Continuing the midseason review series, here is Joel Bailey (@JoelFourBases) on a surprising 2018 campaign for his beloved Rays. Make sure you check out the excellent Four Bases site for more of Joel’s baseball writing.
How has the season gone so far?
“Rather than listing off fluffy reasons of why I don’t think we will struggle that much this year because it’s pretty evident that we will struggle (Vegas have our win total at 76, which I think is 10% too high!)” -@Bailey_Joel
4 Months on from the time of writing, I can safely say that I’ve never been happier to be wrong about my Rays. Currently sitting third in the American League East with a record of 53-53, the Rays have pretty much surpassed every preseason assumption of them. Having lost Evan Longoria, Steven Souza JR, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson, Brad Boxberger, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Alex Cobb, Steve Cishek and Tommy Hunter in the off-season any expectations for the year were at a basement level. Tanking, rebuilding, cutting payroll – whatever way you want to phrase it, this year wasn’t meant to be fun.
With a rotation only 4 men strong and over 100 games into the season, Kevin Cash’s men are playing scrappy and old-school style of baseball. And boy is it fun.
At the end of May, the Rays shifted veteran outfielder: Denard Span and closer Alex Colome to fuel the Mariners playoff challenge, a move seen by many as the final towel being thrown in by the Rays management. Since the trade, the Rays are 23-19 (as of mid-July).
The recipe? Giving the future a chance. Up has come Willy Adames (.222/.273/.358). Up has come Jake Bauers (.240/.373/.452). Up has come Christian Arroyo (.264/.339/.396).
In addition to this the Rays have had guys like Joey Wendle (.278/.326/.371) and CJ Cron (.250/.325/.465) exceed their production expectations. By no means is this the perfect team. By no means is this the greatest baseball which has ever graced a diamond, but it’s a helluva lot of fun watching these guys grind each and every night. Some supposed rebuild.
Stars and flops:
Blake Snell. I will let Chris Archer explain this one.
American League ERA leader Blake Snell wasn’t named an All-Star, and Rays teammate @ChrisArcher22 is calling for everyone involved in the selection process to do a better job pic.twitter.com/3U2QfmQOlB
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 9, 2018
Zach Cozart on the Rays bullpen day:
“I don’t think that’s good for baseball, in my opinion. It’s definitely weird, not knowing who you’re going to face in your first couple of at-bats. … Usually, you have a starter and you think you’re going to have three at-bats probably. So you’re going to use the first at-bat and you want to have success, see what he has if you haven’t faced him before, stuff like that. When you’re going Spring Training style, it’s definitely a different ballgame. It’s Spring Training; that’s the best way I could describe it. I hope it doesn’t go in that direction.”
Since choosing to go with the opener plan followed with a bullpen day on May 19th,, the Rays have the best ERA in the majors (2.75). Look’s like it works Zach.
Revised Win-Loss Prediction: