No, Really: The Rays are pretty good for really cheap.
As it stands today, the Rays have about $59.8 million committed to their major-league roster for 2016; barring any earth-shattering deals or massive trades, they’ll run the second-lowest payroll in baseball behind the drastically rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers. Unlike the Brewers, the Rays are poised to compete in 2016. Just check out the PECOTA projected standings for this upcoming season: The Rays are projected for the second-most wins (91) in the American League, only one win behind the Cleveland Indians.
The Rockies have done some things the past eight months. They did a thing a couple weeks ago. Like most of the things the Rockies have done lately, trading four years of Corey Dickerson for two years of Jake McGee has caused much head-scratching. The reaction to the trade was a combination of said head-scratching and “LOL Rockies” with a splash of “hey, McGee’s really good and his fastball-heavy approach might be a good fit for Coors.” The analyses of the trade all generally led to the conclusion that the Rockies do not really have a plan and that, if they do, it is simply a plan to try and be mediocre.
I do not think that this is likely. If the plan is to be mediocre or there is no plan, then why do anything at all? Why trade Troy Tulowitzki? Why sign an outfielder, just to trade another and add more payroll along the way? To me, these actions and the motivation to be mediocre do not jibe. That said, we can believe that these moves are unlikely to be successes, while having a different theory as to what is motivating this behavior.
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In the career trajectories of seven (or eight) young(ish) shortstops, we see the volatility of baseball careers at this level.
This is an interesting phenomenon, though one that (for various reasons) has gone largely unnoticed: There were seven (or eight, if you’re feeling generous) regular big-league shortstops in 2015 who were born in the seven months between early September 1989 and late March 1990. I’ve been tracking their progress for years, wondering when one or another edged ahead of the field as the most valuable, trying to gauge their relative market standings. It was always hard to tell, though, because for each player, development has been anything but linear, and their values have seemed to be very volatile. The group even flexed in size and membership over the years, reaching (probably) its maximum size in 2015.
This winter, we finally got a little clarity (though only a little). Four of these shortstops changed teams this winter, all via trade. At least two permanently moved on from being shortstops. From here on out, the careers of these seven (or eight) players with so much in common might seem thoroughly disparate, even though (perhaps most remarkably, of all the interesting things about them) their paths to this point in their careers have often crossed—and in some cases, have even altered one another. Thus, I want to take a moment to consider their respective situations, weigh them against each other, and revel in the entropy that defines baseball, an entropy this group embodies as well as anyone.
Detroit's baserunning was a major contributor to the club's last-place finish. How they, and other AL teams, will look on the bases this year.
The 2015 Detroit Tigers won just 74 games, and that doesn’t happen to a team without significant flaws. A lot of things went wrong for them, from the prolonged absence of Miguel Cabrera to the catastrophic collapse of Victor Martinez, to yet another impossibly implosive bullpen.
If one thing most stood out about the Tigers, though, it was how old they played, especially offensively. It was back in 2013, when the team was running out (too generous a phrase, perhaps) Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Cabrera, and Martinez, that everyone worried the Tigers’ offense would sputter to a stop because of its key cogs’ old, heavy legs. In 2015, though, with Hunter and Fielder gone, it actually happened. Detroit basestealers succeeded at a clip of just 62 percent. They grounded into the most double plays of any team in baseball. They racked up -21.9 baserunning runs (BRR), according to our calculus the second-worst in the league. They batted .270/.328/.420, raw figures that ranked first, second, and fifth in the AL, respectively. They were second in team OPS+ and seventh in TAv in the AL, but they finished 10th in runs scored. Baseball Info Solutions estimated that the team created 736 runs, but they only scored 689. Some of that, to be sure, is just bad sequencing—bad luck. Surely, though, some of it also must be chalked up to their miserable baserunning.
Looking back at Matt Moore's progression from three-star prospect to the best pitching prospect in the game.
On Thursday night, after a largely disastrous first season back from Tommy John surgery, Matt Moore had perhaps his finest start as a major leaguer, going seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks, and striking out nine. Moore's future is still very much up in the air, so now seems like an appropriate time to remember the prospect who some rated higher than Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. The following are what Kevin Goldstein wrote about Moore in the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Rays Top Tens.
6. Matt Moore, LHP DOB: 6/18/89 Height/Weight: 6-2/205 Bats/Throws: L/L Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2007, Moriarty HS (NM) 2008 Stats: 1.66 ERA at Rookie-level (54.1-30-19-77) Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked
Tampa Bay's latest innovation isn't a failure, but they were hoping for better than this so far.
The human race spent millennia thinking of time as a constant, despite its own instincts. After all, any child on December 23, or any new parent at three in the morning, can testify to time’s pliancy. Even before relativity, people knew that life travels not in a smooth course but in fits and jumps. And yet years and hours continue to be counted arithmetically, as if they were all equal to each other.
Do pitchers do worse the third time through the order because they're gassed or familiar? The Rays seem intent on finding out.
It’s the 2015 trend that no one is talking about. The Rays are at it again. Even with Joe Maddon in Chicago, they’re still getting all inventive on us. It’s easy to miss if you don’t watch Rays games every night (indeed, Tommy Rancel of Rays blog The Process Report tipped me off to this one) but the Rays have apparently figured their #NewMoneyball. It used to be signing Evan Longoria, or turning Ben Zobrist into a resonance structure, or trading for Wil Myers, or trading Wil Myers, but this year, the Rays are trying something different.
Everybody homered. Literally, everybody. Congratulations on your homer.
The Monday Takeaway
For the first month and change of the 2015 season, Carlos Beltran looked every bit of 38, the age he turned on April 24th, two days before his third straight 0-fer sent his OPS plunging below .500. Playing in over 2,000 major-league games had taken a toll on the switch-hitter’s bat speed, and hitting quality fastballs was no longer a picnic, by Beltran’s own admission.