When you’re in the same division as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, you often get overlooked. And that’s just how it’s been in seasons past for the Tampa Bay Rays. But not this year. They might be one of the best teams in the MLB right now with a distinct possibility of becoming the AL East champs. Despite having a payroll that’s the lowest in the major leagues, the Rays are currently ballin’ on a budget. But just how are they this good? Let’s discuss. And then you can go see for yourself!
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The Rays Pitching Staff is Strong
This is what they’re good at. The Rays have always done a great job developing pitchers, and their pitching and defense alone should lead them to a great record. For the ninth time in ten years, it looks like they’ll have a staff ERA of less than 4.00.
Tampa Bay’s rotation is excellent and the club utilizes a strategy they created known as “the opener” to ahead – they use a hard thrower (who’d typically be a reliever) to open the game and get the first outs. It got them 90 wins last season, so they’re doing it again this season.
The Rays have only had 56 homers hit against them so far and we’re nearly halfway through the 2019 season. Pitcher Charlie Morton can take a lot of credit for that, having given up only four home runs himself. Blake Snell is also an elite pitcher, having just won the Cy Young award last year, and just as good as the likes of the Astro’s Justin Verlander according to stats. If right-hander Tyler Glasnow could get healthy, the Rays would be even more impressive.
And the Rays are winning all these games with an Opening Day payroll of just $50 million. Compare that to the Red Sox and the Yankee’s budgets of $200 million, and you’ll see why their performance is so outstanding. They work with what they have and do a great job developing young arms. Other than signing Charlie Morton for $30 million in the offseason, they can’t go out and nab a free agent too often. According to Kyle Snyder, the Rays pitching coach, “There is a lot of hard work and collaborative effort among our scouting and player development, and really, just building relationships with the pitchers.”
Yeah, it shows.
The Batting Lineup is Too
The Rays are putting way more balls into play than their opponents (over 100) and hitting fewer pop-ups as well. Acquiring Tommy Pham and Avisail Garcia was a great move on the Rays’ part too. These two outfielders are nailing it when it comes to hitting ground balls, an essential skill with the way Tropicana Field’s turf plays. Garcia’s numbers are consistent across the board, with 72 hits, 11 homers, and 35 runs, and Pham has the most hits of all the Rays with 73 right now. Austin Meadows is perhaps their biggest slugger on paper with the best batting average on the team (.314), but Brandon Lowe leads the lineup with the most home runs (15) and runs batted in (44).
Homers by Pham and Lowe got the Rays the W on Sunday in a tight 6-5 game against the Angels.
Lowe could even be a sneaky early favorite for Rookie of the Year this season and it’s looking like he’s probably worth that six-year $24 million deal they signed him for back in March. While he’s struggled against left-handed pitchers and he may not be able to keep his production level this high over the next few months, Lowe is an intelligent base runner who can hit the ball hard. People are definitely watching him to see how this season plays out.
The Rays just split their four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels, but they’re taking on division opponents the Yankees in New York City this week. Those are some crucial games as we march toward the postseason – the Rays would love not to be the Wild Card team of the AL East this year! Don’t you want to catch one of those games? We’ve got tickets!
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