Worry or Not? Struggling MLB Teams

Tampa Bay Rays 4-6 

Many people picked to win the American League pennant were the Tampa Bay Rays.  The stellar pitching staff along with a manager that knows how to manipulate the lineup to out think opposing clubs, they are a sabermetric dream of a squad.  All was looking good after taking three of four from the defending NL East Champs the Atlanta Braves. Then they took a trip to Baltimore.  The Orioles swept the hapless Rays holding their lineup to just eight runs over a three game stretch.  

Looking deeper into the numbers, if not for an explosion of offense (14 runs) in the fourth game of the season the Rays bats have been relatively silent.  As a team the Rays are hitting just .213 with an OPS under 700.  Individually other than Brandon Lowe (OPS 1.032) and Willy Adames (OPS .919) the rest of the lineup has underperformed.  

Charlie Morton and Blake Snell have been less than impressive in their combined starts.  Morton most notably losing a little zip on the fast ball.  The depth of the pitching staff has kept them relevant and will continue to keep them relevant.   Tyler Glasnow has stepped up and shown glimpses of number one starter potential. The bullpen still has ridiculous talent that can pick up the slack of a struggling top of the rotation. 

The Rays have to get more consistency up and down the lineup.  Jose Martinez has been given more at bats lately and has shown the ability that made him a target in the offseason for the Rays.  The key for the lineup though is finding more power.  Hunter Renfroe has blasted a few but they still need more feared power hitters in order to be a serious threat for the Yankees in the east and the rest of the American League. 

Verdict: Not worried

Texas Rangers 2-5

The Rangers intrigued me entering the 2020 season.  With wholesale changes made to the starting rotation they seemed to have fixed a problem in 2019.  With Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles and Corey Kluber at the top of the rotation along with a powerful offense the Rangers should be ready to take the next step from rebuilding club to potential playoff contender. That hasn’t been the case through the first seven games of the season.  

It has been the offense that has looked sluggish out of the gate.  In fact it doesn’t seem like they even left the gate.  Choo, Andrus, Frazier, Santana, Odor and Calhoun were all guys that were supposed to be carrying the load offensively and it has not happened. With Danny Santana now hitting the injured list this team is looking for a spark that just isn’t there.  

With the expansion of the playoffs I had the Rangers pencilled in as one of the last spots but in a very crowded AL West they have a hell of a mountain to climb. 

Verdict: Very worried

New York Mets 3-7

New York was looking to compete even without Noah Syndergaard in 2020.  A revamped bullpen and a lineup featuring 2019 rookie of the year Pete Alonso looked like the beginning of what could be a very successful season.  

The lineup has generated a lot of production.  Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and JD Davis have all produced above the anticipated level.  As a team they have a .342 OBP, the problem hasn’t been getting people on base; it’s been driving them in. They are hitting just .228 with runners on and an OPS of .666.  The Met’s have multiple proven run producers that have been unable to come up with the big hits. 

The Mets have gotten great contributions from their rotation,  Offseason signing Michael Wachs and rookie David Peterson have both shown glimpses of what they can do in the regular season.  

Edwin Diaz’s continued struggles are very worrisome but the depth of the Mets bullpen should be able to bounce back.  The question of whether you believe that the bats will come around or  not.  I believe that the power they have up and down the lineup will eventually come through. 

Verdict: Not worried

Arizona Diamondbacks 3-7

I was one of the people that thought Arizona was going to be taking major steps in the right direction in 2020.  The addition of former All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Starling Marte to an already developing potential powerhouse seemed like a great fit.  Their start to the season has not shown the results.  

The bats have been silent. As a team they are hitting just .192 with a slugging percentage at just .265.  The struggles are throughout the lineup, other than Christian Walker, Starling Marte and Ketel Marte no player on the Diamondbacks has an OPS over .630.  

The complete lack of offense has not been helped out by the pitching staff.  The D-Backs have a team ERA 5.44, highlighted by the struggles of starters Luke Weaver and Robbie Ray.  Ray’s command most notably has led to crooked numbers on the scoreboard.  

The Diamondbacks have a lot of questions followed by very few answers. They will need Ketel Marte and Starling Marte to lead their offense until Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta and company can figure out a way to return to the form of 2019.  This team is in some serious trouble. 

Klub and MadBum

The title to this blog would make for a great CBS sitcom.  I could see the commercials now, an odd couple of sorts changing cities in order to change their lives…maybe for the better?  Madison Bumgarner and Corey Kluber are two potential aces that have switched teams in the offseason. The theme of the 2019 Winter meeting seems to center around pitching.  With Strasburg and Cole signing massive contracts they have overshadowed the mometus moves by both the Diamondbacks and Rangers in order to bolster their staffs. The question I have is who really made the better move??

Bumgarner helps in more ways than one.

The Diamondbacks agreed to a five-year $85 million contract over the weekend.  Bumgarner will join a rotation that features Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen, Alex Young and Robbie Ray.  With Madbum that makes for seven names for five spots. MLB trade rumors is suggesting that the pickup of Bumgarner means that Robbie Ray will be on his way out in Arizona.  If that happens, did the Diamondbacks really improve themselves? Surprisingly to most Bumgarner just turned 30 years old in August, a five year deal will not have him pitching into the twilight of his career. Bumgarner’s 3.2 WAR immediately puts him at the top of the starting pitchers for the D-Backs.  

Rotation WAR

Robbie Ray 2.0

Luke Weaver 1.8

Merrill Kelly 1.5

Zac Gallen .8

Alex Young .4

The Diamondbacks now have a proven starter at the top of their rotation. They addition of Bumgarner makes the trade market for Robbie Ray a lot better.   The impending free agent has the upside to miss bats that most contending teams are going to want to acquire. Arizona has pitching depth in the minor league system so moving Ray with the addition of Bumgarner will allow Arizona to get the depth the need at first base or the outfield.  The signing of Bumgarner has opened up the possibilities for Arizona, they improved their #1 starter and opened up the market for to continue improving their roster.  

Rangers get an Ace

The Texas Rangers have made their counter move in the stacked AL West adding former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber for basically some guys on a spreadsheet.  This deal seemed like a recreation of the Moneyball scene where Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt just threw out a few names to pick up a reliever.  

The Cleveland Indians picked up Delino Deshields Jr. and Emmanuel Clase. Clase is the player that brings the most interest in this trade. Clase is a 21 years old and possesses potential dominant stuff including a 100 MPH cutter.  Clase projects as a future relief option for the Indians. He still has only reached the High A level but immediately jumps into the top 30 prospect list for Cleveland. 

Now let’s talk about what the Rangers got in Corey Kluber.  The Rangers had starting pitching issues all season in 2019 and they were set on reworking their rotation.  Kluber has become the marquee name along with Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Those three will join Mike Minor and Lance Lynn making a rotation that can immediately make an impact in the loaded AL West. Kluber is coming off a lost season, dealing with multiple stints on the injured list but the upside he brings is well worth what is ultimate cost was.  While the Indians found him expendable the Rangers have a chance to push themselves into the playoff hunt with a healthy new ace of the staff. We tend to forget that 2018 Kluber won 20 games and added a 5.5WAR.  

Who did better?

Arizona and Texas both have tough divisions to deal with.  The NL West is still the Dodgers and the AL West is still the Astros until further notice.  Both teams were able to add impact starters for little cost. I am going to call Diamondbacks the winner of these two trades  Bumgarner allows the flexibilty to fill in any and all needs they may have. Kluber is a huge move for the Rangers but they still have a lot of work to do to contend for even a wild card spot in the American League.  If the D-Backs decide to hold on to Ray or move Ray they should have the rotational pieces that will make them a force to contend with in the National League.

MLB DFS Breakdown: Sept 17

Pitcher Spotlight- Marco Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners

Marco Gonzalez will be a popular play at his low cost of $6.3K.  There are multiple factors for that.  His low cost will allow you to pay up for secondary pitching options or collect the top bats on the slate.  

Gonzalez’s matchup is a juicy one in Pittsburgh versus a Pirates lineup that will not have two of its key hitters in Starling Marte and Josh Bell. Without the key cogs in the middle of the order completely changes the look of the Pittsburgh lineup.  Placing Erik Gonzalez and Melky Cabrera in their places.  Marco is a cost play versus a watered-down lineup, but his upside is ideal in this situation.

Top Stacks- Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians

Focus: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks will be an under owned potential stack.  The matchup with Caleb Smith is a solid one for the righties.  Smith has given up a .250 ISO versus righties on the season as well as over a +1.30 road ERA.  The focus of the lineup build should be the affordable pieces Christian Walker and Adam Jones at just $3.6K. Add on the perspective power/speed of Ketel Marte at $5.2K and you have a solid mini stack.  

Focus: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland will matchup with Spencer Turnbull but seems to be priced as if they are matching up with a stronger starter.  Mathew Boyd was the original starter for Detroit, DraftKings did not seem to price the change correctly. Getting Franmil Reyes and Roberto Perez for a combined $7.K are bargains if that allow you to complete the three-man stack along with the high-priced Francisco Lindor. 

Sneaky Stack: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a chance to break the slate against Chandler Shepherd, former Red Sox farm hand that spent his 2019 getting blistered in AAA.  Shepherd has an 8.55xFIP before being cast to Baltimore.  The Toronto hitters are all affordable outside of Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Combining the power potential of Vlad Jr. and Randall Grichuck seems like the most ideal point per dollar plays. 

P: Marco Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners, $6,300

P: Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs, $11,200

C: Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians, $3,600

1B: Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,600

2B: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks, $5,200

3B: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, $3,900

SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, $4,800

OF: Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians, $3,500

OF: Adam Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,600

OF: Randall Grichuck, Toronto Blue Jays, $4,300