Monday, July 21, 2008

Pre-Season Thoughts in Review: Tampa Bay Rays

Another look back at my preseason predictions. This time, the Rays.

1. The Rotation Is a Question Mark After Kazmir

I was dead wrong in this assessment. Shields has improved on 2007 and Matt Garza took a big step forward in his game. It has made them (Kazmire-Shields-Garza) arguably the best starting three in the game. How about the 4th and 5th spots? More on that later.

2. Carl Crawford...and Then What?

Crawford is a star player but he's just about the only sure thing in the lineup. And even he is not the kind of hitter that can carry a team.

This was true.

Rocco Baldelli is injury prone.

That was true.

Carlos Pena came out of nowhere to post MVP type numbers in 2007. Is he really going to repeat that performance?

Pena has done little this season when he isn’t facing Jamie Walker. This is true.

This lineup could score a lot of runs but they're going to have to count on a lot of youngsters make giant strides to do so.

That wasn’t completely true but if not for Evan Longoria this lineup would be severely underperforming. They are winning in spite of their bats. More on that later…

3. The Bullpen Stinks

The Rays bullpen was the worst in baseball last season (yes, even worse than the O’s) but has done a Baltimore style turnaround this season to post the 9th lowest ERA in the majors. (Baltimore is currently 8th…). Dead wrong on this assertion as well.

4. They Can't Catch The Ball

Regardless of the metric you use, the Rays are among the best defenses in baseball. The addition of Lonoria at third, Jason Bartlett at short and the conversion of Aki Iwamora from third to second has stabilized the infiled and the continued improvement of B.J. Upton in center has helped immensely. Again, dead wrong.

5. The Key Contributors on Offense...Will Be Kids

This was true and some contributors have struggled in the first half. But Longoria has not. The offense has been good enough to contend.


Tampa Bay was a chic pick to take a big step forward this season and have been quite a surprise. But the fact that they are doing it with pitching and defense is the real shock. It was supposed to be the bats of Carlos Pena, Crawford, Upton and Longoria that were to lead Tampa to respectability but instead it’s been the glove and the arms. Even bottom of the rotation guys like Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine are benefiting from the improved glovework by the Rays.

Will the pitching hold? Maybe. Will the bats come around? If they do, they will be a juggernaut.

I was dead wrong about these Rays…

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