaley

    I will have to check my sources to see if I am right, but I think there has been considerable research done on the relationship between losing close games and a team’s season record, and the conclusion has been that there is no relationship. On the contrary, the apparently significant factor is how often a team blows out its opponents, i.e. wins by 3 or more runs (or something like that figure).

    I think the hypothesis is that close games tend to be decided more randomly-by luck factors-than blow-outs, and that good teams overwhelm their opponents often while playing a lot of close games often indicates they are more evenly matched. Now the Rays have played a lot of very close games, but they have 3 blow-out wins (big blow-outs) and just one blow-out loss in 12 contests. I think that bodes well.

    That is why it is usually false optimism when a team points out that they had a sub-.500 record, but lost 30 games by 2 runs or less and so with a bit of luck and work on situational hitting should do better next year. It actually probably shows just the opposite.

    • david egbert

      I’m sure you have a point here but you have totally lost me!

      • buddaley

        Sorry I was obscure. I was responding to this point in your post:

        “When you have a team built on pitching and defense, you can’t lose a lot of games by three or less runs. If you do, forget about October baseball.”

        My response is that losing a lot of close games is, in itself, not usually that big a deal. I realize it isn’t good, and I also feel the same frustration any fan does when my team loses by a run. And certainly a team built on pitching and defense cannot afford to give away victories. But….

        Researchers have studied every team’s record for over 100 years and broken them down into blowout games and close games and discovered that generally, if a team wins a lot of blowouts, even if it is mediocre or poor in close games, it usually does quite well. On the other hand, if a team wins a lot of close games-or does alright in them-but loses blowouts regularly, it ordinarily does poorly.

        Here are some examples-meant only to illustrate, not prove.

        Take some Yankees great teams.
        1927: 110 wins. But while they did do ok in 1 run games (24-19), that record was merely ok. In blowouts though they were 43-8.
        1936: 102 wins. 22-17 in 1 run games but 47-19 in blowouts. Incidentally, that team started out 7-5, and 3 of its losses were by 1 run (1-0, 6-5, 12-11).
        1937: 102 wins. 23-20 in 1 run games but 39-13 in blowouts
        1938: 99 wins. 16-15 in 1 run games but 33-14 in blowouts
        1939: 106 wins. 22-15 in 1 run games but 41-6 in blowouts
        2002: 103 wins. 21-21 in 1 run games but 35-13 in blowouts

        There have even been excellent teams that were sub-.500 in close games.

        For example, the Braves (also built on pitching) during their run of division championships were sub-.500 in 1 run games 3 times (in 2003, winning 103 games, they were 17-25 in 1 run games), but always had a good or great record in blowouts (37-19 in 2003).

        It isn’t generally the case, but it happens often enough so that we should not obsess over it happening. In fact, the Rays are now 4-4 in games won by 3 runs or fewer, so they are doing fine.

        For the reverse, take KC. A lot of bad teams recently. Look at their results.
        2012: 72 wins. 27-26 in 1 run games but 14-21 in blowouts
        2011: 71 wins. 25-32 in 1 run games and 19-19 in blowouts
        2010: 67 wins. 27-30 in 1 run games but 14-30 in blowouts. In other words, they did better in 1 run games than they would in 2011, yet won fewer games. Look at the blowouts in each year.
        2009: 65 wins. 16-25 in 1 run games. 18-41 in blowouts. Just bad all around
        2008: 75 wins. In this case, 1 run games made some difference as they were 20-18. Still, only 75 wins, a bad team destined to become worse as its 16-31 record in blowouts projected.

        • david egbert

          They say statistics don’t lie so overall I can’t argue with you. My point is that we play in the AL East and every win is crucial. When you look at a box score and see that you lost 2-1 and left six runners in scoring position, that can’t make you feel good about October.