Just another shutout for Alex Cobb and the Rays

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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.

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.