Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are starting to climb the standings slowly after a rough start to the year. It seems everyone expects them to be fighting for the division title. Early on, it didn’t look like that was going to happen. In fairness, the Rays are no different than any other team in the East in that regard. However, now that the season is a month old, this is where teams will separate themselves. Somehow, the Rays will be on the good end of this separation. They may sit in 4th now, but that won’t last. Their defense is solid and their offense finds ways to compete.
Considering how little I expected from the offense of this team, the Rays have surprised. They haven’t been as bad as I thought they would. Whether they can keep up in the East over a full season remains to be seen, but this report card is not based on the future. It is based on what they’ve done over the first month of the season. Here it is: .252 average (9th in AL), 206 hits (8th), 103 runs (10th), 48 double (3rd). At first, I thought that these average numbers must be enhanced by speed. The stolen bases must be high. I was wrong. They’ve only stolen 8 bases, which puts them 13th in the AL. So, what is it? How about they are 4th in walks (99) and 5th in K’s (166). They are using the strike zone to their advantage. Seems pretty smart, If you don’t have the power, you find other ways to win. That Joe Maddon is smart.
The Rays sit tied for first in the AL with just 7 errors committed and a .991 fielding percentage so far. Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar have each committed 2 errors. That points to a fairly solid team defense. They’ve only turned 50 double plays (12th) though. If we consider the only guy in the AL East who will challenge Brett Lawrie for a Gold Glove at 3rd, Evan Longoria, and James Loney at first, the Rays should be leading the division (at least) in defense. Anything less would be failure.