This article has been slightly updated after the announcement of Steve Gilbert that the Diamondbacks will start game 2 with Davies.
The past few weeks they split two 4-game series with the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals and lost a 3-game series against the Padres. No, we are not talking about the Colorado Rockies, but about the Tampa Bay Rays.
I start the article with that little comment to show that the Rays are not an unbeatable team, despite standing at 54-27 at the moment, with a comfortable 4.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in what is a traditionally strong AL East.
No intention to downplay the strength of the Tampa Bay Rays, because it is one of the better teams in the entire MLB. They frequently meet their opponents from the AL East and they are a fine 17-10 against them, which is even more impressive if you know that all teams in that division are above .500.
But their 54-27 record, still very impressive, is also somewhat inflated by that almost record-breaking 13-0 record with which they began the season. That was a terrific streak of consecutive wins against Detroit, Oakland, Washington (the “not so good” teams) and Boston (the “good team”). Over the last 30 games they are 18-12, just like the Diamondbacks.
Just to tell you again that the Rays are not unbeatable team.
Unlike previous seasons, where the Rays were an impressive pitching team but lacked a really scary offence, the Rays lead the entire MLB in OPS+. Consistent league batting leaders are 3 guys: Randy Arozarena is one of the league leaders in OBP, walks and runs batted in, Yandy Díaz is one of the league leaders in batting average, while Wander Franco is one of the league leaders in many categories, but also second in bWAR, because of great defence and good offence.
Just 3 batters, but almost the entire batting lineup is hitting over 100 OPS+, save catcher Christian Bethancourt and a few of bench players. That strong performance is evidenced by the fact that they have used just 14 players in their lineup.
The Rays also lead the entire league with 99 steals and are third in homeruns.
And all that with a batting lineup that is even younger than the Diamondbacks’. The Rays have future written all over them.
The Rays’ pitching (and defence) are the best in the entire league. They have given up an average of 3.72 runs per game and lead the league comfortably with that number. Their pitching success relies above all on the few hits that are allowed; if you look at the number of walks, the Rays’ throwers are not much more than a league average pitching team.
Their best pitcher at the moment is Shane McClanahan, who is making a case for himself as a Cy Young candidate. He leads the entire MLB in ERA and is a Top 5 when we look at ERA+. He allows a proper amount of walks, which could be troublesome but he doesn’t allow many hard hits and with the good defence behind him McClanahan can perform like an All-Star pitcher.
The other members of the rotation have also had their fair share of contribution to the excellent results, with maybe Zach Eflin being a surprising success. He was a borderline mid-rotation arm in Philadelphia, but has found renewed success in Tampa Bay.
With former ace Tyler Glasnow returning to the mound after TJ and a string of other injuries, the Rays are rolling out a 4-man rotation again, but they have been happily using that opener strategy which has made them so infamous over the last couple of years. After the Rockies and Athletics the Rays’ pitchers are the ones that go least deep in the MLB and we all know that the reason for that is completely different than that of Colorado and Oakland.
Add to that some solid relief pitching and you have a team entering Arizona that will be very tough to beat.
One shoutout to Colin Poche. Poche was a PTBNL in that terrible Steven Souza trade. He dominated the minors for the Diamondbacks and continued to do so for the Rays in 2018. He made his debut in 2019 and had a rough going, looked to be set for the shortened 2020 season until he had to undergo TJ surgery. He returned from that late 2021 and made a successful return to the Rays’ bullpen in 2022. He is now a fixed member of that reliever corps, which is quite a success in itself given the way the Rays freely move around their pitchers.
Jake Diekman is also on the Rays’ squad and is enjoying some success. Diekman was terrible in Arizona and after leaving town being chased by the Brute Squad he has had ups and downs on several teams. Apparently he is now on an up again.
Game #1 Tue 06/27 6:40 PM MST, Taj Bradley (TB) vs Zac Gallen (ARI)
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- Taj Bradley. 10 GS, 49.0 IP, 5 W-3 L, 3.86 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 1.20 WHIP, 4.73 K/BB.
- Zac Gallen. 16 GS, 98.1 IP, 9 W-2 L, 2.84 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 5.20 K/BB.
Gallen will find a worthy opponent again in his next matchup. Taj Bradley just turned 22 years old and has made the most of his 95 mph fastball. He doesn’t really paint the strike zone that well, unlike the people that have signed up for the special D-Backs event, but the movement on the fastball apparently makes it a pitch that is hard to barrell. He allows quite the amount of hard contact and a lot of line drives, but FIP still rates him fairly well, with a BABIP that is a whopping .352. His 4.73 K/BB is well over his minor league average so you’d expect Bradley to take a somewhat harder landing at a certain moment.
With Gallen on the other side, I’d bet my money on the Diamondbacks for this game.
Game #2 Wed 06/28 6:40 PM MST, Zach Eflin (TB) vs
Tommy Henry (ARI) Zach Davies (ARI)
UPDATE: with the announcement of Steve Gilbert that the Diamondbacks will start game 2 with Zach Davies, we update this preview a bit.
- Zach Eflin. 14 GS, 83.1 IP, 9 W-3 L, 3.35 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 5.60 K/BB.
Tommy Henry. 11 GS, 62.2 IP, 4 W-1 L, 4.31 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 1.78 K/BB.
- Zach Davies. 8 GS, 35.2 IP, 1 W-4 L, 7.82 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.82 WHIP, 1.67 K/BB.
I took Tommy Henry out of my Dynasty Fantasy League lineup for this week, because no way Henry will be able to pitch deep against one of the best batting lineups in the entire MLB. This isn’t just a thing of grinding against 4-5 good batters, but basically against 8-9 good batters. In his last 5 starts Henry faced the Nationals twice, the Rockies, Phillies and Guardians. Obviously, against the best squad of those 5 Henry had a rough outing and I don’t think he will match up against Eflin either.
Eflin doesn’t throw as hard as he did last year, which wasn’t really hard either, but his breaking ball and off-speed have more break while all of his pitches have more drop than last year. It’s working for him, despite the hard contact he can give up, but he is setting new career records in groundouts while he has lowered the percentage of fly balls.
Eflin faced the Diamondbacks three times in his career, getting two losses and a no-decision. Last time, though, was in 2019 and we are talking about a different pitcher here.
You might wonder why FIP is actually still rather kind with Davies as with that 1.67 K/BB and 1.82 WHIP no way he is even back-end starter material. Davies is already costing the Diamondbacks a loss above average, so I am inclined to say that this will be yet another game marked in red ink with a big L over it.
Yep, this will probably be a loss for the Diamondbacks.
Game #3 Thu 06/29 12:40 PM MST, Yonny Chirinos (TB) vs
Zach Davies (ARI) TBD
- Yonny Chirinos. 11 G, 4 GS, 48.1 IP, 3 W-3 L, 3.91 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 1.44 K/BB.
Zach Davies. 8 GS, 35.2 IP, 1 W-4 L, 7.82 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.82 WHIP, 1.67 K/BB. You might wonder why FIP is actually still rather kind with Davies as with that 1.67 K/BB and 1.82 WHIP no way he is even back-end starter material. Davies is already costing the Diamondbacks a loss above average, so I am inclined to say that this will be yet another game marked in red ink with a big L over it. But on the other hand, Davies doesn’t have the worse odds in this game against him, as the Rays will go with a spot starter. ESPN has Chirinos pencilled in as the starter for game 3 and he’d de facto become the newest member of the Rays’ rotation as he has also started in his final two appearances, taking a loss against both the Padres and Royals. He hasn’t really enjoyed much success as a starter this season, evidenced by a 6.43 ERA for his starts. He doesn’t have much to offer beside a sinker and a slider, with the latter pitch being hit hard this season.
Well, with Davies being moved up one start, you’d wonder who will go in Game 3 for the Diamondbacks. I won’t burn my hands any more on a prediction. It might look obvious that the D-Backs will go with Merrill Kelly in Game 3 but they could also hand the ball to a new addition from AAA or maybe Drey Jamison.
But no matter who turns up in the end, yeah, all of a sudden I am inclined to say that even though we have Davies in this series...we might actually take over the Rays.
We beat the Rays!
This poll is closed
You crazy bro.
Damn right we will!