By Nina Zimmerman on May 13, 2014
After a World Series appearance in 2008 and finishing either first or second in the AL East in four of the last seven seasons, expectations and results for the Tampa Bay Rays tend to run higher than in the past. Many chose the Rays to win their historically competitive division, but they have a 16-25 record that puts them in last place currently. Here are five things we’ve learned from the Rays’ first 40 games.
Usually touted as one of the Rays’ stronger suits, the team’s rotation hasn’t had one of its typical dominant years, ranking 25th in baseball with a 4.29 ERA. The bullpen isn't any better, ranking 24th in bullpen ERA at 4.30. There are logical reasons for these problems, but it’s hard not to look at ace David Price’s 4.53 ERA or Chris Archer’s 5.16 ERA as a culprit. The surprise resurgence of Erik Bedard (2-1, 3.65 ERA) is a lone bright spot.
Right now, three Rays rotation regulars sit on the DL. Out since mid-April with a strained oblique, Alex Cobb will hopefully return soon. Jeremy Hellickson is expected back by the All-Star break. And Matt Moore went down in early April and won’t be back until next year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Compounded together, these injuries have only added to the Rays’ frustrations this season.
One of the bigger questions for the Rays coming into the 2014 season was whether or not the offense could support the team’s powerful pitching staff. The season hasn’t’ been that way so far, though the Rays’ offense has, for the most part, held up its part of the bargain, with team batting average of .257 that ranks eighth in baseball. The Rays’ 165 runs scored also tie them for eighth overall.
Despite playing for a last-place team with little going for it right now, third baseman Evan Longoria’s legacy in St. Petersburg continued to grow. The 28-year-old became the Rays’ all-time home run leader in mid-April, surpassing former teammate Carlos Pena and becoming the only franchise home run leader who is still playing with the same team. Signed through 2023, Longoria is the team’s first true franchise player.
This year’s version of the Rays more closely resembles the darker side of the franchise’s history. Though they do have a strong core mix of veterans and powerful rookies like Wil Myers, it’s hard not to look at the team’s performance so far and see nothing but doom and gloom ahead. That being said, it’s still mid-May, and though the Rays are in last place in the division, just five and one-half games separate them from first place.
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