Ask Gary: How do you define pitching dominance?

by Gary Shelton on June 24, 2017 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

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Which of these would be the "more perfect" game by a pitcher:

27 pitches = 27 outs
81 pitches = 27 strikeouts?
 
Scott Myers
 
It's a good question. I think about it every time someone comes close a perfect game. How do you define dominance? A higher strikeout total or a lower pitch count? You can argue either way.

If you're talking about the better pitching performance, I'm going to

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go with the 27 strikeouts. That's pure dominance and it doesn't involve anyone else on the field. One out per pitch means that a lot of fielders are involved, and perhaps there are one or two great plays. It reflects better on the defense, but a pitcher who gets every pitch hit somewhere isn't overpowering hitters, is he?

Still, if I was ranking the great pitching performances (perfect games, no-hitters and coming close), I'd do a matching scale with the fewest pitches and the most strikeouts.
For the record, the lowest pitch count in a perfect game is 74 by Addie Joss of Cleveland back in 1908. That's pretty good when you remember that a pitcher often hits 100 in the sixth or seventh inning of a perfect game. David Cone threw only 88 in a perfect game in 1999. There have been nine perfect games where the pitcher threw fewer than 100 pitches.
The most strikeouts in a perfect game was 14, by Sandy Koufax and Matt Cain. According to the Game Score stat, Cain and Koufax both had 101s. Game Score is a statistic that rates pitchers’ starts based on innings pitched, runs, hits, strikeouts and walks. The average Game Score is between 49 and 50.
You could argue that Don Larson had the best perfect game, since his came in the World Series (with higher stakes).
But consider this. When the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was in high school, he pitched a perfect game and struck out all 15 batters he faced. That's pretty good.
Again, it's in how you view perfection. Fewest pitches or most strikeouts.
The Rays management has been operating somewhat out of character this year and has been proactive to add players from outside the organization for depth and as needed due to injuries. The big question is what will happen when the trade deadline approaches and especially if the Rays continue to be in the wild card race as they are now? Do they revert to form and trade away higher priced players heading into free agency next year for prospects, like Alex Cobb, or do they try and help the team with more (inexpensive) additions, or just stand pat?

Larry Beller

Obviously, Larry, the better the Rays are in the standings, the more likely they are to hold onto their players. The team doesn't spend a lot of money, of course, but it does like to hang banners. I think with a new stadium vote coming up shortly, the team would like have a local buzz down the stretch.

But it isn't as simple as trading away the higher-priced players every year. A lot of it depends on contract security. Take, for instance, Alex Cobb. I really like Cobb, and I think he may be the most competitive pitcher the team has. But his contract is up. So do the Rays ride it out with him and let him walk for nothing, or do they listen to offers from another team? I would suggest they'd be foolish not to listen, and I don't want the guy traded. Sometimes, that's the only choice.

The Rays caught a lot of grief for trading Logan Forsythe, remember? But Forsythe was hitting the big money, too, and again, he wasn't exactly Ryne Sandberg.

I've never liked the trade deadline for the Rays. They make too many deals that we're going to have to wait 2-3 years to grade. I don't like the concept of trading today for tomorrow. But I just don't see the Rays as a team that can afford to let the phone go unanswered.

Time to dust off your crystal ball. Let's assume the Rays are hanging reasonably close to a playoff spot in a month such as where they are now. Does Alex Cobb remain a Ray after the trading deadline?
 
Barry McDowell​
I don't see it, Barry. As I just mentioned, I really like Alex Cobb. But his contract is up. So if you run the Rays, you have three options. You can let him walk for free at the end of the year, you can re-sign him to big money or you can trade him now for whatever return you can get. I don't think that paying big money is an option with this team. That means that  you're at least going to offer him around and see if you can get something you like in return.
It's a shame that, every trading deadline, we all have to become accountants to judge this team's trades. There are very few days you aren't aware of how someone fits into the payroll.
It's a shame, because most of us just want to forget about finances when we go to the park. With this team, you never can.
How big of a deal do you think it is that Malik Zaire went to the Gators?
Jim Willson
I'm waiting to see, Jim.  Zaire, pretty much, had one great game for Notre Dame. He's a talent, but I wonder how he'll affect Feleipe Franks, the sophomore quarterback. I know, I know. You can argue that Florida's problem certainly hasn't been too much quarterback talent. But sometimes, chemistry can be a precious thing.
At this point, I see Zaire fighting Luke Del Rio for the change-of-pace quarterback. He's coming in late, and it's a complicated offense.
I think the real question is just how much Jim McElwain believes in Franks. If he thinks the kid is going to be a star, he's probably better off with just a pinch of Zaire. But if he has doubts whether Franks can win big for him, Zaire would be another option.
Right now, I'd keep my expectations low. Remember Everett Golson? He  didn't wow them when he transferred to FSU.
 I never thought I would live to see the day when the Rays led the league in homers.  Who gets the most credit for the teams new hitting prowess?
Jim Willson
No doubt. The players do. I say it all the time, but the best hitting coaches on the planet  are reminders and drill coaches. They rarely take bad hitters and turn them into good ones. If hitting coaches were that valuable, they'd be stars, and the big clubs would spend millions on them.
I think Corey Dickerson is the reason that Corey Dickerson has succeeded. He's made the adjustments. He's hit the pitches out of the strike zones. I think playing time has made the difference with Tim Beckham.
But if you're going to give someone credit for, say, Logan Morrison, don't you have to give him blame for Brad Miller? Evan Longoria isn't having as good a year as last year. Is that on him or his coaches?
We tend to overhype the role of a hitting coach, like he's baseball's version of an offensive coordinator. But this isn't Little League. He isn't moving his players' hands around. He's showing them video of their successes in the past, and he's working with them in the cage. I've used this example before: He's a quarterback coach. A quarterback coach can have tips and reminders, but he isn't telling Joe Montana how to throw an out pattern.
Either way, it's good to see the Rays' hit, isn't it?
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

I do agree that if they could improve this year’s team by trading Alex Cobb then they should by all means consider that kind of deal. But that’s probably not going to happen given that Cobb has not returned to top form yet. He is more valuable to the Rays than any other team and I don’t think would command a great return as a rental. That’s why I say he needs to stay unless the Rays blow up in the next few weeks and fall way back in the standings. Trading a key player for a prospect would demoralize the players and fans. We all deserve better.

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Gary Shelton June 26, 2017 at 5:58 pm

The only hope for Cobb is if another team is convinced a) they can resign him and b) he’s just at the start of his turnaround. I do think the recent struggles of Odorizzi are an argument to keep him.

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Larry Beller June 24, 2017 at 7:41 am

Gary, When the Rays had that 6 year run of being competitive every year they didn’t dump their top players at the trade deadline. They had guys like Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, James Sheilds, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Beniot all walk into free agency without being traded in their contract year because you can’t weaken a team that is fighting for a playoff spot just to help your balance sheet. If you do then you become the laughing stock of the league. But this is the Rays so I’m not saying you are wrong to argue that Alex Cobb may be traded. I’m just saying it’s horribly wrong to do it when the team, at least at this point in the season, has a legitimate shot at the post season. If it happens then they can pack up the balls and bats and move the franchise to Montreal for all I care because they will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that winning takes a back seat to eking out small profits for this organization. They can listen to all the trade proposals they want but Alex Cobb has to stay through the end of the year if the team continues to be in the playoff race. I mean it’s not like they will be getting back a sure fire stud who is going to take the team to the promise land one day. We’ve seen how these trades work. But with this franchise anything can happen.

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Gary Shelton June 25, 2017 at 10:18 pm

I’ll be honest. The Rays have stayed in the race closer than I thought. Maybe there is something to what you say.

I would still listen, though. If there is a prime relief pitcher or a can’t miss prospect, I could be convinced to do something. If a team is convinced that Cobb is a year away from his old self, there might be a solid reason to do something. But you’re right. Holding onto the last minute may give this team its best shot at the post-season.

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