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June 30, 2012

BP Unfiltered

The Little Things By A Little Guy

by Jason Collette

Will Rhymes had the unfortunate honor of being the player the Rays recalled when Evan Longoria went on the disabled list on May 1st. By definition, he was a replacement level player and by production, that is almost exactly what he has been as his WARP is -0.1 on the season. He has done little at the plate and has struggled in the field, particularly when asked to play third base and make throws across the diamond. Yet, in a game where the Rays were attempting to end an ugly four-game losing streak against the defending Cy Young Award winner, he had a great impact on the game that did not show up in the boxscore. 

In the second inning, Justin Verlander had struck out Jose Molina and Elliot Johnson in consecutive plate appearances while needing just 11 pitches to do so. Rhymes too was a strikeout victim that inning, but he made Verlander use nine pitches to record that final punchout and pushed Verlander's pitch count up to 49 in the first two innings of the game. A quick 14 pitch inning by David Price sent Verlander back on the hill and Desmond Jennings jumped on a second change-up for his first homerun since April 27th. Rhymes would come up again to lead off the fifth inning and ended up grounding out to shortstop but not before making Verlander use 11 pitches do so.

At that point in the game, Rhymes had personally seen 20 of the 90 pitches Verlander needed to make two passes through the Rays' lineup on the evening. The ninth place hitter saw 22 percent of the first 90 pitches Verlander threw on the evening while the other 16 plate appearances saw 78 pitches. Jennings came up next and repeated his power display sending the fifth pitch of the at bat to nearly the same spot in the left field bleachers that his first home run of the game went to.

Rhymes came up one more time in the game worked a six pitch at bat and once again grounded to the shortstop and the drawn-in infield prohibited the contact play the Rays were trying to run. Rhymes ended up seeing 26 of the 152 pitches thrown between Verlander and Octavio Dotel on the evening which accounted for 17 percent of the total pitches thrown. Working the counts against Verlander as he did his first two times up were a big reason why Verlander was chased out of the game after 120 pitches in just six innings of work. In his previous start against Pittsburgh, Verlander needed 117 pitches for his complete game victory. Rhymes and the other hitters chasing Verlander forced Jim Leyland to use Dotel for 32 pitches which likely makes him unavailable for at least the next game in the series if not the next two.

Will Rhymes may not be on the roster for much longer as his spot is very much in danger when Matt Joyce returns from the disabled list, but as Joe Maddon said after the game, Rhymes was a big part of the win. The little things the little man did tonight could have easily gone unnoticed in a well-rounded effort by the team, but his skipper certainly was appreciative of the effort. 

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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