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Tampa Bay Surging Towards .500; Playoff Hopes Alive

rays 2014

Tampa Bay has shown no signs of slowing down as the Rays have won ten of their last 11 games, including going 9-1 out of the All-Star break. “Our guys have a good vibe right now,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. Tampa Bay now hands the ball to right-hander Alex Cobb, who is 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 2014. Cobb is coming off one of his best outings of the season wherein he pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals (10/1 K/BB ratio). “Tonight’s the most comfortable I’ve felt on the mound, hands-down, since I’ve come back (from an oblique injury on May 22),” Cobb said. “Even before that, tonight was the most in-synch I’ve felt.” Cobb’s peripheral statistics are fully supported by strong underlying metrics:

Alex Cobb’s Metrics:

  • 3.44 xFIP & 3.30 SIERA in 2014
  • 3.17 xFIP & 3.46 FIP in July
  • 3.19 xFIP & 3.21 FIP in the second half

The 26-year-old is 4-0 with a 3.07 ERA in his last five starts, including limiting opponents to just two runs in each of his last two outings. Cobb now faces a scuffling Milwaukee lineup that is batting just .219 with a .255 on base percentage over the last ten days (3.7 runs per game), In fact, the top three batters in the Milwaukee lineup Monday – Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun – are a combined 0 for 24 over the last two games. I also like the fact that Cobb is supported by a surging Tampa Bay bullpen that owns a 3.65 ERA and 1.14 WHIP at home, a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP at night and a 0.49 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over the last seven games.

The Brewers send former Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza to the mound, and the 30-year-old has seen a decline in his surface statistics in each of the last three seasons. Garza owns a 3.87 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 2014, but he has struggled on the road where he owns a 5.36 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Garza has also posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP at night and a 4.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over his last three starts. Garza’s underlying metrics also do not provide much optimism going forward:

Matt Garza’s Metrics:

  • 4.03 xFIP & 4.16 SIERA in 2014
  • 4.64 xFIP & 3.65 FIP on the road
  • 4.18 xFIP & 3.14 FIP in July
  • 4.53 xFIP & 4.58 FIP in the first half

In his lone start against his former team, Garza yielded six runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3-innings pitched last September. From a technical standpoint, Tampa Bay is a profitable 13-2 (+11.4 units) versus National League teams with an on base percentage of .315 or worse, 16-5 in July (+10.4 units) and 41-19 (+18.6 units) after winning seven of its last eight games, whereas the Brewers are a money-burning 8-15 (-10.2 units) in July. Take the Rays to keep their playoff hopes alive and invest with confidence.

Interesting Tidbit: Tampa Bay was 18 games below .500 on June 10. The Rays are now within two games of that mark.