Congratulations to the Tampa Bay — I’ll always want to call them them Devil Rays – Rays. Taking an ALCS from the defending World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, is no easy feat. This was one of the few games this post-season that I’ve stayed up all the way to watch from the start to the finish. Listening to Chip Caray on TBS is really, really hard at times, but I probably didn’t have to tell you that. I’m almost indifferent to Buck Martinez. He’ll occasionally say something resembling a thought but most of the time it’s tired repetitions of playerisms.
“Did you know that Jason Varitek is really valuable to the Red Sox even if his bat has turned into a wet noodle? Clubhouse presence! Gritty! Gutty! Gamer!”
Tek did hit a big HR in Game 6 but he still finishes the series 1-20 with 8 SO’s. That’s a line of: .050/.174/.200 and that’s what I love about the leadership — Hey, he wears a ‘C’ on his jersey! — angle that’s always played by the talking head announcers. You can mold it anyway to fit any argument that you’re trying to make. Tek strikes out three times in his final game? Leadership. He keeps the other dudes calm. His pitch calling ability borders on a 6th sense.
Another thing I realized from watching the Red Sox last night is that Mark Kotsay really was playing 1B for this series. I had somehow forgotten about Lowell’s injury — thus, shifting Youk to 3B — and having to play Kotsay at 1B was brutal. Kotsay played 9 games at 1B in the playoffs after only playing 34 career games at 1B in his previous 12 seasons of baseball. He didn’t hit much in the ALCS going: 7-30 with 3 2B’s, 0 BB’s, and 4 SO’s. Though, if you compare that to what Tek gave the Sox, then Kotsay looks like Ted Williams. Starting Alex Cora, Mark Kotsay, and Jason Varitek in the same lineup is pretty ugly but the Sox didn’t have much of a choice.
More ramblings: Ignore the MSM and the who-could-have-seen-this-happening mentality when it comes to discussing the Tampa Bay Rays. True, I’m guessing most didn’t see their turn around to be this good, but I think even the most average of baseball fans saw the Rays as a young team with a lot of talent at the BLL and at the MLL. The Rays made some great choices of adding low cost, cheap, productive talent to the team without overpaying both in years and salary. Guys like Cliff Floyd (114 OPS+), Gabe Gross (104 OPS+), and Eric Hinkse (111 OPS+) were all acquired for very little resources. Defensive position excluded, all three guys out hit Aaron Rowand soundly and will cost the Rays $55M less. And, the Rays won’t have to deal with them for 4+ years. Good teams do this.
The Rays also defend well. They ranked +24 by THT’s team defensive stats page in the American League. Only Toronto ranked higher. If you look at team defensive efficiency — the percentage of balls in play converted into outs — the Rays rank as the #1 team in the majors with a 71% of balls hit into play converted into outs. For comparison, the more defensively challenged Giants ranked #23 with a score of 68.5%.
Heading back to last nights game, Matt Garza was very good. Kudos to the Rays for flipping Delmon Young — in a trade that’s starting to look like they got the better end of — for Matt Garza. Garza went 7 innings while giving up just 2 H’s and 1 ER. He struck out 9 hitters in his 118 pitch effort. Some brief PFX numbers on Garza’s start.
~ Garza predominately threw his fastball last night. Here’s his breakdown by pitch-type: 89 fastballs, 16 curveballs, 12 sliders, and 1 changeup.
~ The average velocity on Garza’s fastball was 93.9mph. 76.9mph on his curveball. 85.5mph on his slider. And the lone tracked changeup was at 84.1mph.
~ Here’s a couple of plots. The first is Garza’s velocity plot for the game and the second is his fastball location, which I thought was key to his success.
As you can see, Garza game out of the gate throwing heat. A large clumping of 95mph fastballs to start the game. Garza’s offspeed stuff has some nice separation from his fastball. The markings in the 85mph range is Garza’s slider and if you go down another 10mph to the 75mph range, that’s his curveball. Garaza maintained his velocity well throughout the game, hitting 94mph near the end of his start.
Here’s the plot of Garza’s FB location, which like I stated above, I thought was key for him. Notice how Garza really pounded the right handed hitters on the inside of the plate. Lot’s of pitches in and down on RHB’s. The middle portion of the FB’s in the center of the zone might look hittable, but when you’re throwing near 95mph on each FB, you can get away with it. And Garza did get away with it.
A very nice start from the ALCS MVP.