Dodgers vs. Rays preview: Q&A with D Rays Bay's Ian Malinowski

Al Messerschmidt

The last time Los Angeles and Tampa Bay faced off was on June 24, 2007. The Rays won 9-4 and the only current Dodger in the lineup was Matt Kemp. Six years later, these two teams face off for the first time ever at Dodger Stadium. Ian Malinowski from D Rays Bay took the time to answer a couple questions about Tampa Bay's 2013 season.

The Dodgers are 3-3 against the Rays in six total games. Los Angeles took the first series two games to three back in 2002, while the Rays took the second series two games to three in 2007. But that's what happened in the past between these two teams. Ian Malinowski from DRaysBay recently took the time to answer a couple questions about Tampa Bay's season for True Blue LA.

DAVID: Who are the Rays Cy Young and MVP as of right now?

IAN: The team Cy Young is without a doubt David Price. His ERA was slightly high at the beginning of the season, and he spent some time on the disabled list, but since he's been back he's been great. More interestingly, he's been great in a different way than last year when he won the American League Cy Young award. Basically, he's stopped walking batters entirely. He's been 2008 Cliff Lee-esque, and the most efficient pitcher in the majors (the list [link:http://www.draysbay.com/2013/8/5/4590514/toward-a-better-understanding-of-pitch-efficiency#comments] with Clayton Kershaw at #7).

IAN: As for the team MVP, he's mired in a major slump right now and he's now striking out at a rate that makes me nervous, but it still has to be Evan Longoria. By wRC+, he's been the 28th best batter in the majors this year (13th in the AL), and when you factor in his position and his gold glove caliber defense, he ranks as the seventh most productive player by fWAR (fourth in the AL). He's a legitimate league MVP candidate, but this recent slump has been rough.

DAVID: Do you think Wil Meyers was called up to late, or do you think he was called up at the right time?

IAN: There was plenty of teethe gnashing over this before Myers got the call, but I think he was probably promoted at the right time. The simple truth is that the Rays are in a comparatively tough spot as far as money goes, and they probably always will be. Andrew Friedman has a strict policy of playing for the present and planning for the future simultaneously. To be a happy Rays fan, one needs to come to terms with this.

IAN: Wil Myers has been fantastic since he arrived, but Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts, and Sam Fuld are all great to serviceable (in the order listed) players themselves. The difference between a combination of those guys and Myers as an everyday player over half a season isn't all THAT large, and if it means avoiding the super-2 date and being able to afford Myers for another year during his prime, it's definitely worth it.

DAVID: Also, did you like the Meyers for James Shields (and others) trade at the time, or did you think it was a bad move for the Rays?

IAN: I loved it. Everybody knew Big Game James would probably be traded. The Rays have a steady stream of young, talented pitchers coming up, and very few impact bats in their minor league system. The only real question was what they would get back. Wil Myers plus was more than I had hoped for. That is not to say that Shields wasn't worth it (he's criminally underrated), just that the return was good.

DAVID: What has it been like over the last couple years watching great young starters come up to the big leagues for Tampa Bay? (David Price, James Shields, Chris Archer, etc.)

IAN: It's been a blast. The thing about watching pitcher after pitcher get called up and succeed is that we fans have come to trust pitching coach Jim Hickey and the Rays' entire development process almost completely. Of course every pitcher is different, but there are a few commonalities to the Rays approach. 1) Establish and command the fastball. 2) Develop a great changeup and throw it to batters of either handedness, both inside and outside, in any count. I'm to a point where I can look at someone like Chris Archer, who is predominantly a fasball/slider guy, and say with confidence, "he's good now, but just think how he'll be once he refines his changeup."

IAN: In listing top young pitchers, don't forget Alex Cobb, who was arguably the most effective pitcher on the staff before he took a line drive to the head and went to the DL with concussion issues. He'll likely return soon.

DAVID: Does this team miss Carl Crawford's skills at all in the outfield or at the top of the lineup?

IAN: Yes and no. There is no team that wouldn't like to have Carl Crawford playing left field. In his prime, he was the best defensive left fielder in the game, and very possibly the most valuable defender at any position. But to miss him would mean to not have had replacements ready. Desmond Jennings (now on the DL with a fractured finger) is an incredibly smooth fielder. Ben Zobrist is solid. Matt Joyce is a lot less good of a fielder, but he's one of the better bats in the league versus right handed pitching. Now there's Wil Myers, who is still learning the position (he was a converted catcher), but who obviously is the future of the Tampa Bay outfield.

IAN: Sure we miss Crawford, because he's quality, but there are replacements, so the Rays replace.

DAVID: Did you expect the kind of production James Loney is giving the lineup when the Rays signed him?

IAN: No way. I expected him to be the long side of a first base platoon. He started off that way, but then grabbed the position full-time with great defense, lots of contact, and unexpected power. That power has been absent recently, but I'm still pretty happy with what he's given us.

IAN: Loney gets comparisons to Casey Kotchman around here, but those aren't quite right. Kotchman was a below-average hitting contact and defense first baseman having a great year. Loney is an average hitting contact and defense first baseman having a great year. It's less unbelievable what he's done.

DAVID: What does Tampa Bay have to do down the stretch to pass Boston and win the division?

IAN: Get and stay healthy. Matt Moore must come back and pitch like he can. Alex Cobb must come back and pitch like he can. Desmond Jennings will likely miss a few weeks. Jesse Crain is coming off the DL sometime too.

IAN: Oh, and it would be nice if Longoria would start hitting like an MVP once more.

DAVID: Do you think the Rays should've done more at the trade deadline?

IAN: Not really. The Rays are close to a complete team and any improvements would either need to have come in blockbuster deals or would be on the margins. That's what they did with Jesse Crain. He's a top right handed reliever (which fills a need) who they acquired at minimal cost (due to his DL status).

IAN: There were some rumors about Michael Morse, who would have formed the short side of a DH platoon. That's nice and all, but not that exciting, and it was arguably the only place the Rays could have hoped to improve themselves short of making a major trade and giving away a significant part of their future. Andrew Friedman just won't do that, and while there are some fans who rail against his acceptance and appreciation of basic economics, I think he's right.

DAVID: Series prediction?

IAN: TB 2, LA 1. The Rays beat TBD twice and lose to Kershaw.

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