May 13, 2008
DO THEY MAKE SIZE 8 RAYS HATS?:
Pitching Separates Yankees From Rays (STEVEN GOLDMAN, May 13, 2008, NY Sun)
The reason for the gap, at its most basic level, is that the Rays have scored more runs than they have allowed, while the Yankees have basically broken even. In the Rays' case, last season's major weakness — a bullpen that verged on the historically pathetic — has made a 180-degree turn. The team's gamble on closer Troy Percival, retired two years ago, has paid off, and this unusual stability at the end of games has allowed manager Joe Maddon to actually structure his bullpen, rather than run a continual fire drill.
The starting rotation has been less of an advantage than advertised at season's start, largely because Scott Kazmir failed to make his season debut until May 4 and has pitched just twice. His return leaves the Rays still looking for an elusive third solid starter to follow Jamie Shields. Edwin Jackson has shown signs that he can least hold a job, which is more than could be said for the veteran 24-year-old in the past. Other candidates, including Andy Sonnanstine, Matt Garza, and Jason Hammel, have been subpar without being disastrous — not in the way, say, that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have been for the Yankees.
Almost the whole difference between the two clubs is embodied in the difference between Sonnanstine and Garza and Kennedy and Hughes. All four are young pitchers, generally untried. There are even some broad similarities between Sonnanstine and Kennedy, who both succeed by throwing strikes rather than burning batters with nuclear-powered stuff. Simply, even though they have not always pitched well, they have done enough most nights to give their team a chance to win. The Rays are 6-2 in Sonnanstine's appearances. They were 2-3 in Garza's, pending the outcome of last night's game. Compare this to the Hughes and Kennedy starts, where the Yankees were 2-9. The difference is that the two Rays, while sometimes battered, have not been beaten past the point that good run support would save them. That has not been the case with the Yankees.
More significant than the current performance difference between similar youngsters is that the rest of the Ray rotation is: 24 (Kazmir); 26 (Shields); and 24 (Jackson). More significant still, while the teams can match up prospects like Jeff Niemann, Eduardo Morlan, Jeremy Hellickson vs. Brackman, Marquez, Horne in the minors, the Yankees have no one on a par with David Price, Wade Davis, & Jake McGee once you count Hughes, Kennedy & Chamberlain as major leaguers.
It's certainly conceivable that the young Rays won't hold off the experienced and deep-pocketed Yanks all season in '08, but the age and talent gap is so huge that it is hard to imagine that over the next five years the Rays won't be the better team, possibly even the best team in baseball.Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2008 8:06 AM