The 2017 season left a lot to be desired. Finishing with a record of 80-82, things could be worse, but also a lot better. The Rays had great seasons from Logan Morrison, who hit a career high 38 home runs and was a fixture in the middle of the lineup all season. Corey Dickerson, who hit 27 home runs while slashing .282/.325/.490 and proving all doubters wrong that he can INDEED hit (the Rays didn’t think so, so they let him designated him for assignment before the 2018 season in probably one of the most questionable moves of the year). Steven Souza topped 30 home runs for the first time in his career while stealing 16 bases and Kevin Kiermaier, when he was playing, hit better than he has in his entire career while playing his normal Gold Glove defense in center.
Fast forward to the off-season, and the Rays looked ready to give up. After trading Evan Longoria, surprisingly designating Corey Dickerson for assignment, trading Jake Odorizzi, trading Steven Souza, losing Jose De Leon to Tommy John surgery early in the season, to say the least, the Rays seemed to be cleaning house. As a Rays fan, I was worried. It’s expected though as the Rays strategy has always been to clean house before signing anyone long term. The one person we signed long term, Evan Longoria, the face of the franchise, the man who was supposed to retire a Tampa Bay Ray, the man given the most lucrative contract in Tampa Bay Rays history, was shipped to San Francisco for top prospect Christian Arroyo in the off-season. No one is safe in Tampa Bay except your occasional stripper working at the Oz, with a body guard.
That brings up to the 2018 season. With low expectations going into the season, it seems that the Rays have exceeded, if not blown them out of the water. As of today, the Tampa Bay Rays are a 85-66. That record ties them with the Cleveland Indians, who just clinched the weak ass AL Central division, puts them in front of the NL East leading Braves, and also put them in front of the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately for the Rays, the American League is loaded right now. The New York Yankees currently sit atop the Wild Card standings with a record of 93-58 and the Oakland A’s are holding down the second spot with a record of 91-61. Both seem pretty locked into those spots with only about 10 days left in the 2018 season. Sadly, the Rays will most likely miss the playoffs this season. BUT, next season is always an option.
The other day I came across an article on fangraphs.com written by Jeff Sullivan. I have said it once, but if you’re a baseball nerd like myself, and like to dive a little deeper into statistics, that is the website for you. Anways, they have this thing called BaseRuns standings which is quote unquote “The BaseRuns standings estimate what a team’s record should be, given its underlying statistics.” Here’s the link to the page- https://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=BaseRuns.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to paste the chart so I’ll just tell you what I see. Now, obviously none of this matters because it isn’t the actual standings and that’s the only meaningful standings, but this shows you that the Rays are actually better than most think. The chart shows the Rays with a BaseRuns standing of 92-59 putting them AHEAD of the Boston Red Sox by half a game, ahead of the Yankees by 1.5 games. These underlying statistics mean nothing, but it shows you how productive the Rays have been this season.
2018 has been great for the Rays. second baseman Joey Wendle, who came over from the A’s has had a chance to start and has done a great job. While playing multiple positions, he has produced a WAR of 4.4 while hitting .302/.354/.439. Outfielder Mallex Smith has performed better than expected after finally moving to a full role with the injury of Kevin Kiermaier early in the season. In 133 games, Smith has hit .302/.374/.415 with 35 steals– 2nd in American League– and likely has earned himself a starting role for the 2019 season. C.J. Cron came over from the Angles in the off-season and so far has done well for himself setting career highs in home runs with 27 and is one away from his career high of 69 RBI’s with 68 at the moment, both leading the Rays. Not to mention the rookies that have also held their own with Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, and Daniel Robertson.
2018 season has been a success to say the least for the Tampa Bay Rays. Hopefully they either get put into the NL East next season, or the Red Sox and Yankees both blow it so they can finally earn that playoff berth Rays fans have been waiting for since 2013. Sting em Rays up, Rays up sting em.