The Rays (17) and the Indians (16) were the only American League teams to throw 15 shutouts this season, so it’s fitting that the wild card turned into another one.
Pitching himself into and out of trouble, Alex Cobb scattered eight hits in 6 2/3 innings before leaving with a 3-0 lead. Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney finished up from there as the Rays topped the Tribe 4-0 to advance to the ALDS and play Boston on Friday.
The 25-year-old Cobb was involved in four of the Rays’ regular-season shutouts, though he never completed any of them himself (his lone complete game actually came in a 2-1 loss to the A’s). The teams on the other end of those shutouts: the Indians, the Yankees, the Tigers and then the Yankees again. Overall, Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA. He may well have been a Cy Young contender if not for the liner that brought his season to a screaming half on June 15. The complete-game loss is his only defeat in 18 starts since the beginning of May.
Now the Rays get the difficult assignment of facing the Red Sox without either of their top two starters being available in Game 1 on Friday. Matt Moore, who has been very shaky of late, will get the ball in that one. David Price, who went the distance in the one-game playoff against the Rangers on Monday, should come back for Game 2. Cobb will likely follow in Game 3, unless the Rays want to give him an extra day off and use Chris Archer then.
There is one big plus for the Rays; because MLB couldn’t help itself and there are four days between Games 2 and 5, Price could come back for the finale on regular rest, should the series get that far.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: