For The Rays Sake He Better Not Be….
The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation has been beset by injuries. Matt Moore will miss the entire season with Tommy John ligament transplant surgery, Jeremy Hellickson is not due back until June after having his elbow operated on over the winter, Alex Cobb is on the mend after an oblique injury sidelined him, and Alex Colome is at home missing a golden opportunity after a not so wise decision to use a performance enhancing drug.
With all the injuries to what was once considered the deepest rotation in the American League all three pitchers competing for the fifth starters position are now in the rotation and two of them will pitch during this weekends Yankees and Rays series. Friday evening veteran left-hander Erik Bedard will have his shot to lift a Rays pitching staff a shot in the arm after languishing over the past four games. He will be followed to the mound by Chris Archer on Saturday, and Cesar Ramos on Sunday.
From the day the Rays signed Bedard there were moans and groans that “here we go with Roberto Hernandez part two” in reference to the Rays opting to go with the veteran Roberto Hernandez in the rotation rather than turn the job over to one of the younger arms (Chris Archer) out of spring training.
Unlike Hernandez Bedard fell short of making the Rays rotation in spring training he opted out of his contract but elected to return to the Rays after Alex Colome was lost to a 50-game drug suspension. Although Hernandez and Bedard have similar numbers one was better than the other – which should make Rays fans feel a little better about over the next several weeks as Hellickson, Cobb, and Colome get ready to return.
Hernandez (34 years old) appeared in 32 games for the Rays (24 starts) and delivered 151 innings of work. He posted a 6-13 record with a 4.89 ERA and a 4.63 FIP. He had a strikeout rate of 6.74 K/9 and a walk rate of 2.26 BB/9. Fangraphs.com credited with 0.2 wins above replacement.
Bedard (35 years old) spent 2013 with the Houston Astros and also appeared in 32 games (26 starts) and delivered an identical 151 innings. He posted a record of 4-12 with an ERA of 4.59 ERA and a FIP of 4.38. He had a higher strikeout rate (8.23 K/9) and walk ratee (4.47 BB/9) than Hernandez but had a 1.2 fWAR.
While Hernandez had the opportunity to pitch with one of the best defenses in baseball behind him Bedard had to work with one of the worst behind him. The Rays defense was ranked the fourth best in defensive efficiency (the rate that balls put in play are converted into outs) by BaseballProspectus.com while the Astors ranked 25th.
Bedard’s home park was Minute Maid Park in Houston and from 2010-2012 it was ranked a 102 park factor (Parkfactors.com). Minute Maid park “yielded 97 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average MLB park and 108 home runs for every 100 homers for a mean park factor of 102.”
While Minute Maid Park is far from a hitters park like Coors Field in Colorado (ranked a 144) which is the most hitter friendly it ranks 12th in MLB.
Meanwhile Hernandez’s home park was the friendly confines of Tropicana Field ranked as the 25th most difficult for scoring runs and considered an extreme pitchers park. According to ParkFactors.com “Tropicana Field produced 83 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average MLB park, and 87 HRs for every 100 homers, for a mean Park Factor of 85.”
At home in 2013 Bedard delivered 74 of his 151 innings and held the opposition to a triple slash line of .207/.309/.337, posting an ERA of 3.04 ERA witha 3.75 FIP. He was beat up on the road where the opposition hit .298/.381/.500, posting an ERA of 6.08 but a much lower FIP of 4.98.
Hernandez delivered 90.1 of his 151 innings at Tropicana Field and held the opposition to a triple slash line of .267/.365/.445, an ERA of 4.38 and a FIP of 4.73. Like Bedard he struggled on the road where the opposition hit .292/.336/.483, posting an ERA of 5.64 with a FIP of 4.48.
Bedard will be looking to be a stronger pitcher than he was in 2014. After a series of injuries held him to only 30 starts (164 inning) at the major league level between 2008 and 2010 he returned to pitch 129 innings in 2011 and 151 last season. With increased arm strength he will hope for longer peaks and fewer valleys during the 2014 season.
The Rays expected a lot from Roberto Hernandez in 2013 and his arm strength may have been waning throughout the season. Always a durable arm for the Cleveland Indians Hernandez missed most of the 2012 season due to visa problems stemming from an arrest for falsifying documents while pitching under the name Fausto Carmona. He only worked 14.1 innings in 2012 missing the final month of the season with a right ankle sprain.
The Rays hope that Erik Bedard will be able to capitalize on pitching at Tropicana Field, benefit from having an experienced veteran defense behind him 100% of the time including when the team is on the road, and to continue to build strength as he gets further removed from previous arm injuries.