Tag Archives: Kevin Cash

MLB Power Rankings: Dodgers back on top to open August

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The Philadelphia Phillies are as high as they have been all season in the latest 2019 MLB Power Rankings. As the month of August opens, that still only leaves them at 14th overall in Major League Baseball.

However, while they rank as middle-of-the-pack in all of baseball, they are the sixth-highest ranked ball club in the National League. That means they statistically come out right about where they are in the standings, as a legitimate NL Wildcard contender.
In taking a look at the landscape of contenders over the final eight weeks of the regular season, the Phillies are likely going to have to beat out the division-rival Washington Nationals and whichever team finishes as runners-up in the NL Central Division, the Chicago Cubs or Saint Louis Cardinals.
The Nationals made a series of moves to shore up their one glaring weakness – the bullpen – at yesterday’s MLB trade deadline. The Cubs added a big bat in Nicholas Castellanos.
In looking ahead at the schedule, the Phillies have just four games left head-to-head with the Nationals. Those will take place in Washington at the end of September in the club’s final road series of the year. Having met 14 times already, the Nationals have taken nine games from the Phillies, who would need a sweep of that final series to gain a 9-9 split.
The Cubs will come to Citizens Bank Park for three games in the middle of August. The Phillies and Cubs have already split four games at 2-2 this season. The Phillies are done with the Cardinals, having won four of six games between the two teams.
My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.
I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field. There is never any subjectivity on my part.

The MLB Power Rankings are updated here at Phillies Nation on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.
That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.
As of my first ranking for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
Also this summer, the defensive component was changed. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.
I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there is a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 AUGUST 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

Returning to the top of the rankings for the first time since June 1 are the Los Angeles Dodgers. The National League’s top ball club in each of the previous 2019 Power Rankings, the Dodgers are one of just two teams ranked among the top three each time around this season.
Coming in as the August 1 runners-up and the top team in the American League are the previous rankings leaders, the Minnesota Twins. They are the other team to finish among the top three in each of the prior MLB Power Rankings this season.
The Cleveland Indians were the hot risers in the last rankings, and they remain scorching as August opens. But hotter than the summer sun during the month of July were the San Francisco Giants. At 11 games under .500 when the month began and ranked next-to-last back on June 1, the Giants have vaulted into the top 20 and NL Wildcard contention.
An enigmatic team would be the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the fifth consecutive period, the formula pushes the Dbacks out as a top 10 ball club. Yet Arizona has fallen below .500 in the standings at this point, sitting four games back in the loss column in the NL Wildcard race.
In parentheses are each team’s position in the June 1, June 15 , July 1 and July 15 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2-2)
  2. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3-1)
  3. Houston Astros (3-1-1-5)
  4. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5-3)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4-4)
  6. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15-10)
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6-9)
  8. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10-8)
  9. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11-7)
  10. New York Yankees (5-8-9-6)
  11. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19-11)
  12. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7-12)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13-13)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18-16)
  15. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14-14)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16-19)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17-18)
  18. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25-21)
  19. Texas Rangers (16-11-8-15)
  20. San Diego Padres (17-20-20-17)
  21. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12-20)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22-22)
  23. Miami Marlins (23-26-21-23)
  24. New York Mets (22-23-24-25)
  25. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23-24)
  26. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27-26)
  27. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26-28)
  28. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28-27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30-30)
  30. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29-29)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: TAMPA BAY RAYS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/1), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/1), Oakland (7/15)
It’s fair to ask, how are these guys doing it? The Rays are 14 games over the .500 mark while playing in a division with the behemoth Yankees and defending world champion Red Sox. They are tied with Oakland for the second AL Wildcard, two games up on those Bosox and four clear of both the Angels and Rangers.
Kevin Cash is now in his fifth season at the helm in Tampa. After three losing campaigns, he guided the Rays to a 90-win season a year ago. That was the sixth-best record in the AL, but still seven games back of Oakland for a Wildcard playoff spot.
The Rays get by with no one superstar. But they have nine batters who are in double-digits for home runs. 24-year-old, second year outfielder Austin Meadows is a potential star. Splitting his time between DH and the corner outfield spots, he has 16 homers, 40 extra-base hits, and 51 RBIs.
On the mound, Tampa has somehow survived to this point despite losing their two most talented starting pitchers. 25-year-old Tyler Glasnow has been on the IL since May with a strained right forearm. A recent MRI came back clean, but he is not likely to see a big-league mound again until September, if then.
26-year-old southpaw Blake Snell was the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner. But after he struggled over 20 starts this season it was found that he had ‘loose bodies’ in his pitching elbow, requiring surgery. The surgery was successful, and the Rays hope to get him back for the final few weeks of the season.
It is questionable how long Tampa can stay in the race without those two big horses on the mound every four-to-five days. But if they can, and those two can return healthy in September, you would be foolish to count the Rays out.
It is also questionable how long Tampa can maintain a team in Major League Baseball, at least a competitive one over the long haul considering their current stadium situation. The idea had been floated to play half their games in Tampa, and half in Montreal. As the video above will reveal, that idea appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream for some old Expos fans.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as MLB Power Ranking: August 1

Tampa Bay Rays successfully transition Alex Colome to the closer role

Colome (L) leads the American League in Saves
Way back on July 28, 2000 the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays completed a trade with the Oakland Athletics. The D-Rays sent away a pair of arms in Jim Mecir and Todd Belitz, and in return received a Double A right-hander named Jesus Colome.
Colome had a big arm, with pitches clocked at over 100 miles per hour. He made his big league debut with Tampa in June of 2011 as a reliever, beginning what would be a 10-year career in Major League Baseball.
Colome left via free agency, signing with the New York Yankees. He would end up pitching again in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Seattle Mariners. Jesus retired following the 2010 season at age 32, but would show up for a 2012 stint in the Mexican League.
A year later, the Rays would debut another Colome at the big league level. This one was Alex Colome, the nephew of Jesus. The younger Colome had signed out of the Dominican Republic as an 18-year old in March of 2007.

DEVELOPMENT AS A STARTING PITCHER

Alex would be developed as a starter by the Tampa organization. He put himself on the prospect map by going 7-4 over 15 starts with Low A Hudson Valley in 2009. Colome registered a 1.66 ERA, allowing just 46 hits over 76 innings while striking out 94 batters.
By 2013, a year after Jesus wrapped his pro career in Mexico, a 24-year old Alex was making his big league debut, still as a starting pitcher.
At that point, the Rays rotation was loaded. It featured 27-year old lefty David Price, winner of the AL Cy Young Award the previous season, and 26-year old righty Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year.
Youngsters Matt MooreAlex CobbChris ArcherDrew SmylyNate Karns and Jake Odorizzi were all aged 25 or younger. All had either debuted in Major League Baseball or were knocking on the door.
Colome would receive three starts in the 2014 season, but the Rays brain trust was already contemplating a switch to the bullpen. His two relief outings that year, however, yielded poor results. Colome surrendered six earned runs on seven hits over five innings.
On May 1, 2015, Colome was promoted again to Tampa, and immediately inserted into the Rays rotation. He received 13 starts over the next two months, putting together a 3-4 record with a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 73 hits over 69 innings with just a 44/24 K:BB ratio.

SWITCH TO THE BULLPEN CLICKS

With Archer, Odorizzi, Karns, Moore, and Smyly, as well as 25-year old Erasmo Ramirez around to handle the starting load, it was again decided to switch Colome to the bullpen. Again he struggled over his first couple of outings.
But then something clicked. From July 17 through the end of the 2015 season, Colome made 28 relief appearances, allowing just 30 hits over 37.1 innings with a 2.17 ERA. He struck out 42 batters and walked just seven in that time, allowing just a .229 Batting Average Against.
Colome had found the role that would prove to be his meal ticket. The following year of 2016 saw Colome become a member of the American League All-Star Team for the first time.
Taking over as the Rays closer in mid-April, he would register 37 Saves with a 1.91 ERA over 57 games that year. He also had an overpowering 71/15 K:BB ratio over 56.2 innings in which he allowed just 43 hits.
In the spring, Colome was part of the Dominican bullpen during the World Baseball Classic. He made five appearances, allowing two runs on two hits over 4.1 innings while striking out five.
This year has been another successful one out of the Rays pen for the now 28-year old. His 43 Saves lead the AL by a wide margin. His ERA is up at 3.02, and his K/9 has dropped from last year’s 11.3 to the 8.0 mark this season. But much of that comes from a poor late-June, early July stretch.
Since July 6, Colome has saved 21 games over 25 appearances. He has surrendered just four earned runs in 25.1 innings pitched, for a 1.42 ERA. His Batting Average Against is a miniscule .187 in that time, and he has 22/6 K:BB mark.

FUTURE BRIGHT FOR RAYS AND THEIR CLOSER

Colome is likely about to realize the fruits of his successful transition to the closer role. After making just over a half-million dollars in each of the last three seasons, he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming off-season.
Rays manager Kevin Cash is happy to have Colome to turn to at the end of games when Tampa has a lead.
“He’s a special player,” Cash said recently per Marc Topkin for the Tampa Bay Times
“What he does to close out ballgames, whether it’s 7-8-9 (hitters) or the teeth of the lineup, the way he buys into whatever we ask him to do makes it really easy to manage guys like that. That team-first concept, he really sets a tone. The way we used him early in the year (over multiple innings), there aren’t many closers that are too keen on that idea. Alex was, what do I need to do. I’m glad he’s having the season he’s having.”

The Rays were in playoff contention for much of this season. Despite playing poorly since early August, they remained in the AL Wildcard race until recently. Tampa Bay hasn’t been to the postseason since 2013. Colome’s development as a reliable closer is one more piece to their future contending puzzle.

Tim Beckham Making Most of Latest Opportunity

Former top MLB draft pick Tim Beckham finally producing in Tampa
The Tampa Bay Rays won the American League pennant in 2008, reaching the World Series for the only time in their history.
The excitement of that 2008 Fall Classic came just one year after the Rays had finished with the worst overall record in Major League Baseball.
As a result of that poor 2007 finish, Tampa Bay held the rights to the top overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft in June of 2008. With that selection, the Rays chose shortstop Tim Beckham out of Griffin High School in Georgia.
Also selected in that first round included first baseman Eric Hosmer at third overall by the Kansas City Royals. The San Francisco Giants chose catcher Buster Posey with the fifth overall pick.
It was a third consecutive year in which the Rays were selecting within the top three overall picks of the draft. The previous year, the club chose pitcher David Price with the top overall pick. In 2006, the Rays took third baseman Evan Longoria at third overall.

2008 RAYS DRAFT: BECKHAM OR POSEY?

There was much debate in the Rays draft “war room” as they whittled the final decision down to Beckham and Posey. In the aftermath of the Beckham choice, an Associated Press report quoted EVP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman:
“It was an active debate, but I think at the end of the day when push came to shove and we were racing time, I think it was pretty clear to everybody that Beckham was the guy at the top of our board. We feel like he’s got an advanced approach to the game, a genuine enthusiasm for what he does, and we feel like he’s got a great chance to be an impact player in the major leagues.”
Friedman and the Rays could not have gotten the pick more wrong.
Price and Longoria would quickly rise to become key cogs for a Rays team that finally became a consistent contender. Beckham would take much longer to develop. Meanwhile, Posey was becoming a superstar.

PERSONAL AND INJURY TROUBLES IN MINORS

In the 2009 season, Beckham would hit .275, drove in 63 runs, and steal 13 bases at Low-A Bowling Green. The following year with High-A Charlotte, he hit just .256, but stole 22 bags.
In 2011, Beckham split the year between the AA and AAA levels. He posted professional career highs with a dozen homers, 44 extra-base hits, 70 RBI, and 94 runs scored. Beckham was just 21 years old at that point, and all signs were continuing to point up.
However, trouble would surface in the 2012 season. In May of that year, Beckham tested positive for the second time for a “drug of abuse’, and was suspended for 50 games.
Back at AAA in the 2013 season, Beckham hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage. He appeared to possibly be back on track, and even got his first cup of coffee in the big leagues during late September.
It seemed as if the former top overall pick was finally on the cusp of a regular role with the Rays. But then, more disaster struck. This time it was in the form of a torn ACL while working out in preparation for the 2014 season. He was quoted at the time for MLB.com by Bill Chastain:
“Just training; it was supposed to be my day off. While doing a drill at the end of the workout, my tennis shoe hit the ground and I tried to cross over into a sprint. I was sprinting out of the drill and when my foot hit the ground, my foot slipped and my knee gave.”
Beckham would subsequently miss most of that 2014 season. He would receive just 95 at-bats across three levels of the minor leagues that year.

MORE DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS IN THE BIGS

In coming out for the 2015 campaign, the shortstop was simply looking to re-establish himself and show that he was healthy. After hitting .294 over his first 51 at-bats, Beckham was back in the bigs.
In Miami on April 11, 2015, Beckham cranked his first big league home run. The blast off Marlins lefty reliever Mike Dunn helped the Rays to a 2-0 victory. It would prove to be an outlier, not the sign of a long-awaited breakout.
Over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Beckham failed to establish himself as a regular in the Rays lineup. In fact, he was demoted at the start of September of last season due to a series of base-running gaffes and a perceived lack of hustle.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

All of Beckham’s struggles have been exacerbated by thoughts of what might have been for Tampa Bay. What might have happened had they only chosen Posey on that June day back in 2008?
The catcher would go on to become one of the great team leaders in the game, and one of its best players as well. Posey was the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year. He was the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player.
Posey has captured three Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove, and has been a 4x NL All-Star. Oh yes, and he helped lead the Giants to three World Series championships.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF NEW OPPORTUNITY

But perhaps now in 2017, something is finally clicking for Beckham. He was provided with an opportunity to play regularly thanks to starting shortstop Matt Duffy‘s slow recovery from off-season heel surgery. Beckham has thus far been making the most of that chance.
Through five weeks of the 2017 season, Beckham is hitting for a .275/.306/.520 slash line. He has driven six homers and has 11 extra-base hits over 109 plate appearances in his first 28 games.
His production is part of the reason that the Rays are off to a surprising start in the standings. The club was at the .500 mark prior to a Friday night loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
After a Rays victory earlier this week, Tampabay.com’s Roger Mooney quoted manager Kevin Cash on his shortstop’s performance this season:
“Beck’s having a good time out there. He’s obviously gotten some consistency. He’s got into that everyday routine, that everyday role. You know, he probably hasn’t had too many of those opportunities up here at the big-league level, and he’s making the most of it right now. He’s helping us win games, and that’s probably the most important thing.”
Talent has never been the question with Beckham. His problems have more to do with discipline, personal responsibility, and injuries. Still early in his prime at just age 27, if he can continue to produce, it could make for an interesting and exciting season for both Beckham and the Rays. Finally.

Rays of Hope During Hot Spring in Tampa Bay

To say that the 2016 season was rough for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans would be an understatement. The club’s 68-94 last place finish in the AL East was their worst in nearly a decade.
From 2008, the year that a talented, young Rays club won the franchise lone American League pennant, through 2013, Tampa Bay won 90 or more games in five of six seasons.
But it has now been three straight losing campaigns in west-central Florida. And most prognosticators had the team again finishing at the bottom of the standings.
But the Rays are off to an encouraging 9-9 start here in the early weeks of the 2017 season. It hasn’t been any one particular thing either.
Under third year manager Kevin Cash, there has been real improvement across all facets of the game. Those improvements added up to a winning record after the Rays swept the Detroit Tigers earlier this week for the first time since 2010. A loss last night to Houston dropped the club back to the .500 mark.

LONGO GETTING HELP ACROSS THE LINEUP

During their glory years, the most important player in the everyday lineup was third baseman Evan Longoria. Now a 31-year old veteran, Longo is still on board, and still a major offensive threat. The three-time AL All-Star has a half-dozen extra-base hits, including three home runs, and has driven in 10 runs.
Right fielder Steven Souza also has three homers. The 28-year old leads the club with 15 RBI and a .343/.429/.582 slash line.
The other two outfield positions feature speed to burn. In left field, Mallex Smith has taken over. The 24-year old was flipped back in January from the Atlanta Braves to the Seattle Mariners, who then shipped him to Tampa for lefty pitcher Drew Smyly.
Smith has gotten off solidly with a .273 average and .360 on-base percentage. He is second on the club with three stolen bases, but has missed the last eight games with a hamstring strain. He has been running lightly, and the club hopes to get him back soon.
Leading the Rays in swipes is Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has four. The 27-year old is hitting .294 with a .385 OBP thus far in 2017.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the everyday lineup has been first baseman Logan Morrison. Once a highly rated prospect in the Marlins organization, Morrison has mostly disappointed over his first seven seasons.
But now in his second year in Tampa, the 29-year old is tied with DH Corey Dickerson for the team lead with four home runs. Morrison is also second on the team with a dozen RBI. For his part, Dickerson is hitting for a .317/.358/.603 slash.

RAYS PITCHING HAS ALSO BEEN STRONG

On the mound, 28-year old Chris Archer has stepped up to become a legitimate ace after helping lead the U.S. to a World Baseball Classic championship in March.
Archer is 2-0 with a 1.71 FIP and 117 ERA+ mark. Over his first four starts, Archer has allowed 25 hits in 25.1 innings with a 27/8 K:BB mark.
Alex Cobb appears to finally be all the way back from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2015 season and most of last year. Cobb has an 18/4 K:BB across his first 24 innings, and three of his four starts have been encouraging.
24-year old Blake Snell had a strong rookie campaign a year ago, and the lefty is off to another solid start. He has allowed just 12 hits over his first 16.1 innings across three starts.
Matt Andriese was supposed to be the big question mark in the rotation as the fifth starter. But thus far, the 27-year old has done his part. Andriese has a 14/5 K:BB in allowing 16 hits over 16 innings in his three starts.
Jake Odorizzi was supposed to be the breakout pitcher in the rotation. But the 27-year old is currently wrapping up a stint on the 10-day DL with a hamstring issue.
Odorizzi is due to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, and the Rays hope to have the talented right-hander back soon. he did get on the mound for three starts in which he allowed just 10 hits over 13 innings.
Alex Colome took over as the closer a year ago. The now 28-year old is off to a strong start as well. He has allowed just two hits over six innings thus far. He also has not walked a batter across his first half-dozen appearances, and has registered three saves.
The bullpen setting up Colome has been mostly effective as well. Erasmo RamirezTommy Hunter, and Jumbo Diaz have led the way, with Ramirez stepping into the rotation to fill-in while Odorizzi recovers.

RETURNING PLAYERS COULD BOOST CLUB FURTHER

Management likes what it sees of the renewed fight in their ball club. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently quoted general manager Erik Neander:
“The makeup and chemistry is showing signs of being a real strength. There is a chip, an edge, a selflessness, a greater purpose behind how these guys compete together. … It’s an easy group to root for.”
Tampa should get better in the coming weeks. Odorizzi could be back on the mound and Smith back in the lineup soon. The Rays are also looking forward to the return of shortstop Matt Duffy, who had off-season surgery on his left heel. Duffy is slowly progressing, and should be back in May.
The Rays have fashioned their .500 start thanks largely to a strong home mark. The team is 8-3 at the sparsely populate Trop, while just 1-6 on the road. They’ll have to figure those road woes out in a hurry if they expect to stay competitive, as the club heads out on an eight-game road trip next week.
While it is way too early to get overly excited about the team possibly contending this season, the start has been fun. Tampa is showing that they can beat you a number of ways. Now it’s up to Cash and his players to keep things moving forward as the warm feelings of spring turn into a long, hot summer.