Let’s now go player-by-player on the Tampa Bay Rays:
C : Dioner Navarro
The top regular hitter at .295, he catches a solid game. Can’t hit that well as a right-handed hitter (.257 with a .726 OPS against lefties, .143 with a .286 OPS against righties).
1B : Carlos Pena
31 HR and 102 RBI make him top producer in lineup. Another player who can’t hit lefties (.190 with .654 OPS), he also has trouble against strikeout pitchers. Cole Hamels should fare well. His 1.209 OPS in late-and-close situations makes him very clutch. Righties should stay away.
2B : Akinori Iwamura
Nothing special offensively, he’s brings nice defense at second. Will swing at the first pitch, and has a .970 OPS when he does so.
3B : Evan Longoria
Lefties fare much better against him (.242), and surprisingly he’s not a good hitter at the Trop (.253), yet he hits homers there (18). Also a clutch hitter. He will strike out a lot (122 in 122 games), and falls victim to low, breaking pitches. You can also throw inside to him. Leave it up, however, and you’re risking it.
SS : Jason Bartlett
Hit .286 despite not being thought of as much of a hitter. He rakes lefties (.379, .919 OPS). the key to him is to make him get under the ball — his one regular season home run was a line drive, and most of his hits go through holes in the infield.
LF : Carl Crawford
Out for a spell this season, his numbers are down from his career norms, but he can still hit and run (25 SB). Not a great clutch hitter, so if Longoria can be put on base in a tight spot, do it. Not keen to have him lead off an inning — he’ll get on any way he can.
CF : BJ Upton
This future star hit a standard .274 this season. His power comes against righties, but he can hit pretty evenly. Like most young players, he kills with a three-ball count but is very beatable when you get ahead. Somewhat of a clutch hitter, he’ll also beat you up in the zone. Phils runners could challenge him at the plate, but he’s thrown out 16 this season.
RF : Gabe Gross
He came over from Milwaukee, hitting 13 home runs but striking out 82 times in 2008. He won’t be in the lineup against lefties (.191, .585 OPS). Consider him a Geoff Jenkins clone.
DH : Cliff Floyd
The veteran leader will play against righties as DH. He won’t see a lefty (.100, .450 OPS). He’s also very comfortable with the Trop (.341 at home, .184 on the road). More of a home run threat anymore, with one out of every six hits leaving the yard.
IF : Willy Aybar
He’ll play when there’s a left-hander on the mound. The 25-year-old switch hitter hits better against lefties at .266. Of his 82 hits, 10 were home runs.
OF : Rocco Baldelli
Finally healthy, Baldelli will take right field against lefties. Hits .292 against them, but with little power and not a lot of experience. Potentially a danger for a guy like Jamie Moyer.
OF : Ben Zobrist
Fifth outfielder gives them power (12 homers in 198 at bats) as a switch-hitting bench guy. He’s your first bench option when a lefty is on the mound.
OF : Fernando Perez
Rookie won’t see much time, but will get in when there’s pinch running to be done (5 SB in 2008). Keep an eye on his when he’s on base.
C : Michel Hernandez
Backup catcher won’t see much time, and isn’t a hitting threat.
SP : Scott Kazmir
Healthy to close out 2008, Kazmir returned to form with a 3.49 ERA. He’ll strike out hitters (166 in 152.1 innings). As a lefty, he’ll give lefties fits (.197 with a .514 OPS, just one home run and seven walks), so don’t expect big things from Utley and Howard in game one. He does get easier to beat as the game wears on, so patience is the key. Make him throw pitches, even if you get out.
SP : James Shields
Boasting a 4:1 K:BB ratio, this guy has been pretty good this season. He carries a 2.59 ERA at home, which is where he’d be pitching (games 2 and 6). He has good command of his fastball and changeup, and will throw them often. That’s actually good news for the Phils — they can’t hit breaking stuff.
SP : Matt Garza
This righty won game seven against the Red Sox. He has trouble on the road, with a 4.53 ERA away. He throws more breaking stuff, including a sharp slider and a curve that registers in the 70s. Very deceptive.
SP : Andy Sonnanstine
He only walked 37 hitters in 2008, so swing away. He’s also deceptive, going with three arm angles and throwing an array of pitches. Goes with fastball, sinker, slider and changeup. If he sticks to breaking stuff throughout, the Phils could be in hot water.
RP : Edwin Jackson
He won’t get into many games unless the Rays really need him. Think of him maybe in the Chan Ho Park role for Tampa.
RP : David Price
The Rays’ first pick of the 2007 draft will be used in the back of the bullpen, but not too overwhelmingly. He’ll give you a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. Think Brad Lidge. He can be thrown off, however, so patience is preached.
RP : Trever Miller
Miller had a 4.15 ERA in 2008, but he can beat lefties (.209, .612 OPS). He might get in if needed in the sixth or seventh innings against a lefty bat.
RP : Chad Bradford
You won’t see lefties hit against Bradford (.313), but he’s an effective right-handed guy who fools you with his submarine delivery. Experienced righty hitters such as So Taguchi and Pedro Feliz might find him a little easier.
RP : Grant Balfour
A high-strikeout guy, Balfour will give you a mid-90s fastball that can move a bit. He backs that up with a nice slider and sinker combination. A right-side contrast to Price.
RP : JP Howell
The lefty has an incredible K:BB ratio. Doesn’t have a great fastball, but will challenge hitters with a bunch of different pitches. Another deceptive arm.
RP : Dan Wheeler
Probably the primary closer, Wheeler doesn’t strike out as many as his peers, but he carries a top slider. They key against him is to get runners on base — he’ll walk guys and try and throw strikes out of the zone.