The Tampa Bay Rays were not expected to have a good season. The 2016 team had problems with their pitching staff, failing to stop opposing batters and also not scoring nearly enough as expected.
The Rays were expected to fight to stay out of last place in the American League East. The team has a very solid minor league system, one that has many experts excited about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay, but that is not supposed to happen for another year or two. Being in third place in their division and holding a wild card spot in the 2017 season was not expected to happen. This year’s Rays team are vastly exceeding expectations, leading to excitement in the St. Petersburg stadium.
So far, the 2017 team has been much better, with a potent offense and a pitching staff that is showing much improvement.
The Rays have jumped up dramatically on offense, currently ranked 11th in the majors as a team in runs scored, compared to the 24th rank they had in 2016. While last year’s team also mashed quite a few home runs, this year’s Rays are up in the rankings again, currently sitting fourth, up two spots from the 2016 season.
The pitching is also improved, currently ranked 11th in the majors in ERA, up from 16th in the 2016 season. What’s surprising is the bullpen. The Rays are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the most saves in baseball so far this season and, with 30 saves, are only 12 away from matching their entire 2016 saves number. Most of those saves are from closer Alex Colome, whose 25 are second most in the majors, most in the American League.
The team is not perfect though. They’re in the bottom half of the majors in quality starts, and the starting pitchers have yet to record a complete game, something that will have an effect on the relievers as the season wears on.
It will be an interesting rest of July at Tropicana Field, as the Rays will look to maintain their playoff position. If they slip up, it brings up the question of how far back the team has to fall before they go into selling mode and trade away prized players such as ace Chris Archer and All-Star Corey Dickerson for prospects to improve on the future and also to save some money on salary.
If the Rays stay in the playoff race, will they do the opposite and trade for established players? Going into buying mode typically is not the Ray’s modus operandi, but if the front office feels that they have a chance at the World Series, they might take a chance on a proven player from a team that’s selling.
Either way, this is the most exciting summer the Rays have experienced in a few years, and it will be fun to watch what happens next.