There is no doubt that being a Tampa Bay Rays fan is not easy. This idea may have reached its peak over the weekend, as you may have read headlines like this:
‘Rays DFA All Star Corey Dickerson’
‘Rays trade No. 2 starter Jake Odorizzi’
From the outside looking in, it looks far worse than it is. From the outside looking in, it looks like the Rays are tanking. From the outside looking in, it looks like a fire sale. Here are some other articles you may or may not have seen:
And so on and so on…
It is definitely easy to see why the league and even Rays fans could see this, but if we dig a little deeper, we can see that these moves were actually for the best interest of the team.
Let’s start with ‘the all star’ Corey Dickerson. If I could write a book about Dickerson’s 2017 season, I would call it ‘A Tale Of Two Hitters.’
Dickerson looked like he was headed for one of the best seasons in Rays history going into the All Star break. He slashed .312/.355/.548 with 17 HRs, 107 hits, 60 runs scored and a 139 OPS+. Whether you’re into conventional stats or sabermetrics (you better be if you’re a Rays fan), anyone could objectively see that this was a special run. It ultimately earned Corey enough votes to be the starting designated hitter in Miami last July.
And then the All Star break was over, and Dickerson regressed. His slash line fell to an abysmal .241/.282/.408, and is OPS+ fell to a minuscule 83 (100 is the league average). To sum it up, he was as bad in the second half as he was good in the first half. This wasn’t a slump. His flaws were exploited. The league adjusted, he couldn’t adjust back.
With that, we can only wonder, was he really ‘given away,’ or did the league see a deeply flawed player and wasn’t willing to give up anything of value, giving the Rays no choice? The evidence supports the latter.
Don’t believe me? Dickerson’s 2016 slashline: .245/.293/.469
On paper, it seems odd that the Rays would cut loose a young player who is seemingly on the rise, but for a team with obvious financial constraints, getting $5.95 million off the books was the right call. In return (albeit indirectly) we get a player with a similar profile as Dickerson in CJ Cron (lots of pop but not a lot of walks) for a third of the price and with another year of control. Not only that, but he fits a more immediate need, as a right handed hitting first baseman.
Think of it this way, and it’s a no brainer.
Now that THAT’s out of the way, let’s talk about the other move that happened that day, the Jake Odorizzi trade, our ‘No. 2 starter’
Watching Odo pitch for the last few years was definitely a lot of fun. We watched him grow before our own eyes. But as he grew up, unfortunately, he didn’t get any better. So, from a baseball standpoint, it was time for him to be dealt as well.
Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?
Over the last 3 years, Odo has regressed in 3 very important categories: ERA (for the old skool), FIP and HR/9 (for the new school). While there are many factors that go into ERA, such as luck, playing environment, parks, etc. The rises in FIP and HR/9 are especially alarming.
FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, refers to how well the pitcher impacts the outcomes he has control over, which are home runs, walks, hit batters, home runs, and strikeouts. The formula, while convoluted, is now the way pitchers are valued. What was Odorizzi’s FIP in 2017? 5.43.
That was worse than Anibal Sanchez AND Bartolo Colon, both of whom had ERAs over 6, and they are definitely not No. 2 starters on any team. Couple Odorizzi’s FIP with HR/9 of almost 2, in today’s game where home runs are more frequent than the late 90s steroid era, neither is he. It was time to go.
In return, we get a young shortstop who, by the looks of it, the Twins may regret they gave up. Here’s an article from a Twins blog comparing him to Didi Gregorious.
For the non Rays fan, the casual Rays fan, and even the hardcore Rays fan, it’s easy to buy into the negativity, but with a little digging and an understanding of the right numbers, it is easy to see that these were the right moves, not just to win in the future, but to win NOW as well. We all know the future is bright, but so is the present.