The Rays' Rotation Decision And Technology

Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the fourth inning at Charlotte Sports Park. The Orioles defeated the Rays 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Who should take Jeff Niemann's place in the Rays' rotation? You'll excuse me if I admit that I have no idea.

Jeff Niemann is out for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months with a broken fibula. The Tampa Bay Rays will expend him like a shotgun shell and shove a worthwhile replacement into the rotation. In their cockier moments, the Rays send drunken e-mails to the other 29 teams, asking of any of them would be up for a switch to nine-man rotations.

Joe Maddon says he's narrowed his choices down to two young pitchers:

Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are the likely candidates to fill the void left in the Rays' rotation created by Jeff Niemann's injury, according to Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Cobb is a 24-year-old right-hander who has posted fantastic strikeout ratios in the upper minors. Archer is a 23-year-old right-hander who has superlative stuff but wonky control. My goal when I started this was to compare and contrast the two pitchers, and see who would fit better with the Rays. After an hour, I realized I was about to write 600 or 700 words that could have been condensed to this:

Alex Cobb doesn't walk as many guys as Chris Archer. While Archer might be the prospect with a higher ceiling, Cobb gives the Rays a better chance of more immediate success. Also, this impending roster move reminds me of the time they mentioned cobb salad on Archer, which was awesome.

There are interesting tidbits if you dig enough. Over at DRaysBay, they took an in-depth look at Cobb, and you can find scouting reports on Archer, too.

But nothing can replace the value of watching the pitchers with your own eyes, even if you're pretty useless as a scout. At least, I am. But I still like to look at how prospects swing and throw, run and catch. You can do that with Cobb because he's been in the majors before:


For Archer, though, your options are limited. Here he is talking into the camera. Here he's talked about for 30 seconds over a still-photo montage of him puffing his cheeks out like a big ol' bullfrog. Here he is on a video that was shot on a spy camera the size of a fleck of dandruff, which makes the video more impressive than you initially thought.

There is a bounty of content over at MiLB.com, by which I mean three or four pitches. Here's one of those pitches:


If you want to watch Archer pitch, you should probably just buy a ticket to a Durham Bulls game.

We're at a crossroads with technology. And by "we", I mean "any spoiled baseball fan on the Internet in 2012." Do you ever stop to think how spoiled we are? Seconds to hours after Brett Lawrie wigged out on an umpire, we could watch a video of the incident on our phones, get an overhead shot of the called strike in question, and figure out how much vertical break Rodney had on each pitch thrown in the at-bat.

It used to be that if you had one of these babies, you were planting a flag on Technology Mountain. Scores and updates, beamed from space to a device the size of a coffee-table book? Oh, baby. And remember when GameDay first came out, how amazing it was to have that strike-zone tracking? Just a few years later, we're used to so much more.

Here's hoping the next frontier for spoiled baseball fans on the Internet has to do with quality video of minor-league and amateur baseball. The technology exists. So does the demand -- prospect-hounding is serious business these days. MiLB.com sells subscriptions to video content -- some of it is fantastic, and some of it is like the third-deck camera-phone shot embedded up there. Depends on the minor-league team in question.

It's certainly unrealistic to hope for professionally produced minor-league television broadcasts. But higher-quality video, even if just in unedited streams from a behind-the-plate perspective, would be a huge step. As we get more and more spoiled with the wealth of information today, we'll keep digging for more and more. I'm not sure what rock bottom would be -- body-language experts and graphology! -- but a few ticks above that is probably a way to study your favorite prospects a little bit more.

Until then, here's what you should know about the Rays' decision: Alex Cobb doesn't walk as many guys as Chris Archer. While Archer might be the prospect with a higher ceiling, Cobb gives the Rays a better chance of more immediate success. That's the kind of analysis you can get only here, folks.

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