Rays Season Review

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It usually takes me a couple days to get over the end of the Rays season. It was a couple weeks in 2010 (because that was suppose to be our year). It is usually based on expectations coming into the season and how far I believe this team can actually go.  I thought at the beginning of the season that we would be solid and that we should defiantly make the playoffs. We did just that by winning the American League wild card. I originally predicted a 92-win season, and that is exactly what happened. So why do I find myself again so heartbroken when we made the playoffs and won 92 games?

My seat for game three of the ALDS.

My seat for game three of the ALDS.

I attended both game three and four of the ALDS. Game three was the most amazing game I have ever witnessed first hand. Game four was quite the opposite. You have no idea how hard it is to sit there and watch the team you love ,lose to arguably your biggest rival’s. As I was sitting in English class the next day, I just could not believe it was over. No Rays baseball till next March. I received a text from my mom asking me if this loss was as heartbreaking as last time. To which I replied the only words I knew how to describe what had happened, “It just sucks”.

We met my expectations for the season, and I still can’t believe this season is over. The reason could be that I do not think we played to our potential this season. Joe Maddon and some others are proud of “our guys” for playing to our potential and that Boston was just better than us. I refuse to agree with that. This year we could actually hit the ball. Our offense was as good as it was since 2008. Our pitching was the inconsistent factor. Our bullpen was flawed with its root being Fernando Rodney. It always seemed like things just never wanted to go our way as well.  We could have played better. We could have pitched better. We could have hit better with runners in scoring position. We could have had more of that Rays magic that took us on a wild ride in the past. But it simply did not…. and that’s just baseball. Do not sit there and tell me that this team’s max was the ALDS, because you are a liar.

So there lays the most closure I am going to get, we did well but we could have done better. The fact that we could have changed the game of baseball by showing small market teams can still win championships.  The promise that we will have another chance to “win the last game of the season” in 2014.

Moving on to 2014. This team looks bright and as long as it holds together this offseason, I will have higher expectations in 2014. Our rotation is returning for the most part: Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer will all return. The line-up will not lose much either: Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist (club option), Yunel Escobar (club option), Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus(club option) will all return. Of course with the payroll always being low and most likely staying around 60 million, there will always be some turnover. The Rays will have nine free agents this offseason.

WHO WE NEED TO RESIGN:

JAMES LONEY-

Loney had a great bounce back year in 2013 batting .299 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI’s. Loney also brought a solid glove over at first base this season. Everyone is expecting Loney to get a BIG raise this offseason being only 29 and showing signs of entering his prime. I really like Loney and we need his bat back in our line-up. Maybe I am just being hopeful, but maybe he won’t get that big contract. His 13 home runs are not what most people expect out of major league first baseman. Casey Kotchman had a similar year in 2011 for the Rays. He only received a one-year three million dollar deal. Hopefully we can get him back for something similar. I think it is very important to get him back and I would be willing to give up Hellickson and Niemann’s combined five million dollar contracts to do it.

DAVID PRICE-

Price is the only thing holding our rotation together. Not just his numbers but his leadership. Shields and Price held it down in 2010-2012 and those were the glory years of Rays pitching. His presence in our rotation means more to than this team then just the numbers he puts up. I am well aware that Price will have to be dealt soon, but if we are serious about 2014, we need him. Thirteen million dollars is well worth a championship.

JESSIE CRAIN-

Our bullpen was an issue in 2013. One of the two reasons we did not win the AL east was our bullpen. Crain would be a key piece to our pen in 2014. He was an all-star in 2013 and could be affordable because he is coming back from injury. Whether he would be the closer or not, Crain would be a great addition.

 

WHO NOT TO RESIGN:

FERNANDO RODNEY-

Rodney blew eight saves in 2013 and returned to the Rodney that everybody is used too. He did not perform well in the playoffs, and most likely cost us the division. It was fun while it lasted, but the Rodney era needs to end in Tampa Bay.

EITHER NIEMANN OR HELLICKSON-

If we keep Price, we do not need both Hellickson and Niemann. Jake Odorizzi offers plenty of pitching depth. It would cut our payroll, and we might even be able to get a nice trade out of it.

In 2014, we can win the AL east. We have to improve on two major things, the bullpen and base stealing. We cannot blow late leads with the starting pitching we have. We have to focus on improving the bullpen for next season. The Red Sox decided to steal bases in 2013, it won them the division. Stealing bases creates runs and runs win games. The old Rays teams would be disgusted by the amount of steals the Rays had in 2013. Seventy -three steals; 21st in the American League. If we want to  “run” away from the rest of the division, we need to steal more. The good news is as long as we don’t downgrade on any of the other aspects of the game, we should be fine and built for run at October.

The Daily Trop next year will step up it’s game. Series recaps, monthly player inside looks, more in-depth analysis, and more.

Overall 2014 will hopefully be here before we know it. It is hard to exactly predict where the Rays will be due to the full offseason ahead of us. One thing is for sure, Joe Maddon will lead this club and try to squeeze as much talent, fun, and magic out of his team. Maybe we will finally have enough to change the game, and win the last game of the season.

 

Follow me on twitter for offseason buzz  @ASommers5

 

 

Rays Acquire All-Star Reliever Crain

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins

Many thought the Rays would stay quiet this year at the trade deadline. Those people were wrong, as the Rays have traded for White Sox reliever Jessie Crain. At the moment the Rays are not giving up anything for Crain. They are giving the White Sox future considerations, which is a player to be named later or cash.

Jessie Crain is 31 years old and is in the final year of his contract. He is 2-3 while posting a 0.74 ERA in 36.2 innings. He also has 46 strikeouts and only 11 walks. Crain was named to his first all-star team this season. He is currently on the 15-day DL with a strained right shoulder.

Crain will join the back end of the bullpen when he returns from injury joining Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Alex Torres setting up Fernando Rodney.

Twitter: @ASommers5

What to Expect Out of David Price In the Second Half

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We all know the story of David Price’s season so far. A dreadful first nine starts posting a record of 1-4 and an ERA of 5.24. Price ended up on the DL with a strained triceps and missed about six weeks. Returning from the DL, he has looked like the normal David Price we are used to seeing. In his last three starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 25 innings. Now it’s the all-star break and everyone is wondering which David Price we will see in the second half of the 2013 season. It would be easy to say that he will keep doing well since he ended the first half on such a good note. However, if you take a closer look you realize two of the three starts were against the Astros and the other was against the White Sox. Critics would say that Price won’t amount to what he was, but Price hasn’t proven it yet. It’s true, he hasn’t proven anything yet, but here are the things I took out of his last three starts. Number one; he was working quickly and took efficiency to a new level.

Astros on July 2nd, 7 Innings, 70 pitches.

White Sox on July 7th, 9 innings, 90 pitches.

Astros on July 12th, 9 Innings, 87 pitches.

That last start against the Astros was the least amount of pitches thrown in a complete game this season. Efficiency means a lot. Getting deeper into games is part of the core of solid pitching. Eating up innings while keeping a low pitch count, the fact that Price is showing that, is a great sign. Number two; his velocity is getting back to the normal range. Before Price went to the DL, his fastball was hitting 92-93 MPH max. Now since Price has come off the DL he is back up to 94-95 MPH. Normal Price last year was 95-97, and that’s what made him so effective against hitters. Big reason why he struggled early on was because his velocity was not good. Now that it appears his velocity is getting higher and his arm is getting stronger, he is gaining back the edge he had last season.

There definitely was something sketchy about how Price missed seven weeks for an injury that appeared to be minor.  Most strained triceps injuries don’t last that long. I believe that something else was going on, but enough of the conspiracist in me. Whatever was wrong with Price seems to be fixed now.

So with the first half behind, the big question lies with us. How will David Price pitch in the second half? Here’s what I think. I believe Price will pitch well, but not as well as his CY young season last year. Just like his start against the Blue Jays, Price is going to battle even when he gets behind. Price is a winner, and that’s exactly what I expect him to do.

Follow me on twitter for constant Rays updates: @ASommers5

Rays Preparing to Breeze Into Break

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With the Rays churching the Astros 12-0 Monday night, they got a little sneak preview of what the next two weeks should look like. Monday’s game started a 14-game stretch where the Rays will play teams all under .500. This week is a four game series with the Astros (30-53). Following that will be a ten game home stand with the White Sox (32-47), Twins (36-43), and Astros coming into town. The Rays have had one of the toughest schedules so far this season. It is refreshing to get some easier games right before the all-star break, which starts July 16. In my opinion, the Rays should take at least 10 of those 14 games. I don’t feel there would be an excuse to win any less than that, and really they should win more. However you look at it though, the Rays should get some much needed W’s and hopefully with some help, gain some ground in the tough AL east.

Follow me on Twitter: @ASommers5 

Rays Season Thus Far

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I know it’s been a long time since I wrote, and I’m sorry if you were waiting around for me, which I’m sure you were.  I was very busy finishing up high school and I can happily say I’m now a graduate of high school. So with that said, I thought now that I’m getting back in the grove of things, I can start it off by summing up this season of Rays baseball so far.

 

Well the 2013 season for the Rays has been crazy. It’s been very strange and difficult to understand what to think so far. Many people have different opinions on this season, but you are reading my article so you get to hear mine. I honestly think that the Rays are playing fine. I think not only the playoffs should be in our sight, but possibly a division title. A lot of this is easy to say, but I can back up my statement (and I will in a second) but now lets discuss the facts of the season thus far. The Rays are 36-33 and in fourth place. They are five games out of first place and are trailing the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees.  It’s been a little bit of a different style of play this season as well. Normal Rays baseball is usually all pitching and defense, but this year the Rays are switching out the pitching for hitting. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a Rays offense that can actually produce runs (It’s kind of nice I’m not going to lie).  Our ranks in the American League: 4th in runs, 5th in home runs, 6th in average, and 3rd in on base percentage. Pitching is the opposite of where it used to be. Our ranks in the American League: 12th in ERA (4.36), 4th most runs allowed, and 11th in quality starts.  It’s great that the Rays are hitting, but the pitching will need to pick it up if we are going to make that postseason run.

The Offensive charge has been lead by Ben Zobrist (.271 4 HR 36 RBI), Matt Joyce (.270 14 HR 31 RBI), and of course Evan Longoria (.306 14 HR 42 RBI). The new guys have been producing and putting up some nice numbers as well. Players such as James Loney (.307 8 HR 35 RBI), Kelly Johnson (.245 10 HR 37 RBI), and Yunel Escobar(.241 5 HR 27 RBI) have really helped the Rays out this year. Among their high offensive numbers, some of the best ones are leading the league in average with runners in scoring position, and leading the league in runs in ninth inning.

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If I told you the Rays would be contenders at the beginning of the year with a less than average David Price (1-4, 5.24 ERA) you would probably call me crazy. Well that’s just how crazy this season has been. Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 5.67 ERA) and Roberto Hernandez (4-7, 5.02 ERA)  have been struggling a lot this season. They have there moments but mostly it has not been living up to the Rays’ standard. Matt Moore (8-3, 4.12 ERA) and Alex Cobb (6-2, 3.01 ERA) have been the only consistent bright spot in the rotation. Moore started out 8-0, and Cobb has been pitching deep into games against big teams. I believe the struggles with these guys will come out eventually.  With a pitching coach like Jim Hickey, they will find out what they are doing wrong and adjust. Pitching deeper into games and being smarter with pitches and 0-2 counts will lead that rotation back to the normal Rays pitching we all know and love.

 

The biggest topics of discussion this season have probably been Fernando Rodney and Wil Myers. Fernando Rodney obviously was not going to have the same season as he did last year. Some people apparently thought so. He has blown a couple of saves and has a 5.22 ERA. I don’t believe it is an issue, because I did not put such a high expectation on Rodney to start the year, he knew he was only going to go down from last year.  With a lot of closers having rough years already, I’m not unhappy with Fernando Rodney. He just needs to go out and keep going while staying within himself. Wil Myers is the next big subject. Questioning whether or not he should be called up or not. I guess it ends now because he has just been called up and will be with the team Tuesday.  I don’t understand why he is getting called up when there is no room, but nevertheless I’m excited.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

The reason why I believe the Rays can still do this is because they have already done so much with players not playing their best. Price has one win…that’s it. We are going to better, and being where we are at right now, is a good spot to be in. I don’t know how you can be a Rays fan and not have faith. Faith is what this team has built it’s winning foundation behind. If you’re a Rays fan, you have to have faith that Joe Madden and the front office will lead this team to the postseason.

 

I’ve been saying it all season, if we had last year’s pitching with this year’s hitting, we probably would have the best season in baseball history!

Rays 2013 Preview and Offseason Review

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Are you ready for another exciting season of Rays baseball? Because I certainly am! Some reports have been saying that the Rays will not do anything because of a lack of offense along with the impact of losing James Shields and B.J. Upton. If you ask me, I don’t know how you couldn’t think this year’s team is the best one yet. The critics can say whatever they want (bashing us like always) but the Rays prove them wrong every year. I’ll tell you this; it will be a nail biter in the AL East. The Blue Jays have turned things up a notch and made some big moves. The Orioles still have the capability to make a run. And you can never count out the Yankees and Red Sox.

However the Rays are well loaded just like the other teams in the AL east. They are bringing back 4/5 of the rotation that had the lowest ERA in the American League last year. That rotation had the most strikeouts in a single season in Major League History as well. Just because B.J. Upton is out of the line-up too, doesn’t mean that the Rays offense will be ready to go. Picking up Loney and Escobar gives the Rays an everyday shortstop and a big upgrade at first base. The trade that sent Shields to the Royals will help us in the long run. We acquired one of the most talked about young men in baseball; Wil Myers. Myers has the potential of Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, two young prospect outfielders we saw breakout last year. We know we will see him sometime this season. The Rays front office upped the payroll to 61 million, once again turning up the pressure to succeed this season.

Position Break Down

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Rotation: Reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price leads the loaded Rays rotation. He is followed by Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez (formally Fausto Carmona), Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb. Expect to see Jeff Niemann and Chris Archer before the season is done.

Catcher: I thought this would be Chris Gimenez’s spot looking at it at the end of 2012, but the Rays chose to resign Jose Molina. The backups will be Jose Lobaton, and Robinson Chirinos.

First Base: Carlos Pena is gone, James Loney is in. The Rays signed free agent Loney this offseason and he looks to have the majority of the playing time.

Second Base: This will be a tossup all season. It will all depend on where Ben Zobrist needs to play that day. The Position will be played by Zobrist, Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez.

Short Stop: Let the Yunel Escobar era begin in Tampa Bay. The Rays acquired him via trade with the Blue Jays. He will play shortstop everyday which finally brings some stability to this position. On off days expect Johnson, Rodriguez, and Roberts to play there.

Third Base: As long as the Rays have Evan Longoria, they will be fine. The Rays signed Longo to a nine year extension in the offseason which means Longo could be here till 2022. As long as he is healthy, the Rays will be just fine.

Outfield: Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce will for sure be out there, but who will join them? Wil Myers will eventually, but for now it looks like it could be Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer, Ben Zobrist, or even Kelly Johnson.

Luke Scott, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Jose Lobaton

DH: Luke Scott was resigned to handle the DH responsibility this year. He has already battled injures this spring and it appears he could start the season on the DL.

Projected line-up: Jennings, Joyce, Longoria, Zobrist, Scott, Escobar, Loney, Fuld, Molina.
Projected record: 92-70.

Seven In A Row: Rays Sweep Red Sox 4-2

If you were looking in the mirror around the league you could see Baltimore and Oakland taking big leads early, this gave the Rays one thing in their mind, LETS NOT LOSE GROUND. Young Alex Cobb started for the Rays as they began the game Wednesday night with a six game winning streak. Sitting just three games behind Oakland and three and a half games behind Baltimore, the Rays know they can’t afford to lose many games.

The Red Sox started off the scoring in the second with an RBI single by Daniel Nava giving Boston a 1-0 lead.

The Rays did not let that lead last long in the fifth. Carlos Pena belted a two run bomb, his 19th home run on the season, to center field to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.

The Rays did not stop there, later in the inning Ben Francisco hit a solo home run to increase Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-1.

Boston started to mount a comeback in the bottom of the sixth with a sac-fly by James Loney that scored Dustin Pedroia to make it 3-2.

The Rays added some cushion in the seventh with an RBI double by Jose Lobaton to score Jeff Keppinger and give the Rays a 4-2 lead.

Fernando Rodney came in the ballgame in the ninth, and completed his 45th save of the season. That ties the all-time Rays single season save record set by Rafeal Sorianao back in 2010. The Rays are now 85-70, they have now won seven games in a row.

notable stat lines
Alex Cobb W(10-9) 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K
Jon Lester L(9-14) 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Fernando Rodney S(45) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Ben Zobrist (2-4)
Jeff Keppinger (2-4) 2 R
Carlos Pena (2-4) R, HR, 2 RBI

click here for a full box score

Rays news and notes
Tomorrow the Rays take on the White Sox. It will be James Shields (15-9, 3.65 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.40 ERA). First pitch is at 8:10 EST.
This is my last recap of the 2012 season. Continue to follow me on twitter @ASommers5.

Price Tosses Complete Game As Rays Win 5-2

The Rays know from here on out every game is huge. Every hit, run, play, and pitch is magnified to big spotlights. David Price is on a mission of his own, he wants to win twenty games for the first time in his career. Price has two starts left in the season, I think you can figure it out that David is not going to let the Red Sox get in his way of twenty wins.

Jeff Keppinger started off the scoring in the second with a three run home run to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.

The Sox responded in the second with an RBI single to score Cody Ross and make it 3-1.

In the bottom of the third, Cody Ross was batting when David Price committed a balk with runners on second and third. Daniel Nava scored and Boston cut the lead down to 3-2.

The Rays added insurance in the sixth with an RBI single by Jose Molina that scored Keppinger. Carlos Pena scored on that play as well via error by Daniel Nava. This gave the Rays a 5-2 lead.

David Price finished strong finishing off the complete game and giving the Rays a 5-2 win. The Rays are now 84-70. They have now won six games in a row.

Notable stat lines
David Price W(19-5) CG, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 13 K
Clay Bucholz L (11-7) 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Ben Zobrist (2-5)
Jeff Keppinger (2-4) 2 R, 3 RBI
Carlos Pena (1-3) R
Jose Molina (2-3) RBI

click here for a full box score

Rays news and notes
Tomorrow this short series ends. It will be Alex Cobb (9-9, 4.27 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (9-13, 4.96 ERA). First pitch is at 7:10 EST.

Rays Lose Fourth Straight 7-5

The Rays needed to snap this losing skid simply because they are running out of time. With only 15 games left, the Rays need to move and start winning fast. Jeremy Hellickson has pitched well all year but continues to not get much run support. However he took the mound for the Rays trying to get a spark started.

The Rays kicked off the scoring in the third when Doubront loaded the bases via walks. Ben Zobrist knocked in two runs with an RBI single.

The Next Batter Longoria knocked in Upton with a sac-fly to left field to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.

The Red Sox responded in the fourth with with an RBI single by James Loney to cut it to 3-1.

The Sox added on more in the fifth with an RBI single from Jacoby Ellsbury. Than Dustin Pedroia hit a sac-fly to tie the game at three.

Boston took the lead in the sixth on a throwing error by Sean Rodriguez. It was hit by Pedro Ciriaco and scored Ryan Lavarnway making it 4-3.

The Red Sox broke it open in the seventh with an RBI single by Saltalamacchia. Then Ryan Lavarnway doubled to score two more and give the Red Sox a 7-3 lead.

The Rays threatened to make it a game in the seventh when Ben Zobrist had his second two-run single on the night to make it 7-5.

The Rays just can’t win when they only collect three hits and they did fall back even more losing 7-5. The Rays are now 78-70.

notable stat lines
Jermey Hellickson 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 7 K
Felix Doubront W(11-9) 6 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 5 K
Ben Zobrist (2-4) 4 RBI

click here for a full box score

Rays news and notes
Tomorrow night the Rays continue the series. It will be Chris Archer vs. Dice-K. First pitch is at 7:10 EST.

Rays Fall To Red Sox 5-2 And Lose More Ground


Alex Cobb came in trying to stop the bleeding from what happened this past week in Baltimore and New York. What started out to be a great game for Cobb turned into a disaster quickly. A must win series for the Rays started out the wrong way.

The Rays started off the scoring in the fifth with a sacrifice bunt that scored Luke Scott and and gave the Rays a 1-0 lead.

Alex Cobb had a no hitter through 5.2 tonight, the longest of any Rays pitcher this season. It was broken up in the sixith with a two-run home run by Jacoby Ellsbury to break up the no-no and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

The Sox struck again in the seventh with an two-run single by Mauro Gomez. Jacoby Ellsbury hit another run in a few batters later with an RBI single to give Boston a 5-1 lead.

B.J. Upton scored in the ninth on a groundout by Ben Zobrist to make it 5-2.

The Rays are now 78-69.

notable stat lines
Alex Cobb L (9-9) 6 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Arron Cook W(4-10) 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
B.J. Upton (3-4) R
Luke Scott (1-2) R

click here for a full box score

Rays news and notes
Tomorrow the series continues with a 7:10 Game. It will be Jeremy Hellickson vs. Felix Doubront.

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