Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Tampa Bay Rays & the Third Time through the Batting Order


Last season here on the blog we covered the Tampa Bay Rays and their new, and a bit unorthodox, method of handling their starting pitchers and their bullpen. Kevin Cash, the Rays manager, attempted to limit all of his starting pitchers not named Chris Archer to just two trips through the opposing team’s starting lineup in an attempt to optimize their pitching performances and Cash and the Rays are back for Round 2 in 2016.

Much like anything in this world when something goes against the grain it’s criticized when it doesn’t work out and praised while it works while other teams scramble to imitate it. It seemed to work though as in 2015 MLB hitters hit .247 facing a starting pitcher for the first time while their average across the board jumped to .261 the second time around. The third time through the order? MLB hitters are hitting .270 and it only goes up from there so it makes sense, statistically anyway, why the Rays would be doing this. Last year Tampa Bay pitchers faced a team a third time through the order just 893 times, most of them coming from Archer, which is the lowest of any of the 30 MLB teams.


This works well in theory but when you dive deeper into the statistics there may be some troubling signs. On average a pitcher has only thrown around 60-70 pitches two times through the lineup and can go no longer than six innings at a time leaving a lot of baseball and outs left to get for the Tampa Bay bullpen. This is still a work in progress and it’s unclear whether it’s considered to be a good idea or a bad idea but the Rays are going for it and good for them. 

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