Advance Scout: Tampa Bay Rays, September 23-25

Friday, September 23 2011 @ 01:20 PM EDT

Contributed by: Anders

The Advance Scout's truncated season begins to wind down as the Jays head to St. Pete's for their penultimate series. Tampa Bay is 2 games behind the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card with six to play, actually quite a formidable deficit. Tampa started the month off 5.5 behind before narrowing the gap thanks to the Red Sox mini-collapse. Fun fact: the Red Sox are 4-14 in their last 18, and since August 27th have won one game in which they scored fewer than 9 runs. So maybe Tampa has a shot, although they get the Jays and the Yankees while Boston gets the Yankees and Orioles. Still, the Bosox lost three of four at home to the Orioles this past week, and Tampa Bay is, statistically speaking, likely to go 4 and -1 against the Jays if recent history is any indication.

Every night in my dreams, I Advance Scout you.

Friday: Brandon Morrow v. David Price

Has David Price ever actually lost against the Blue Jays? It doesn't really seem like it. Upon closer inspection, he is in fact 9 and 1 in 11 starts, with an ERA of 1.99. What a suck. He's faced the Jays four times this year, and in the best two starts he pitched 15.2 innings with 24 K's, 2 walks and 7 hits, allowing no runs. In the other two, including a game in which he actually took a loss, he went 14.2 and allowed 7 runs, mustering a pitiful 11/4 K/BB ratio. So this guy's awful, it's pretty clear... He's so bad he throws a 95 MPH fastball as a lefthander, and it's probably the best fastball in the AL. So, he throws it a lot. He's also got a pretty wicked change in the low-80s, a hard slider (89-90 MPH), and a nice big curveball. And he works quickly. I think I'm in love. Edwin Encarnacion is 3/15, Mike McCoy and Jose Molina 4 for 15 and 12, respectively, Adam Lind 6/30, JPA 0/10, and Jose Bautista 9/25 with 4 home runs (including 2 in a game earlier this season in which he was as locked in as any human being has ever been hitting a baseball and Price tried to sneak a fastball by him twice. It was epic; the Jays still lost when they pulled Brandon Morrow early in his first start and the pen blew it. Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

Saturday: Ricky Romero v. Jeff Niemann

Jeff Niemann is a little more yeoman-like than David Price, which is not to say he's bad, far from it, just not an All-Star. And a giant, standing at 6-9 (he does beat the 6'6 Price in this regard.) Over the last three years Niemann has been close to a league average pitcher, not spectacular but reasonably durable and effective. He does everything pretty well but doesn't stand out in one particular area, though he does maintain a nice K/BB ratio. Niemann pitches off his low-90s fastball and relies heavily on his curveball. He'll mix in 6 or 7 sliders and splitters a game to keep hitters honest. Adam Lind is 11/26 with 4 walks and 2 dingers, Mark Teahan 3/10, Edwin Encarnacion 1/9 and Jose Bautista 3/17 with 5 walks.

Sunday: Brett Cecil v. Wade Davis

The smallest of the opposing pitchers the Jays are going to face, Davis stands a paltry 6'5. I know right? His problem as a starter has been keeping the ball down and men off base. He's walked a tick more than 3 batters per 9 innings throughout his career, and hasn't been able to post huge strikeout numbers to compensate. This year in fact has been the worst of any season, majors or minors, as he's managed to K only 5/9 IP. He's also getting tagged for a line drive rate of over 20%, which is not a long term recipe for success. Despite his size Davis doesn't throw especially hard, topping out at 93 or so but usually sitting a bit below that. Like both other Rays starters this weekend he relies heavily on his fastball, throwing only a scattering of sliders and change ups; like Niemann his second pitch is that righty curve. JPA is 4 for 10 lifetime, Yunel Escobar 7/16, Adam Lind 6/17, Eric Thames 3/8,  Edwin Encarnacion 1/12 and Jose Bautista 2/17.

Other Rays: Desmond Jennings, trapped in the minors forever because of injuries and various other circumstances, has had a great rookie season, hitting a cool .287/.376/.498, going 18/24 stealing bases while mostly playing leftfield and leading off. Not a bad start to a career. It's been a down year with the stick for Evan Longoria; he's hitting only .244/.349/.485, and I'm assuming a dismal .241 average on balls in play is the culprit. Still, he's been great defensively and is still a star. Ben Zobrist is one of the most underrated players in baseball, putting up numbers similar to Longoria (a little more average, a little less slugging) while playing gold glove calibre defense at second and in right. Matt Joyce and Casey Kotchman (and the aforementioned Jennings) have been the other hitting stars in the lineup, though stars is the wrong word - Tampa fields a lineup of good but not great hitters throughout for the most part, but many of them happen to be superb fielders. Johnny Damon isn't a great, or even good, fielder or hitter at this point, but he's racked up 156 hits leaving him less than 300 shy of 3000. He's 38 this year, and it would take him two more years to get there, and he's a DH at this point and not a good enough hitter for that really, so maybe he doesn't. Still kindof neat, and it would open up a very interesting (but I think ultimately futile) Hall of Fame case.

The Jays: John Lott in the Post chimes in on Colby Rasmus, who's been a bit of an enigma. Rasmus does not come off especially well in the interview, and it's not hard to read between the lines a bit and see why he fell out of favour previously. Still, he has a ton of talent, Keith Law still thinks he can be a star for what it's worth, and his defense in CF has seemed pretty solid to me so far (he ran down a ball deep in the gap yesterday)... The Dome is being shut down for the year (picture)... Ghostrunner on First, another Jays blog, is calling it quits...

The Infirmary:
The Legend of Sam Fuld and the anti-legend Kyle Farnsworth are both day-to-day.

Credit: Fangraphs, Yahoo! Sports and Baseball Reference were all used in the making of this Advance Scout.