It seems like only yesterday that Zach Britton was making his major league debut against the Rays, the Orioles had yet to lose a game since it was just the opening weekend, and we were all making jokes about how the Rays were trying to get the 2004 Red Sox back together, about Johnny Damon being old and worthless and Manny Ramirez being old and worthless... well, at least one of those things is still true.
If you want to look at where the paths for these teams have diverged since then, one of the key stats can be found in the starting pitching. Orioles starters have thrown the least innings in MLB (739.1) and Rays starters have thrown the most (892.1). Rays starters strike out more batters, walk fewer, give up fewer home runs. Their ERA of 3.52 is 1.75 runs lower than the O's starters.
Tonight's starter for Tampa Bay is David Price, who is a great example of this. He strikes out almost a batter per inning. He doesn't give up a lot of home runs. Price has already pitched 190.1 innings and it's only the beginning of September. So he's a pretty phenomenal workhorse but he won't be anywhere near the Cy Young conversation: his 3.40 ERA is merely the third-best on the Rays.
It's pretty amazing that the Rays are 9 games out with those incredible starter performances all year. The reason for this is that their offense is as middle-of-the-pack as the Orioles. The Rays have similar numbers to us, with less in batting average made up for by more walks. League average offense might cut it for Anaheim in a joke division like the AL West, but that's not going to hack it in the AL East, with Boston and New York being the powerhouses at the top.
One bright spot for the Rays is Desmond Jennings, who was called up at the end of July and has raked to the tune of .324/.417/.586 in 171 PA. Seriously, wow. By the way, Jennings has already earned himself a 2.1 WAR on Fangraphs, which is to say that one month and one week of Jennings has produced more positive value for the Rays than a full season from all but four players has done for the Orioles - Wieters, Hardy and Jones have more, and Britton's equal.
Jennings was a 10th-round draft pick in 2006. The O's selected ten players before Jennings was off the board. One of those players was Zach Britton in the 4th round. Another was Ryan Adams, tonight's starting second baseman, in the 2nd round. You know who else will be in this game and was in the 2006 draft? Evan Longoria, the 3rd overall pick. Can't even really get mad about that since he was gone before the O's picked. 2nd and 4th round picks. 1st and 10th round picks. Who will own it?
|Orioles (Z. Britton - L) @ Rays (D. Price - L)|