The Tampa Bay Rays Are Not Going Away: Part VII
posted at 4/7/2012 12:36 PM EDT
The title of this thread began after softy (aka mr hanky) stated that the Rays would fade away in the spring of 2010. He said the same thing last spring, summer, and fall. He tried to wiggle out of it (as always), by saying "going away" meant they would not win the WS, but we all know his methodology: make an absurd statement, deny making the statement, claim he said the exact opposite, then claim he was the leader in advocating the opposite position and changing his monniker when the evidence mounts.
I projected the Rays would win between 90-92 wins last year and that the wild card team would have fewer wins than normal in the AL due to so many good teams (especially in the AL East) all beating each other so often. The Rays won 91 games, but softy still claimed he was right, becuase TB didn't win, it was the Sox who lost.
Some fans are again projecting a drop off this year, and although they now view the Rays as a formidable opponent, they feel their weak offense will keep them from seriously competing for a wild card or division winner slot in the post-season. I say, beware! The Rays should be better this year than 2011. Other teams inproved as well, and maybe they improved more than the Rays did, but I feel strongly that the Rays will be in the playoff race again this year until the final days of the season. (This is the common understanding of the term "not going away", and not softy's ever-changing book of baseball terminology: see the "no pop Jed" threads.)
I have gone through the reasons for the Rays not going away several times in the past, so I won't bore you with many stats or numbers, but will say that most baseball experts recognize the great importance of pitching in improving odds of winning more ball games. It is here that the Rays coule be second to none, at least in terms of starting pitching. No team in MLB has a deeper starting pitcher bank. The second reason for placing the rays higher than most casual fans is that many of their key players are just now entering their prime or are still in the normal age frame considered "prime". Thirdly, the Rays have been stock-piling high draft picks and have continously been infusing prospects into their 25 man roster with great success, and I see no reason why this won't continue this year and beyond. (The Rays had a record amount of top picks in 2011).
The starting pitchers:
Shields (30) Middle of prime and a true ace.
Price (26) Just entering early prime and another ace profile already.
Hellickson (25) Coming off a pretty incredible first full season.
Niemann (29) In his prime and a solid starter.
Moore (22 in June) Perhaps the best young starter in MLB.
Davis (27 in Sept) Would be a #3 or 4 on most MLB teams.
Alex Cobb (24) Looked good in limited duty in 2011.
This has to be the best 7 starters on one team in MLB.
The Rays pen has never looked great on paper at the start of each year, but they always seem to over-achieve. With Davis in the pen instead of Sonnanstine, I feel the pen will be better this year than last. They also have some young pitchers who have matured by a season and some seasoned vets.
Farnsworth (36) Had a decent year in 2011.
Peralta (36) Had a decent year in 2011.
Rodney (35) Better than many know.
Howell (29) Pretty good.
McGee (26 in Aug) Up and coming.
Badenhop (29) Hard to know.
Lueke (27) Hard to know.
Gomes (27) Good potential.
Ramos (27) Good potential.
Torres (24) Maybe a year or 2 away.
Archer (23) Maybe a year or 2 away.
Colome (23) Maybe 2 years away.
Not great on paper, but pretty deep.
No Shoppach. Replaced with Jose Molina (37 in June)
Lobaton (27) and Chirinos (27) perhaps a step down from jasko.
Carlos Pena (34 in May) poor BA, but a leader and producer.
2B: Zobrist (31 in May) Solid player who at 2B allows Rodriguez to play SS. If he is in the OF, 2B will be played by: Keppinger (32)/E. Johnson (28): not bad for utility IF'ers.
SS: Sean Rodriguez (27) Much better than Brignac/Johnson of 2011.
3B: Longoria (26) should improve on his injury effected 2011 season and he is entering his prime now.
LF: Jennings (25) A full season from this wonderkid should provide a big boost.
CF: Upton (27) Now in his prime and looking for a big contract.
RF: Joyce (27) Has shown flashes of stardom as he enters prime.
DH/RF: Scott (34 in June) Could help imrove on 2011's DH slot.
OF: Fuld (30), Guyer (26), Vogt (27) Solid back-ups.
Manager: Joe Maddon is perhaps the best manager in MLB.
In short, TB will not be going away anytime soon even with a low payroll.