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Entries in Tampa Bay Rays (46)


Carl Crawford Returns to the Trop

Tonight, Boston's Carl Crawford returns to where he started his career.  Crawford played nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing with the Red Sox this offseason.

The start to his Red Sox career has been anything but easy.  Through his first 40 games, he had hit .205/.243/.280 with just one home run and 31 strike outs.  However, he's managed to slowly climb out of that hole and has raised his line to .246/.279/.393.  At this point in the 2010 season, Crawford was sporting a .296/.346/.465 line.

Here's a look at his SLG% heat maps through June 13 for both this season and last:

Data through June 13 (Click to enlarge image)

Crawford has simply not been as dangerous on pitches in the strike zone this season.  Oddly enough, he's hit the same number of HRs (6) and triples (4) that he did at this point last season.  However, he's striking out at a slightly greater rate (14.2% to 16.9% K-Rate), and walking much less (7.1% to 3.4% BB%).  As a result, his wOBA is down over 50 points from where it was at this point last season.

Crawford has never hit lefties well, but this season he's struggled greatly against them.  He's hitting .159/.216/.280 vs. LHP for a .222 wOBA, compared to a .324 wOBA vs. RHP this season.  In his career, he's put up a .264/.310/.376 line against lefties. 

Tonight, Crawford and the Red Sox face James Shields (TB) who is off to a 5-4 start with a 2.85 ERA with the Rays.  Shields has held lefties to a .232/.279/.379 line this season.  Meanwhile, Crawford has been bashing RHP over the last month, with a .419 wOBA including 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs in that span.


A Quick Look at Matt Joyce

Matt Joyce (TB) has been one of the Rays best hitters this season.  He's 10th in the league in overall wOBA, and 7th among all lefties. 

Matt Joyce
(Click to enlarge)

Joyce's power zones haven't changed much from last season when he hit .241/.360/.477.  You can see that there are fewer dead zones within the strike zone so far in 2011, and he's hitting outside pitches a bit better.

Joyce also has the third bast batting average against fastballs (.402) this season.  In fact, Joyce is hitting most pitches better this season.

Matt Joyce Batting Averages vs. Pitch Type

Joyce recently had a cortisone shot after experiencing shoulder soreness. He sat out Sunday and manager Joe Maddon hinted that he could be benched against lefty Phil Coke (DET) tonight.


Hellickson Pops to the Top

Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays won the AL pitcher of the month award for May.  He posted a 1.36 ERA for the month despite an okay strikeout rate and a poor walk rate.  His strength lay in controlling the long ball, giving up just one home run in the month.

Looking beyond the three true outcomes, however, Jeremy did something else to induce outs.  The following table shows the distribution of balls in play based on hit type:


Hellickson in May 2011
Ball in play typeNumberBA against
Ground balls 32 .125
Fly balls 25 .160
Line drives 17 .647
Pop ups 16 .000


His distribution of pitches explains the first data line of that table:

Jeremy Hellickson, pitch frequency, May 2011.Hellickson kept the ball down, inducing a good number of ground balls.  With the good Rays defense behind him, most of those turned into outs.  What it doesn't explain is the fourth line of the chart.  Hellickson forced players into pop up almost as often as batters tagged his pitches for line drives.  Everyone of those pops came down in the glove of a fielder. 

To pop a ball up, the batter must get under it.  That's difficult to do when the pitcher is keeping the ball low.

Jeremy Hellickson, pop up pitch frequency, May 2011.Nine of these pop ups came on pitches in the middle or low in the strike zone.  The batter had to work to get under those.  It seems that Hellickson got batters so used to looking for low pitches, they started swing lower in the zone, and ended up under the ball.  His 16 pops induced ranked fifth in the majors in the month of May, helping him to the lunar cycle honor.