If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the fourth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FOUR pitchers with at least 15 wins…
In 2008, the Rays won 97 games despite not having a single pitcher win 15 games. This was due in large part to the dominance of the bullpen which led to 45 comeback wins last season, behind only the Yankees (49) and Tigers (46) in the American League, and a league-high 31 wins from the relief pitchers.
Of the seven teams in the AL that finished 2008 with a winning record, the Rays’ 66 wins by starting pitchers (68.0%) was a better rate than only the Yankees (66.3%). The remaining five teams ranged from 72.7% (Twins) to 82.6% (Jays).
2008 RAYS WERE LED BY THEIR BULLPEN: The bullpen was a big reason for the Rays’ worst-to-first performance in 2008. But it may be too much to expect a repeat in 2009. Last season, the Rays’ relievers were second in the AL in ERA (3.45) and led the league in batting average against (.218). If the bullpen does regress to something closer to league average, the offense and the starting pitchers will have to pick up the slack if the Rays want to contend again in 2009.
OFFENSE NEEDS TO SCORE MORE RUNS EARLY: If the Rays are going to get more wins from their starting pitchers, it means an offense that scores more runs earlier in the game. In 2008, the Rays only scored 71 runs in the first inning and 79 in the second. Those were by far the two lowest totals in the innings 1-8 (the Rays only batted 116 times in the 9th inning). On the other hand, the Rays two highest run totals by inning were the 5th (98) which is often when the top of the order is getting a third crack at a starting pitcher, and the 8th inning (96).
If the Rays can add an impact bat to the lineup through free agency, and get healthy seasons from BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, the Rays should be able to score early and often in 2009. If the Rays can score more runs next season, strong performances by the starting pitchers will be better rewarded with more leads being handed to the bullpen.
STARTERS NEED TO WORK DEEPER: Of course, the starting pitchers can help themselves with a few more “7+2’s”. That is a starting pitcher working 7 innings, and handing a lead to the bullpen in the 8th inning. In 2008, starting pitchers only worked at least 7 innings in 53 starts. It is a heck of a lot easier for a bullpen to record 6 outs than 9, or even 12. In 2008, the bullpen came through, but that may not happen again next season.
If the Rays want to make a run at the playoffs again in 2009, they will need more production from the offense and longer outings from the starting pitchers. If they can, we will likely see four pitchers with at least 15 wins. If that happens, the Rays will only need 10 wins out of the 5th spot to reach 70 wins from starting pitchers which is in-line with what other playoff teams did in 2008.
On the fourth day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is FOUR pitchers with 15 wins, and…
THREE Gold Glove awards [Day 3]
TWO months in triple-A for David Price [Day 2]
ONE impact bat with a bow on top [Day 1]