I wrote previously on the Rays and their use of the opener. I’ll link to that post at the bottom of this one. Now that we are just past the All-Star break I felt it was a good time to check in on how it’s working. Let’s take a look at where the Rays pitching staff ranks since they started using the opener (May 19th).
Yeah, that’s right, the Rays rank first in the MLB in ERA, Opponent’s Batting Average and Opponent’s Slugging Percentage since they have started using the opener. The Rays’ also rank 4th in the MLB in WHIP since May 19th. Now, obviously the Rays have starters they use on non-opener days too.
Blake Snell has been great, Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t been very good. Chris Archer has been hurt a fair amount and hasn’t gone too deep into the games he’s started, but he still strikes out a lot of guys. However, since the Rays have been starting Wilmer Font, he has been really impressive. A 1.67 ERA and 0.96 WHIP since he’s been a Ray makes him arguably their best starter so far (he has only pitched 27 innings though). The main point in showing this chart though is to say the Rays have a good pitching staff overall and these starters have an effect on the low ERA of the Rays staff.
As for the ‘Openers’, Ryne Stanek and Sergio Romo have been most commonly used in this role. Stanek has a 2.03 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Sergio Romo 3.12 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Stanek has opened the most often (12 times) and the Rays are 5-7 in those games, but 3 of those were walk-off losses so those losses aren’t really because of Stanek since he only pitches 1-2 innings anyway. The Rays are 2-3 (with 1 walk-off loss) in games opened by Romo. In opener games, the Rays have scored 87 runs and allowed 87 runs. A run differential of 0. This means the Rays have been very competitive in games where they use the opener. The only lopsided game was an 11-2 loss to the Nationals on June 6th. That was the only game Jonny Venters opened for the Rays and I doubt he opens any more. Take that game out and the Rays are a +9 run differential in opener games.
Overall, the Rays are 27-24 since they’ve started using the opener and 11-14 in opener games. Remember those games are games that would’ve been started by the usual 4-5 starter so their record would be expected to be worse anyway, but the Rays have found a way to be competitive in those games.
The Rays have definitely been the most innovative team this year and they are finding ways to get production out of pitchers other teams didn’t consider difference makers. Wilmer Font has been a great example of this. I bet if I went around (even among baseball fans) and asked people to name one player on the Tampa Bay Rays, a lot of people probably couldn’t. Some people might know Chris Archer, but even he is just one starter who has been hurt a lot.
Obviously, the one thing I haven’t talked about with the Rays is their offense. That’s because there’s really no reason to talk about it. They are in the middle of the pack in just about every offensive ranking. The only Rays’ hitter with a WAR over 2 is Daniel Robertson (Yankees have 5 over 2, Red Sox have 4). I doubt little to no one reading this even knows who Daniel Robertson is. The Rays aren’t going to catch the Yankees or Red Sox and they are behind the Mariners and A’s for a wild card spot, but their pitching staff has been arguably the best in the majors and the opener has a part in that starting rotation. Leading the MLB in ERA is no joke. The Rays are quickly becoming one of my favorite teams to pay attention to and if they’d get more production from their hitters they’d be a playoff team.
Link to Original Post: The Tampa Bay Rays and the Use of Openers