Looking ahead to ALDS Game 2: Rays-Red Sox

3 Comments

Behind a solid start from Jon Lester and a whole lot of offense, the Red Sox blew out the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS yesterday by the score of 12-2. The two teams will meet again today at Fenway Park at 5:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:

John Lackey will get the ball for the Red Sox following a resurgent season in which he posted a 3.52 ERA and 161/40 K/BB ratio over 189 1/3 innings. The 34-year-old has been especially effective at home this season, compiling a 2.78 ERA in 16 starts at Fenway Park compared to a 4.35 ERA in 13 starts on the road. Lackey made two starts against the Rays during the regular season and was knocked around pretty good, allowing nine runs on 19 hits (including two home runs) and two walks over nine innings.

Coming off a complete game victory in Monday’s tiebreaker game against the Rangers, David Price will start for the Rays. The southpaw finished the regular season with a 3.33 ERA and 151/27 K/BB ratio in 186 2/3 innings. He has thrived at Fenway Park during his career, including a 1.21 ERA and 20/2 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings across three starts this season.

As for Boston’s lineup, the big change for Game 2 is that David Ross will start behind the plate and catch Lackey while Jarrod Saltalamacchia will take a seat. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes is expected to remain in left field with another left-hander on the mound for Tampa Bay.

Not surprisingly, Rays manager Joe Maddon figures to tinker with his lineup a bit more. Jose Molina caught most of Price’s starts during the regular season, so look for him to play rather than Game 1 catcher Jose Lobaton. We’ll also likely see David DeJesus in left field (and possibly in the leadoff spot) while Sean Rodriguez figures to take a seat with a right-hander on the mound for Boston. With Maddon’s penchant for mixing-and-matching, other changes are possible.

The Mets are a mess

Al Bello/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
1 Comment

If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.