The Seattle Mariners are currently in St. Petersburg, Florida for a four game set against the Tampa Bay Rays, who are currently tied for the American League East lead with the
New York Yankees Boston Red Sox Toronto Blue Jays Baltimore Orioles. I had something else planned for this preview but it didn't quite come together, so here is a quick rundown of the basics.
Catcher: Jose Molina, Chris Gimenez
First Base: Carlos Pena
Second Base: Ben Zobrist, Jeff Keppinger
Third Base: Evan Longoria
Shortstop: Sean Rodriguez
Left Field: Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce
Center Field: B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings
Right Field: Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist
Designated Hitter: Luke Scott
The Rays have one of the more underrated lineups in the league. Their only weak spots are at shortstop and catcher, with the other seven lineup spots performing at a very high level. Defensively, this is still one of the top run prevention lineups in baseball.
Felix Hernandez vs. Jeremy Hellickson
Hector Noesi vs. Matt Moore
Blake Beavan vs. James Shields
Kevin Millwood vs. Jeff Niemann
The Mariners are lucky enough to face last year's Rookie of the Year, an odds on favorite to win this year's award, and the Rays staff ace back-to-back-to-back. Mariner hitters would be smart to practice patience as Hellickson, Moore and Niemann have all struggled to find the strikezone during their April starts.
Expect some interesting defensive alignments from the Rays. According to ESPN.com, the Rays have gone from employing more defensive shifts than any other team to employing WAY more defensive shifts than any other team.
The short version via a DRaysBay fanshot:
I would not be surprised if ESPN is preparing a feature about the Rays shift utilization in 2012. According to information obtained from Baseball Information Solutions the Rays have shifted more than any other team 125x and nearly split 50/50 between RHB/LHB. In 2011 7% of the Rays shifts were against RHB and this year it's been ramped up to 50%.