Monday, June 22, 2009

Ranking The Pitchers, Because I Have “A Case Of The Mondays”


As we near the halfway point of the season, the Rays are right now 37-34, in 4th place in the AL East, and 6 games out of first place. The starting pitchers are a good part of the reason that the Rays are playing slightly above .500 baseball. So far this season they have been good, but not great. There have been gems and there have been duds. Watching some of the games has made me want to celebrate like I just set up a computer program to give me lots of fractions of pennies, while other games make me want to punch a printer with my bare fists. Some days I am watching the Rays’ starting pitching and would be less frustrated sitting in traffic, seeing the lane to your left move, changing lanes, and then having that lane stop and the lane you were in move.

In case you couldn’t see where this is going, today, I am going to rank the pitching staff based on quotes from the cult classic “Office Space.” (Author’s notes: If you couldn’t see where I was going, please go buy, rent, Netflix, or illegally download the movie now and you need to work on your movie seeing skills. Just to cover our butts, we don’t advocate illegal downloads but we know you will do it anyway, just like you will sneak down to expensive, open seats at baseball games even though you paid for upper deck.) So, here is the ranking system for the Rays’ pitchers who have started a game so far this season and who might start a game sometime before September 1st.

1: “This is a f&%(” – You have just been God awful. You couldn’t get anyone out and you walked people like it was your job. You also probably had high expectations which made your terrible pitching look even worse.

2: “You don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, look at my cousin: he’s broke, don’t do s$%@” – You get paid that much money to suck?

3: “Did you get the memo? Yea, you see we are putting the new cover sheets on all the TPS reports.” - On a regular basis, it looks like you forgot it was your turn to pitch.

4: “Oh yeah, we’re gonna bring in some entry level graduates, farm some work out to Singapore, that’s the usual deal. Standard operating procedure” – You are a minor leaguer and are just about ready to graduate to the Major Leagues. You might rank higher if you pitch well in the show, but you need your chance first.

5: “What if we’re doing this when we’re 50? It would be nice to have that kind of job security.” – You are an aging pitcher who somehow is still pitching even though you are pushing 50. How has your arm not fallen off?

6: “You can just go ahead and move a little to the left. That’s it. Great” – If you could just make an adjustment or two to your delivery, that would be greaaaaaaaat.

7: “I'd like to move us right along to a Peter Gibbons. Now we had a chance to meet this young man, and boy that's just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.” - You are a solid pitcher who has potential to be even better when you put your mind to it.

8: “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don't you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?” – You are a consistent pitcher who shows up day in and day out, but you don’t need flair like a 95mph fastball to strike people out or to go 7 solid innings.

9: “If they take my stapler I’ll set the building on fire.” – When you are at your best, you set the building on fire, and you pitch at that level on a regular basis.

10: “Things go well I might be showing her my o-face. Oh…oh…oh!” – Against you, the batters are getting used to looking at pitches fly by and just say “oh” as they are walking back to the dugout after striking out.

And on to the pitching staff

Wade Davis and Carlos Hernandez: 4 - “Oh yeah, we’re gonna bring in some entry level graduates, farm some work out to Singapore, that’s the usual deal. Standard operating procedure” – Depending on injuries and how much some pitchers struggle, your time to play for the Rays could be approaching. I think Wade Davis is ready, and just needs an opening in the rotation for his chance.

Matt Garza fits into 3 categories. They are as follows:

The Bad Matt Garza: 6 - “You can just go ahead and move a little to the left. That’s it. Great.” – The bad Matt Garza isn’t as bad as it was last season, only having 1 appearance in which he gave up more than 4 runs. However, the potential for a blowup is still there with the “Garza Complex.” It is this form of Garza that keeps his sports psychologist on speed-dial.

The Normal Matt Garza: 7 - “I'd like to move us right along to a Peter Gibbons. Now we had a chance to meet this young man, and boy that's just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.” – Matt Garza has ace potential; he just has to get rid of the bad Matt Garza and have more the good Matt Garza. The normal Matt Garza will definitely give you a quality start, 6 innings and 3 runs.

The Good Matt Garza: 9 - “If they take my stapler I’ll set the building on fire.” – When this Matt Garza shows up, the opposing team can forget about it. This Garza might be the first Rays’ pitcher to throw a no-hitter. His stuff is electric, when this Matt Garza is on the mound.

Scott Kazmir: 1 - “This is a f&%(!” – I am not sure what happened to once-potential-ace Scott Kazmir. Maybe it was an injury, or maybe it was pitching in last year’s All-Star Game on short rest, or maybe he let that contract extension get to his head. He sucked so much that the Rays put him on the “Chien-Ming Wang honorary mentally disabled list.” No matter what the answer is, Kazmir better find his game (and the strike zone) and find it fast. He is currently on a rehab assignment and hopefully he can turn his season and his career around. When he comes back to pitch for the Rays, we are all hoping for the best. He needs it. The Rays need it.

Jeff Niemman: 6 - “You can just go ahead and move a little to the left. That’s it. Great” – Since starting the season slowly, Niemman seems to be continually taking 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards. Yesterday he couldn’t find the strike zone to save his life and got yanked after 4, but still only gave up 2 runs. 2 starts ago he held the Rockies to 3 runs in 5, and 2 starts before that Niemman had the 2-hit shutout. Niemman needs to just make small adjustments to keep throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters. If he is able to do this consistently, he will be a solid starting pitcher for a long time in this league.

David Price: 4 - “Oh yeah, we’re gonna bring in some entry level graduates, farm some work out to Singapore, that’s the usual deal. Standard operating procedure” – I was debating whether I wanted to rank Price a little higher, but I think the jury is still out. We all know how much potential Price has and how good he will be. However, he still has a lot to work on, such as keeping his pitch count down and avoiding the one big inning. I wouldn’t be surprised if I revisit these rankings in a month and he is a 7.

James Shields: 8 - “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don't you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?” – Shields has proven he is the number 1 pitcher in this rotation, but needs to get rid of that 1 big inning. His changeup and curveball remain nasty, even if those are pitches that lack the “flair” of a heater.

Andy Sonnanstine: 3 - “Did you get the memo? Yea, you see we are putting the new cover sheets on all the TPS reports.” Andy has graduated from a 2 to a 3 when his ERA dropped below 7 on June 13, but he still needs to be better. He needs to be much better. I think the one batter that tells the 2009 Andy Sonnanstine story is Brian Schneider, who crushed his first homerun of the season in pitcher-friendly Citi Field. Sonnanstine needs to watch his back when Scott Kazmir comes off the DL.

Honorary future opponent section:

Jamie Moyer: 5 - “What if we’re doing this when we’re 50? It would be nice to have that kind of job security.” – Seriously, how is your left arm still attached at the shoulder? Maybe it’s because you throw the ball as fast as a little leaguer?

There you have it. The Rays have some solid pitchers, but no one is pitching well enough to deserve a consistent ranking of 9 or 10. The Rays lead the MLB in runs scored with 401, and if they could shave 1-2 runs off a game from their opponents, results will be seen in the standings. Holding opponents to fewer runs all starts with the starting pitchers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

And yes, I have a serious case of the Mondays.

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