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Rays Joe Maddon Making the Wrong Moves

More yelling. Yay!

Should I make a pitching change? What do you think?

The Tampa Bay Rays are 18-18 and in fourth place in the AL East. That is not exactly time to panic as the season is less than 1/4 of the way over. But, there are some aggravating things so far to complain about for Rays fans. For instance, in their 18 losses, the Rays have led in 14 of them. And not just led in a lot of those, but led big. How big? Just in the current home stand that the Rays have won four of six, they led 7-0 in one of the losses and 4-1 in another. For at team that has the reputation of being a great pitching staff, that is alarming.

On their nine game road trip prior to the home stand, they were 4-5. In those five losses thew blew a 6-1 lead and a 2-0 lead in Kansas City and a 3-0 lead in Chicago. In a game at home against the New York Yankees, the Rays led 2-1 after seven innings and lost, costing them a sweep.

Now teams do come from behind from time to time. It does happen. But teams do not normally lose games they led 7-0 or 6-1. And last night, the Rays led 6-2 after the sixth inning, and came withing one strike of losing that game. But Ben Zobrist fouled off some tough pitches and worked a walk and then Evan Longoria hit a two-run walk-off home run of  San Diego Padres closer Huston Street to give the Rays an 8-7 win.

But the truth is, many of these blown leads should not have happened. Example #1- The Yankees game. Struggling AL Cy Young Award winner David Price finally pitches a good game. After seven innings the Rays lead 2-1. Last season, the Rays had a tried and true setup man/closer combination in Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney. Peralta would pitch the eighth and Rodney the ninth. But for whatever reason, Maddon lets Price start the eighth and he gives up the lead. They Yanks go on to score two more in the ninth and win 4-3.

Example 2- The Rays are cruising right along against former Rays star James Shields and lead 2-0 in the sixth. Starter Alex Cobb is mowing the Royals down. Then all of a sudden he loses it. The Royals are crushing balls off of him. The Rays have nobody up in the bullpen and by the time they can somebody heated up, the two-run lead is a two-run hole. A lot of managers get relievers up in the late innings and have them loosen up just in case something happens.

Example 3- The 7-0 game. Rodney is in the game in the eighth to get the Rays out of trouble. He then pitched the ninth. Maddon puts in Yunel Escobar who had an injured hand. Escobar makes an error on a play that would have ended the game, booting a grounder. Then Rodney gives up a two out two run homer to lose the game. The Rays then blow a 4-1 lead the next day, partly because Rodney was not available to pitch the ninth.

Example 4- Last night’s game. Jeremy Hellickson is cruising right along with a 6-2 lead in the seventh. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, the gives up a gran slam to tie the game. Then Maddon takes him out. One batter too late Joe?

So then, he brings in righty Jamey Wright to pitch to three straight lefties. To be fair, Zobrist booted a grounder that would have ended the inning. But eventually Wright issued a bases loaded walk to give the Padres a 7-6 lead.

Maddon seems to want to go out of his way not to do what “the book” says. But the reason “the book” says to do things is because they work. The reason every other manager in baseball would take his start out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning is because they don’t want him serving up a grand slam, losing a shot at a win and wrecking his ERA, and of course, blowing his team’s four run lead. The reason baseball teams have “eighth inning guys” and “closers” are for those 2-1 games. They use these methods because most of the time, they work.

Maddon has been the most successful manager by far in Rays history, so many feel to criticize him is unfair. But if you are betting on the Rays, you need to be aware that at some point, there is a great chance Maddon is going to do something to blow it for you.



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