It’s no secret that Tampa Bay believes in young (and cheap) starting pitching, but Bill Chastain of MLB.com notes just how strong that belief is: Tonight the Rays will set an MLB record by starting a pitcher under 30 years old for the 704th consecutive game.
That streak dates back to May 24 of 2007, when crazily enough Jae Seo started on his 30th birthday. Before that the last over-29 pitcher to start for the Rays was a then-32-year-old Mark Hendrickson way back on June 25 of 2006.
Also of note: During the 703-game streak the Rays have used a total of only 14 different starting pitchers, which is the lowest number in MLB, and none of the 14 (led by tonight’s pitcher, James Shields, with a team-high 142 starts) were signed as free agents.
During the streak of exclusively using twenty-something starters the Rays are 377-326 for a .536 winning percentage that equates to an 87-75 record per 162 games. Shields, incidentally, turns 30 in December.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.
McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).
McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.