Series Preview #10: Rays @ Angels (Quality Pitching)

Rays (14-15) @ Angels (13-13)

The Angels return home after a 4-6 road trip that featured many disappointing moments. Despite the multitude of teams ahead of them in the standings, Fangraphs is still pretty bullish on the Angels to make the playoffs. Other sources are less excited.

Screenshot from Fangraphs

On the other hand, the defending AL champions have a tougher battle ahead. In the division with an always-talented Yankees squad, an up-and-coming Blue Jays roster, and overall improved teams from Boston and Baltimore, Tampa Bay will have a tough time repeating as pennant winners, much less even making the playoffs.

Screenshot from Fangraphs

This is a Monday-Thursday four-game series featuring four 6:30 pm starts (which I love so much more than the 7 pm ones, by the way).

Rays Lineup

Screenshot from Fangraphs

The Rays have not been hitting much this year. They are 24th in baseball in OPS, and they have struck out the third-most times. Usually, it works. This year, it hasn’t clicked yet for them for some reason.

Mike Zunino is currently the best OPS hitter at .803. In his career, he’s homered 10 times off Angels pitching. I suspect Tampa Bay writes Zunino’s name in the lineup card more for defensive purposes, but if he provides pop as well, they won’t complain. Zunino splits time with Francisco Mejía.

At the top of the lineup is Austin Meadows, who in 2021 is doing a poor man’s impression of Adam Dunn. With 15 walks and 27 strikeouts, Meadows gets on base at a .336 clip, which is serviceable for a leadoff hitter. He’s not great in the outfield, and he hasn’t managed to hit to his 2019 levels, when he finished with a .922 OPS and got a 14th-place MVP finish.

Another low average, high on-base hitter in the Rays lineup is Yandy Díaz. Díaz, who also sometimes leads off, has surprisingly been devoid of power for two seasons now. After slugging .476 with 14 home runs in 2019, he only hit two in 2020 (due to hamstring injury) and hasn’t hit any so far in 2021. Díaz is one of the best in the league at avoiding strikeouts, has taken 18 walks, giving him a .381 OBP, and sprays hits to all fields. If he finds his power, this is a very dangerous hitter, but he doesn’t seem to be hitting the ball hard like he did in 2019.

The two other hitters hitting decently well are Joey Wendle and Randy Arozarena. Arozarena is the opposite of Meadows. He plays great defense, makes hard contact, but strikes out 1.38 times per game. This kind of streaky hitting will lead to some power surges, but on the whole it’s not reliable. In four games, anything can happen, so let’s hope that Angels pitching limits the damage against Arozarena. Wendle is the prototypical contact hitter who got some love for the Rookie of the Year award in 2018 that Shohei Ohtani won. He’s only taken two walks this year, but he has the third base role locked up.

In center field, Kevin Kiermaier continues to astound with the glove. The bat is less impressive than ever. I would encourage the Angels, especially the lefties, to blast the ball over the fence this series to avoid Kiermaier and Arozarena.

Probable Pitchers

Screenshot from 538

Tampa Bay’s pitching is currently what is keeping them afloat at near-.500.

Tyler Glasnow is one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. Ever since coming over from Pittsburgh in 2018, Glasnow has been perhaps a borderline top-10 starter. This year, he’s really showing it, spinning fairy-tale numbers through six starts. He throws a fastball at 97, a slider at 88, and a curveball at 84. Occasionally he mixes in a changeup (at 91!), but the first three pitches are already garnering superior results. In 2021, Glasnow has a 1.67 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP and a 13.4 K/9. He’s doing this against AL lineups, and he clearly is a top-2 pitcher in his division at the moment. He matches up against Shohei Ohtani, which will be a treat if Ohtani can take the mound after getting hit in the elbow Sunday.

Update: Ohtani has been scratched, and Quintana will start Monday. This is what I get for working early.

Tuesday features a matchup of lefties. One is José Quintana, who is getting calls to be DFA’d by fans. The other is Shane McClanahan, who did this in his Major League debut last week:

I think I know which one I’d rather have. Hoping for some extreme luck on Tuesday to bounce our way.

After McClanahan, I have a feeling Angels hitters will struggle with Ryan Yarbrough on Wednesday. The soft-tossing lefty favors his cutter that he throws for an average of 82 mph, and even his sinker struggles to reach 90 mph. He limits walks but allows a ton of hits and hard contact. He’ll provide a different look for the Angels, and I have no doubt that he will turn into Cy Lefty then. Alex Cobb faces the team he spent seven years as a member of.

Finally, because we might as well get a look at the fourth-different type of pitcher, the Rays throw Josh Fleming out there on Thursday. Fleming is also a soft-tossing lefty, but whereas Yarbrough allows hits but not walks, Fleming gets a lot of soft contact and walks a ton of hitters, seemingly avoiding the strikeout. Hitters simply don’t square up his 90 mph fastball. I do somewhat question the wisdom of having Yarbrough and Fleming start on back-to-back nights, but it’s the Rays, and they probably know something I don’t. He faces Andrew Heaney.

Rays Bullpen

Screenshot from Fangraphs

The Rays have all sorts of nasty weapons out of the pen. They appear to be using Diego Castillo in the traditional closer role, but other guys such as Ryan Thompson, Andrew Kittredge, and Jeffrey Springs are delivering quality innings. I most knew Hunter Strickland from the Bryce Harper incident, but he has been a really good bullpen arm this season!

Series Prediction

I have absolutely zero expectations for this series.

(Title Photo from Rays Twitter)

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TXAngel
Member
13 days ago

Apparently Shohei’s been scratched today and they’ve move Quintana’s start up to today. No announcement on when Shohei will pitch again.

Jessica DeLine
Admin
Trusted Member
13 days ago
Reply to  TXAngel

Quintana vs. Glasnow tonight? I see I need to pre drink.

WallyChuckChili
Trusted Member
13 days ago
Reply to  Jessica DeLine

Beer Googles might help.

You won’t know who’s losing!

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Super Member
13 days ago

Good news, I get to see Mclanahan tomorrow.

Bad news, I get to see Quintana. A few years back I had the unfortunate fate to see Harvey pitch 4 times. This will be my second time seeing Quintana.

May is a brutal month of scheduling.

Angels2020Champs
Trusted Member
13 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31384482/shohei-ohtani-los-angeles-angels-scratched-day-being-hit-pitch-elbow

Me too. Another game I get to watch Q because he got moved up to today ugh

Last edited 13 days ago by Angels2020Champs
JackFrost
Trusted Member
13 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

May is indeed brutal. Everywhere you look on the schedule there is a sweep waiting to happen (with US as the victims!). If Shohei doesn’t start in this series there is a real good chance Tampa Bay can sweep all four games.

Of course with our luck the Dodgers have picked this time (just prior to the Freeway Series) for their bats to wake up. Why couldn’t we have played them when their offense was slumping and struggling to score runs ??? Instead, the Reds were the lucky recipient of the getting the cold Dodgers. That is of course a series we could easily be swept in.

I am very concerned that the next 2 weeks could sink us for good. If we lose 6 out of 7 against the Dodgers and Rays (which is a real possibility) I don’t think we’ll be able to recover from that. We then have to play the Astros again and it does not let up with the A’s coming shortly afterwards…

This is a crucial and very dangerous stretch here.

Eric_in_Portland
Super Member
13 days ago

I guess a split would be acceptable. I see the names Harvey and Cahill…I mean Quintana and Cobb and grimace.

JackFrost
Trusted Member
13 days ago

I see us losing three out of four. Recent history with the Rays has not been kind to us.

Glasgow tonight is very tough for starters. Here we are probably looking at a 3-1 or 3-2 loss.

Angels2020Champs
Trusted Member
13 days ago
Reply to  JackFrost

He struck out 10 in 7 innings vs As (who I consider better than us) last outing.
I might just have to appreciate the opposition being better tonight.

JackFrost
Trusted Member
13 days ago

Now that Ohtani has been scratched I think there is almost zero chance we win this game. With Ohtani starting we had a fighting chance, without him you can pretty much count this as a loss. I will amend my score prediction from 3-1 to 7-1 Rays.

Last edited 13 days ago by JackFrost
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