Legit or Quit? - Tampa Bay Rays
Are last years World Series runner-ups on track for a rerun or is this stretch a fluke?
In this series we are going to be taking a look at teams that had legitimate expectations of performance coming into this season. That means we likely will not be exploring teams who likely stand no shot this season or have gone full rebuild mode - looking at you Rockies (love McMahon though). For this first entry I figured it was only fair to evaluate the runner up in last years pandemic shortened season as they dethroned the Astros in the American League final. So is this bright platoon of 5-tool beasts a legitimate contender this season, or will they fluke out like Kevin Cash's decision to pull Blake Snell.
Win/Loss: 39-23, 1st in the AL East (as of 6/9/21)
AVG: .229 (11/15)
OPS: .708 (9/15)
OBP: .316 (4/15)
SLG: .392 (9/15)
ERA: 3.27 (2/15)
Other notable stats:
1st in AL in Walks taken
3rd in AL in Stolen Bases
2nd in AL in Runs
Trending Up: Mike Zunino, Joey Wendle, Yandy Diaz, Tyler Glasnow, Rich Hill
Trending Down: Kevin Kiermaier, Brent Phillips, Mike Brosseau, Brandon Lowe
As far as well rounded teams go, the Rays stand almost alone at the top. Although not incredible with batting average, they produce runs at an incredible rate thanks to their platoon of hitters who can go to either field. The Willy Adames trade to the Brewers, although at first a little confusing, makes sense for the team in the long run. Adames was a notoriously much better hitter away from Tropicana field and needed a change of scenery, plus this could fast-track the arrival of one of the most exciting prospects in baseball: Wander Franco.
The only other big deal of note for the Rays at the beginning of the season was the dealing of Blake Snell to the Padres for Patino, Meija, Wilcox, and Hunt. Though a nice little prospect haul, they haven't seen much playing time. Blake Snell on the other hand has had a very rocky start to his 2021 season and although hindsight is 20/20, it seems that dealing Snell rather than continue to absorb his contract was the right move for the Rays. Especially because of one man on the mound who has stepped up to another level.
The brightest spot for the Rays this season has been the continued dominance of ace pitcher Tyler Glasnow. He has currently held opposing hitters to a .174 batting average and a .194 expected batting average. Putting it simply, the dude just refuses to give up hits. He has also struck out over a third of batters he has faced this season, making him almost unbeatable and allowing him to cruise to a 5-2 record. The emergence of Rich Hill as part of his supporting cast has been an incredibly nice touch for the rotation and along with stingy team defense, the Rays rarely put themselves in a position to lose.
The only blemishes on this roster in reality have been in the bullpen and in occasional lack of run support. The pen is decent but still has had the chance to blow games this season and likely needs some revision from Cash. Kiermaier, for all his great defensive play, has had a very unlikeable season so far at the plate and along with Brosseau and Lowe, have put up incredibly poor efforts behind the dish.
In a tightly contested division up to this point, the Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as leaders of the pack. Supported by a well-rounded group of bats as well as some dominant starters, Tampa does have the potential to make a deep run this postseason. The only question is whether or not they can continue to execute and make teams play their type of ball. For now however, the Rays are definitely...