Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rays Need to Learn How to Win When Kaz and Shields Not on the Mound

The Rays sent James Shields to the mound last night in a familiar spot, asking him to get a win to stop a losing streak. The Rays went into the game with a three game losing streak, the last win coming against the Orioles at home with Scott Kazmir on the mound. Shields responded to the call and got the Rays the win with a seven inning gem. Shields struck out nine, including the side in the 5th inning after allow lead of single to start the inning. Shields says he relishes the role of slump buster and knows what he needs to do.

The spot that Shields was in was all to familiar to him and Rays fans for the year, especially in the second half. Since the All-Star break the Rays have won 9 games, 6 of those were games in which Shields or Kazmir was the starter. While Shields has struggled at times in the second half he has come through when the Rays have needed him most. Kazmir on the other hand has been unhittable since the break, allowing 5 earned runs in 5 games. The Rays have won 4 of Kazmir's 5 starts since the second half and 2 of Shields 6. In the 5 losses the two have combined to give up 24 earned runs, but that includes a 10 run effort by Shields against the Yanks. If you pull the Yanks game out, they have given up 14 runs in 4 losses, but have gotten only gotten 10 runs of support.

The three Rays wins that were not started by Kaz or Shields were a gem by Jackson, an 11 inning effort by the team, and a 6 inning scoreless effort by the bullpen. So only 1 of the 9 wins that the Rays have had since the break have been because of a good outing by a starter not named Kazmir or Shields. Now there have been some good outings by Jackson mixed in that were lost by the bullpen, but the other starters have been awful. In the 15 games not started by the duo the Rays have been outscored 65-101.

When Shields is on the mound they have been outscored 29-47, but 23 of those runs were not earned by Shields. The numbers when Kazmir pitches are unbelievable, as the Rays have outscored the opponents 27-13, with 8 of those runs being attributed to the bullpen. Kazmir's only loss came in Baltimore when he got no runs from the Rays, and only gave up 3 runs.
The effort of the duo must be contagious to the hitters because the Rays score more runs per game when they are on the mound. In the 15 games that were not started by Kaz and Shields the Rays averaged 4.3 runs per game, but score 4.8 when Shields is on the mound and 5.3 when Kaz is on the mound. The Rays just seem to be more confident as a whole when these guys are on the mound and feel like they are going to win.

While the Rays score more when the duo is on the mound, the 4.3 runs per game they scored in the other 15 games is nothing to laugh at. Many pitchers across the league would love 4.3 runs a game in support of their outings. The Rays are getting the runs, but not getting the pitching they need from anyone, not named Kazmir or Shields. The Rays need to learn how to win when someone else is on the mound to start a winning streak. The Rays finish off a 4 game set in Detroit today and Kazmir is on the mound, which means the Rays have a good chance at a win. Rays fans need to enjoy the outing because the odds are it will be three more games before they get a shot at a win.

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