Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Baltimore Can Win The East '09: The Case Against the Rays

I don't have 5 points in my case against Tampa Bay because the pitfalls for the Rays lie in three broad areas.

1. A Defensive Regression?

The Rays had the AL's worst Defensive Efficiency Ratio in 2007 and the best in 2008. I am doubtful that they can continue to be that good in 2008. Jason Bartlett's UZR has declined every season and he was only average last year. Ditto for Iwamura at second. Longoria is a plus defender. The outfield is a good defensive unit assuming Carl Crawford stays healthy this year.

But it doesn't look like a team that can lead the league in DER again. They may be fine but I'm looking for a regression. Which dovetails into...

2. A Mediocre Offense

Pitching and defense masked this problem in '08 but when the Baltimore Orioles outscore you, you can't really call your offense championship caliber.

The only significant addition was Pat Burrell who represents a modest upgrade from Cliff Floyd at DH (when you adjust for Burrell's switch from the NL to the AL). It may be better but outside of Longoria there is nobody on that team that will strike fear into opposing pitchers. Without some improvement, the Rays will have a hard time repeating.

3. Kazmir/Garza/Shields

More than any other factor, as these guys go, so go the Rays. David Price will start the season in the bullpen. Hammel and Sonnanstine will be average at best. The hopes of the 2009 Rays season rest on the health (no guarantee of that for Kazmir) and effectiveness of those arms.


The Rays will be formidable in 2009. They have many young arms, should have a nice bullpen and won't embarass themselves at the plate. But they had a ton of things go just their way last year and the best they can hope for is an 86 win season. Formidable, but not overwhelming.


Anonymous said...

could this argument be less well thought out? 1. Crawford wasn't healthy for most of last season anyway, Upton had his first full year in CF, Gross/Kapler will be an improvement from last years D, Longoria will play 150+ games this year, Bartlett will 'regress' to the mean of his career, Aki Iwamura will have his 2nd full year at second this year, Carlos Pena will continue to be somewhat above avg at 1b. 2) The team is full of youngsters who (minus Longo) had bad years, Upton will average somewhere between '07/'08, Burrell is a huge upgrade if you use more than just a slash line (like actual AB's), Crawford had a horrible year, and the RF platoon should be improved, 3) No one sees this rotation as Kaz/Garza/Shields...Shields is a solid #2, with the addition of Price and the solid contributions of Sonnanstine (sub4 fip), without mentioning Davis or Niemann, this team is deeper than you're willing to admit. The Rays are beyond 'formidable', they are what the orioles hope to become (but with pitching).

GM-Carson said...

More Hardball took a look at some Baltimore Orioles players' last names like Bass, Pie, Ray, Waters, Spoone, Walker, and Hill and photoshopped appropriate baseball cards to their namesake. I wonder if Topps would market these?


We appreciate the shout-out if you like it.

DempseysArmy said...

First, I would like to reiterate the thrust of this series of posts:

"To combat some of the terminal moping in Baltimore after 11 straight losing seasons, I have endeavored to inject a little bravado, a little hope for Oriole fans the past two seasons and I see no reason to stop now. "

So really, nobody should be taking this too seriously. That said, it is a series that points out flaws and potential pitfalls of division rivals and I don't make this stuff up.

Point by point:

Defense: Longoria, Crawford and Upton are plus defenders. Nobody else from last year's team was particualrly bad, I just don't understand how they go from worst DER in the league to the best in one season. I think they had so luck and a few balls bouncing their way. I don't think they will be a bad D but I don't think they lead the league in DER this season. (Bartlett's UZR at SS has declined every single's not crazy to think that he might be slightly less than average this season, nor is there reason to believe that a 30 year old Iwamura will get better...jsut saying.)

2) Yes, they may be better with their offense but Burrell is not going to be a HUGE improvement over Cliff Cloyd, at least not in rate stats. Mark my words on this one. Switching from the NL East to the AL East is not to be underestimated. Do we really expect Bartlett, Iwamura, Pena and Navarro to get better too?

3)Price won't be in the rotation to start the season according to Maddon and even Price admits his slider has "gone away form him" this spring. Incredible talent who won't factor into the rotation until after the All-Star break.

The rotation is deep but the numbers don't lie; most of them will be league average. Kaz/Shields/Garza are what makes the rotation extraordinary.

None of this is meant as a knock on the Rays overall, just some concerns you might want ot look at when you are not blinded by your fandom. :-)

Thanks for the discussion.