I basically retweeted Ned Colletti’s comments back at Matt Kemp in the recaps this morning because I thought it’d be funny, but let’s be clear about something: Kemp’s misplay on that two-run triple was not the death blow in the Dodgers’ loss to the Pirates. It was the fact that the Dodgers were blanked by the worst pitching staff in all of baseball.
Four hits. Four hits is all Big Blue could muster against a team that has been giving up runs by the bucketful. And don’t tell me that it was just a fluke or that it was due to unusual weather conditions in L.A. yesterday (the wind chill factor was in the 40s). Why? Because the Dodgers have been shut out in three of their last five games. So what gives?
Garret Anderson, for one thing. The fact that he’s on any major league roster is something of a surprise, but thanks to Manny Ramirez’s injury he’s been getting way more at bats than he has any business getting. In the two-hole last night he went 0 for 4. In part-time play over the past two weeks he’s 1 for 25. James Loney has disappeared lately as well, going 0 for his last 18. Overall the Dodgers are six for 49 with runners in scoring position. All singles. There’s just no boom in their boomsticks, and the Dodgers look simply listless.
Matt Kemp is likely to get his share of media jeers today, but make no mistake: he’s not alone in deserving them.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.