Friday, August 14, 2009

What the Rays need to do to make a "run"

The last week has been real tough for the Rays and their fans. The joy of sweeping the Boston Red Sox and gaining ground in the wild card race was swiftly destroyed by a nightmarish west coast swing from Seattle to Anaheim.  Just when we were ready to start printing playoff tickets, the Rays revert back to the 3rd place team they've been pretty much all season.

So, what now? Andrew Friedman believes this team still has a run in them.  He believes they have a run that could make September really special. I'm not as convinced as Friedman is.  But, this is major league baseball and stranger things have happened. This team certainly has the talent to do it, but can they put it all together and make this a memorable run to the post season.

Here's what I believe needs to happen for the Rays to make a run at the wild card:

  • Home domination.  For the most part, the Rays have been money at home this year. However, there has been some times when they've played rather lackadaisically at home.  The last time was the Yankees series. That kind of play has to stop now.  The Rays aren't going to win every home game from here on out, but they better win most of them if they want to make a run. Boston doesn't lose much at home.  The Rays have to lose even less than that now.
  • Killer instinct from the starting pitchers.  I'm specifically referring to the staff "aces:" James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza.  A team like Toronto should be looking at the pitching match-ups right now and quaking in their boots.  The Blue Jay fans should be wondering how they got so unlucky to get these three guys in a row at Tropicana Field.  Instead, these guys scare nobody. They're just 3 guys the Rays are running out there for a 3 game series. I don't want to see anymore flopping around the mound, hitting the ground with your glove, dirty looks at the umpires, screams in frustration, etc.  Go out there like you have a pair and take care of business. We've seen it from each of you in the past. I want to see it again.
  • Put the ball in play.  One thing that really frustrates me about this team is the strikeouts.  Last year, they did such a good job of putting the ball in play to make things happen.  This year it seems like strikeouts are always killing rallies.  We just got done watching the Angels' brand of baseball. They don't strikeout. They slap the ball into holes and before you know it, they've scored three runs. Then, they hit you with the long ball. This applies to the usual suspects, along with certain others who seem to fall in that trap.
  • No extra outs.  The 2008 Rays were praised for their defense and their mental approach to the game.  The 2009 squad seems like the Bad News Bears out there at times.  Take pride in your defense. Don't force the issue. Do the right thing when the ball comes to you. Extra outs always seem to come back to bite you, so don't take the chance.
  • Enough with the walks already.  Honestly, I'm tired of the walks.  I'm tired of leadoff walks. I'm tired of 2 out walks. I'm tired of close walks. I'm tired of 4-pitch walks. I'm tired of all of them. Somehow, someway... this pitching staff needs to figure out how to throw strikes.
  • Have fun.  We heard the other day that Joe Maddon told B.J. Upton he needs to have fun.  That goes for the rest of the team as well.  Go out there an play ball. This team is way more uptight than last year's squad was.  Look, you have nothing to lose. You're in third place. Why put all the pressure on yourselves?

I also solicited some twitter advice for the Rays and what other people want to see.

TheBrainStem is looking for more productive outs from this team and would like to see Pat the Bat play some outfield.  Maybe that's a good idea. Get PtB in the flow of the game and see if it helps him become the monster we hoped he would be.  I'm definitely on board with the productive outs. I'm tired of the double plays all the time.

Pixie1212 is looking for more hustle/killer/instinct/desire/focus- whatever you wanna call it. I would like all of those wrapped in a nice 9=8 motto and taped all over the clubhouse.  Maddon did a good job of motivating overachievers last year. Can he figure out a way to motivate some underachievers this year?


Brandi said...

I love this sentence: "Go out there like you have a pair and take care of business." Pitching has been frustrating me a lot lately. When we have a decent start, we lose it when the bullpen comes in. Or sometimes we start terribly and there's nothing the bullpen can do to get out of the situation.

But the thing that has broken my heart the most lately are the defensive errors. We've seen more of those over the past week than I remember seeing for almost the entire season last year. You're right - the boys need to have fun, follow their instincts, and stop over-thinking everything/putting too much pressure on themselves. Now's the time to really focus on improvement because there is nothing to lose!

Anonymous said...

I liked the article especially the comments on the "ace pitchers". I found it really disappointing seeing Kazmir with such a poor performance against the Angels. Granted, everyone has a good day and a bad day and I will not even assume that I can do what he does, but he had such a phenomenal showing when there were trade rumors; then he fell apart. It's very disheartening as a fan when the starting pitchers can't make it past the 4th or 5th inning.

I also think the errors need to end, NOW. Wednesday's game started out good, then quickly feel apart with errors and missed outs. It was difficult to watch the Rays play so bad. I know the team has it in them to play so much better than they have of late and am eager to see them return to the team the fans love.

Michael Weber said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Michael Weber said...

Thanks, Brandi. I wasn't sure if that line was over the top. LOL

I'll still stick by the old "run prevention" theory. Pitch well and play good defense.. you won't lose too many games.

Joel said...

Putting the ball in play is an absolute must. It seems like they know how to put a man or two on (though it seems like it's always with two outs), but as soon as we have RISP everyone is determined CecilFielder the ball to another time zone.

As for the pitchers, I'd recommend some Zoloft. It seems like whenever the slightest thing goes wrong, the starters are way too sensitive and quickly let things get out of hand. I'm highlighting Shields, Garza and Price here. I know it can be especially frustrating when you're throwing a great game (a no-hitter, sometimes) and something like an error starts the trouble; but there's a big difference between fiery competitiveness and pouting. Maybe they're all trying to pull a Buehrle every night, but they have to know that 1 or 2 runs is okay - it's 5 or 6 runs that makes things difficult on everyone.

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