Feb 282011

Major Changes

Lots of them. The Rays lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to free agency, and traded Jason Bartlett. They also traded Matt Garza, and lost essentially their entire bullpen to free agency. They signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to one-year deals. Evan Longoria, and not Carl Crawford, is now the face of the franchise (unless it is David Price). The team that won 96 games in 2010 is hardly recognizable in the 2011 edition.

Hitters 2010 A- 2011 B+ (-3 WAR)

The loss of Crawford hurts, the loss of Pena not as much, though Damon (for Crawford) projects surprisingly well, and Johnson (for Pena) projects as nearly worthless. I assume TB is seeing something I can’t: for me, Dan Johnson has NO value (career bWAR -0.2) and he is 30, having not played MLB since 2007. Johnny Damon may play first, letting Jennings or Joyce try the outfield. Brignac (at short) is at least young, so he may be better than I project. The Rays do NOT project to score nearly as many runs as last year.

Rotation 2010 A 2011 A+ (+2 WAR)

I have seen writers say that Hellickson for Garza is an upgrade and my analysis agrees. With Shields a pretty good bet to contribute (he was BELOW replacement last year) and the other young guys establishing themselves, even a regression by Price doesn’t predict a collapse of the rotation, but rather the opposite. A scary bunch of young pitchers.

Bullpen 2010 A 2011 F (-5 WAR)

OK, it is probably not this bad, but that is what the formulas say. Kyle Farnsworth? His 1.0 WAR in 2010 is his best in four years. The bullpen, a Rays strength in 2010, appears as of this writing to be a major weakness for 2011, recalling the days when the Rays were last in the AL in bullpen ERA. It won’t likely be THAT bad, but unless their management is seeing stuff that just doesn’t show in the stats (including minor-league stats) then this could well be their downfall.

Overall 2010 A 2011 B 89-73

I expected this analysis to show them a lot further down than this – they may well compete with the Yankees for the wild card, despite all the departed players. If their bullpen holds up to even decent, they could be right in the thick of things again. On the other hand, young pitchers can break your heart. If a couple of these kids (Price is still a kid, too) fail big-time, the Rays could be scrambling to break even on the year.

Charts

Player 2011 2010
John Jaso Catcher 1.3 2.4
Dan Johnson First Base 0.3 1.1 Pena
Sean Rodriguez Second Base 0.7 1.3
Evan Longoria Third Base 7.7 7.7
Reid Brignac Shortstop 0.6 1.5 Bartlett
Johnny Damon Left Field 2.6 4.8 Crawford
B.J. Upton Center Field 3.6 4.3
Ben Zobrist Right Field 3.8 2.7
Manny Ramirez Designated Hitter 2.4 -0.2 Aybar
22.9 25.6

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David Price Starting Pitcher 4.0 5.3
James Shields Starting Pitcher 1.0 -1.3
Wade Davis Starting Pitcher 2.0 1.8
Jeremy Hellickson Starting Pitcher 1.0 0.6 Garza
Jeff Niemann Starting Pitcher 1.5 1.1
9.5 7.5

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Kyle Farnsworth Relief Pitcher 0.3 2.4 Benoit
Joel Peralta Relief Pitcher 0.3 1.4 Balfour
Adam Russell Relief Pitcher 0.5 0.4 Wheeler
Andy Sonnanstine Relief Pitcher 0.0 0.2
J.P. Howell Relief Pitcher 0.6 0.3 Cormier
Jake McGee Closer 0.5 2.6 Soriano
2.2 7.3

2 Responses to “2011 Projection – Tampa Bay Rays”

  1. What a mess for the bullpen for sure. I don’t understand how a pitcher ends in the bullpen. By chance it seems, as McGee was brought up for a cup of coffee in the pen and now he’s the closer? Same thing with the Mets. They brought up Mejia in the pen to get some MLB experience, then leave him in there, now they have to stretch him out to get him starting again!

    I don’t see Damon at 37 and Ramirez at 39 putting up 5 WAR between them, although Johnny had a nice run with the Yankees when I thought he had seen his better days. I think Manny is really going to struggle. This line up is bad. There’s going to be no one on base, although Zobrist surprising had a .346 OBP to go with his .238 BA. Evan might be the only player on this team to .250 BA.

    I think this team is a .500 team at best.

    I just comment on these, but I’m not arguing the numbers…just being a fan. I think it’s amazing how accurate these projects are. When the projection doesn’t line up with reality, there’s usually an explanation.

    Thanks for this!

    • Mike, I appreciate your comments and don’t mean to be defensive. To respond to the Manny/Damon comment: if the Dodger Manny shows up, and plays most of the season, he will hit a bunch. If the White Sox Manny shows up, or if he is hurt, he will be worthless. The Damon projection is something that subjectively I would likely change, because the WAR he put up the past three years is only relevant if you think he can still play left field, which I do not. His 2010 started out in left, but was primarily DH, a spot now taken by Manny. His 2009 and 2008 numbers were in left field, and he had a lot of value, but I don’t think he is the hitter he was. So this is where the 3-2-1 projection system breaks down, because even assigning a 15% dropoff for age, if you change positions in those 3 years it messes up the projection.

      Jaso had an OBP of .362 last year, so after Longoria he is probably the man (should he bat second? Perhaps, but no way it happens). Jaso had good OBPs everywhere he played in the minors, often around .400. And Zobrist walks, so his OBP will be fine if only he hits! But you are right, I was surprised at how little fall-off there was based on the numbers – if our IMPRESSIONS are more accurate than the numbers, then the Rays offense will fall off the table, and that rotation will not be able to carry the hitters/bullpen.

      One intriguing thought: if I am right that the Orioles are poised to make an advance (I have them, surprisingly at 85 wins) and YOU are right that the Rays are a .500 team, then third place may belong to Baltimroe in 2011, which would be a wild story.

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