Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Rays

The 2008 Tampa Bay Devil Rays: A Forgotten World Series Losing Team

Had the World Series opponent for the 2008 Tampa Bay Devil Rays been anyone other than the Philadelphia Phillies I would have been on board. However I grew up a suffering fan of the Phillies and had to hope for the worst against this team of mostly unknowns. Having gone from losing almost 100 games in 2007 to nearly winning 100 in 2008 and battling to the point of getting to the World Series, this was a very accomplished team that for the most part has been forgotten in spite of all of the talent they had.

The Offense

Evan Longoria arrived with the Devil Rays in 2008 and put together a Rookie of the Year winning season with 27 home runs, 85 RBIs, and a .272 batting average. The team wasn’t completely dependent on him though as they had a few other players with notable contributions.

By Keith Allison (001H0783) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison (001H0783) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The best offensive threat the team had was first baseman Carlos Pena. Pena launched 31 home runs and knocked in 102 RBIs. He also drew 96 walks to help make up for his .247 batting average. Another guy getting on base a ton thanks to bases on balls was B.J. Upton who had 97 walks and a .383 on-base percentage. Along with his 44 stolen bases, the Devil Rays appeared to have a dominant threat at the top of the order.

Although he was the last out in the World Series, Eric Hinske was also a major reason why they got there in the first place. Hinske provided the team with the necessary skills a utility man must. He was third on the team in home runs with 20 and his versatility with the glove, although not so strong, was still a great benefit. The team should also be thankful for second baseman Akinori Iwamura whose career spontaneously combusted by 2010. Iwamura led the team with 152 games played and had a .274 batting average. It’s a silly argument, but Iwamura may have been the team’s glue.

The Pitching

Nobody on the 2008 Devil Rays’ pitching staff won 15 games. David Price only started one in the regular season along with 4 appearances in relief so at the time they didn’t have that one true dominant starter. What they did have were a couple really good pitchers including a 14-8 James Shields, an 11-9 Matt Garza, and a 12-8 Scott Kazmir. Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine also pitched well for the team–as well as needed.

By kw111786 on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By kw111786 on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The team’s bullpen was however a bit shaky. Troy Percival, who seemed unstoppable during his days with the Wherever-They-Are-Now Angels, led the team in saves with 28, but also had a 4.53 ERA. Dan Wheeler would later fill in as the ninth-inning man and earn 13 saves with a much healthier 3.12 ERA.

The rest of the bullpen was pretty good too, most notably J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour. Howell would finish the season with a 2.22 ERA in 89.1 innings pitched while Balfour had his ERA down to 1.54 in 58.1 innings pitched.

The Fielding

Always underrated yet whenever you look at the great teams they’re almost always effective in this area is the team’s ability to catch the ball then throw the ball aka fielding. The team had a .985 fielding percentage which in modern-day baseball ranks in the upper half.

Longoria played a great third base for the team and would win his first Gold Glove the following season. He probably could have won the award in 2008 if he had played in more games. The team did win one Gold Glove this year and it was a bit of an unlikely candidate. First baseman Carlos Pena made only 2 errors all season for a .998 fielding percentage. Known more for his power, nobody could have guessed he would be the guy winning a fielding award and deserving it.

2015 MLB Prediction: The American League East Disappoints Us All

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the American League East was one of the best divisions in baseball. This was in part thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays in the early part of the 1990s, the New York Yankees in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the Boston Red Sox in the 2000s up through 2013.

The other two teams in the division, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, also had competitive seasons including a World Series appearance by the latter in 2008.

In 2015, the Red Sox enter the season with a revamped offense and completely new pitching staff. The Blue Jays have added Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin while the Orioles are the defending division champions and still rather dangerous.

Overall, it’s still a strong division on paper. However, I’m predicting in 2015 this once dominant division falters and disappoints us all.

I’m not buying the Red Sox. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the one who cooked up all of their transactions, I’m smelling some bad news. There’s no true ace and several of their starting pitchers had bad seasons last year. Just because they’re in a new city that has won in recent years doesn’t mean they’ll bounce back.

The Orioles are also a major concern for me. Matt Wieters and Manny Machado will return from injury and there’s really no telling at what percent and when they actually will be back in the lineup. The loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis without any significant replacement is also troubling.


Then there’s the Blue Jays. I’m rooting really hard for them. I love the offense they have, but the pitching staff still seems to lack something. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are old enough to die of natural causes. I’m not sure that even with their potent offense we’ll see the Blue Jays in the postseason, who by the way are the only team since 2000 absent from playoff baseball.

Finally I’ll lump the Yankees and Rays in together because I don’t see either having a particularly good year and for completely opposite reasons. The Yankees are old, getting older, and make Dickey and Buehrle look like toddlers. As for the Rays, their experience makes a virgin seem confident in bed.

By james_in_to on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By james_in_to on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In the end, though, the division may remain competitive and not in a particularly good way. Maybe, they’ll battle for the playoff spot with one of the lowest win totals. The best pitcher in the entire division is probably Masahiro Tanaka and even he is a bit of a mystery.

For the first time in a while, I see the American League East placed firmly near the front door and given the job of “mat” for the rest of the league.

Are the Montreal Expos Coming Back?

New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been busy his first week, talking about exciting events for the future like he has a quota to meet before the 2015 season.

One topic Manfred has mentioned is expansion. Whenever a new team is added to the MLB it’s an exciting moment. For at least a year there’s a team to beat up on. Within three years, we may have had the opportunity to fully see them grow.

On the topic of expansion, specifically when discussing the possibility Montreal, Manfred said:

“Look, I think Montreal helped itself as a candidate for Major League Baseball with the Toronto games that they had up there last year. It’s hard to miss how many people showed up for those exhibition games. It was a strong showing. Montreal’s a great city. I think with the right set of circumstances and the right facility, it’s possible.”

Likely, expansion won’t happen since baseball is already a bit full. The option that would make more sense if baseball was to return to Montreal would be relocation. One team rumored most to possibly move north of the border are the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re basically the modern day Montreal Expos anyway. They have an ugly stadium, poor attendance, and players who deserve a lot more than the environment they’re in.

I’m very doubtful the Expos will get another chance since their attendance was pretty bad on a regular basis. I dare anyone to find a photo after 1990 where Olympic Stadium had more seats with fans in them than empty with their bright ugly yellow shade flashing on the television screen.

If the Rays were to move to Montreal, there’s a couple of things to wonder about. Do they become the Expos again? Do they still in the American League? They’d have to change the nickname since there aren’t many Rays in Montreal – not even the male name. Montreal Pierres? It’s an option.

By eric molina from New York City, United States [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By eric molina from New York City, United States [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Ben Zobrist Thanks the Tampa Bay Rays Fans for What Exactly?

As common as the flu in winter or a stingy sweat in your eyes in the summer, whenever a player leaves town for a new city they like to take out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper for everyone who still reads the archaic form of media.

Personally, I haven’t read a newspaper in at least a decade and the only time I have touched one was to clean up after a dog.

Tip for dog owners: It’s a lot easier to clean up a messy poop if you catch it with a newspaper before it hits the ground. Plus, it makes some of the articles a whole lot more interesting.

The dearly departed from Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist, followed the trend and took out an advertisement thanking the Rays’ fans. For what, I’m not exactly sure.

I have no doubt the Rays do have their loving and loyal fan base. The 2008 World Series run showed us that fans were willing to give themselves Mohawks in support of their favorite baseball franchise.

By User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "001H0388") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “001H0388”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Bud Selig came out over the weekend and claimed that St. Louis is the best baseball city. Although he’d never admit it, far behind is Tampa Bay. The Rays have never had an attendance over 2 million other than their inaugural season in 1998. Despite frequent playoff appearances, the Rays haven’t even reached an average of 20,000 per game since 2010.

This still doesn’t change Zobrist’s experience in Tampa Bay, which based on the ad, was probably a pleasant one.

You can read the ad he sent out with a pair of magnifying glasses if you have them here.

Yunel Escobar Traded Again

Infielder Yunel Escobar knew his job was in jeopardy when the Tampa Bay Rays signed Asdrubal Cabrera. The thought became a reality when the Rays traded him along with Ben Zobrist to the Oakland Athletics this past Saturday.

Before he could even get settled in on the California coast and speak with a Realtor in Oakland, Escobar was traded to the Washington Nationals for relief pitcher Tyler Clippard.

Joining the Nationals, the team now has two options. Either Escobar could take over as the starting second baseman for Danny Espinosa or as the starting shortstop if they decide to trade Ian Desmond. I personally think trading Desmond is a bad move, but this is also the same team that made the playoffs and decided not to use their best starter-Stephen Strasburg.

Essentially, the Nationals traded Clippard and Cabrera whom they lost in free agency for Escobar. These days Escobar is a .250-.260 hitter without much speed. His defense is about average so I’m not really sure why they’d want to give up a bat like Desmond’s for Escobar. Unless they get back something significant or the Jayson Werth injury is far more serious than they’re making us believe, it’s best Escobar starts taking some groundballs at second base.

Ian Desmond Almost Became a New York Met

Ian Desmond, the shortstop for the Washington Nationals, was almost a New York Met.

The Nationals apparently were going to receive the package of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar that the Tampa Bay Rays sent to the Oakland Athletics. Desmond would have gone to the Mets and they would have sent a couple of prospects to the Rays to complete the three-team deal. This information comes after Zobrist is no longer available and the Nationals spent plenty of time denying they had any interest in Zobrist.

Had the Nationals made the trade I think they would be better. Desmond isn’t that much better than Zobrist – if at all. Plus they would have gotten Escobar who would have become the new shortstop with Zobrist playing second base. Zobrist would also have a good opportunity at starting the season in the outfield for Jayson Werth if he was not ready on opening day.

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Washington Nationals shortstop Ian  Desmond (6)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (6)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Since the deal never happened we don’t know whose fault it is that it didn’t. The Rays may have just liked the prospects the A’s had better and didn’t feel like waiting around for their National League East counterparts to finalize everything.

So instead of the Nationals and Mets getting better, the two enemies may have sabotaged each other.

Ben Zobrist Perfect for the 2014 Oakland Athletics, Not the 2015 Team

The Oakland Athletics went out and traded for one of the more desired non-free agents this winter, Ben Zobrist. They picked him up along with Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso and a pair of minor leaguers.

Zobrist is a unique player and one of the few still playing with as much versatility as he possesses. Zobrist has experience everywhere except for pitcher and catcher, primarily spent at second base and the corner outfield positions.

By User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "001H0388") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “001H0388”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
On the 2014 Athletics, Zobrist would have been perfect. The team needed infield help and at times the outfield lacked because of injuries. However on the 2015 team, Zobrist seems like just another player on a team I predict won’t be very good.

The Athletics are lacking power and this is something Zobrist cannot provide them. He’s a good hitter with above average power for what he is – a second baseman best used in multiple platoon situations throughout the season – so I’m not quite sure why the A’s wanted him. Zobrist is a better pickup for a team contending in 2015. He’s due to make just $7.5 million with a contract expiring at the end of the season. I don’t see the Athletics making the playoffs this year even with a healthy starting rotation. They lost far too much offensively and it’s going to take each player 1-9 getting lots of hits if they want to outscore the opponent.

An already established roster with major health concerns would have been a perfect fit for Zobrist. The Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, or Texas Rangers are just three teams that immediately come to mind. He’s a waste on a team like the Athletics even if he fits the bill as a good bargain – the only thing that seems to matter to General Manager Billy Beane these days.

The Rays probably could have gotten a bit more for Zobrist. I don’t know much about the prospects they acquired so there is a possibility they win out on this deal. The Rays are going to be pretty bad in 2015 with or without Zobrist. Not for a second do I question the trade on their end.

How Does Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres Impact His Fantasy Baseball Value?

Having Wil Myers on your fantasy baseball team in 2014 probably made you sour on him quite a bit. Before his injury with constant questionable returns, Myers had a very bad year.

By the time the season ended, he had only a .222 batting average in 87 games. His 6 home runs made us question how worthwhile he was keeping. In addition, his unbelievably high 90 strikeouts in what amounted to just over half a season was a huge grievance in leagues where strikeouts provided negative points.

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Wil  Myers") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Wil Myers”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Beginning in 2015, Myers will be a member of the San Diego Padres. This is great news for the Padres, good news for Myers since he may have needed a change of scenery, and terrible news for fantasy owners with Myers on the roster–maybe.

PetCo Park is not hitter-friendly and we can certainly expect home run numbers for anyone there to be lower than they should be. However, the term “hitter-friendly” has far more to do with home runs than actual batting average. Since Myers is not someone likely to in any ballpark have a huge home run surge, his overall value should not be hurt much.

Myers’ overall value is still waning as it could go up exponentially if Matt Kemp does end up with the Padres. More help in the lineup means more quality pitches for Myers to see. Without someone like Kemp on the current Padres’ roster, Myers is relied on a lot more than he would be with an already established star batting ahead of him. At this point in his career, Myers has yet to prove he is worthy of batting right in the middle. On a good team with a solid 3-5, Myers could be a very credible six-hole hitter.

Right now for Myers to be at his most successful it will depend on how well others do around him.

In terms of fantasy baseball, there doesn’t seem to be that big of a difference since the trade. Many people still believe in him and as the owner of a made-up baseball team, you should trust these experts who hopefully dedicate a lot more to their real teams than you do the one with the insulting nickname about your opponent.

Also consider Myers will get to play a nice chunk of games at Coors Field where he will hopefully, like everyone else, reap the rewards of Denver’s thin air.

Searching for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Interim Closer After the Jake McGee Injury

There are a lot of things I am embarrassed about. One of them is not my fandom of Tampa Bay Rays’ closer Jake McGee.

A bit bias because he helped my fantasy baseball team in 2014, I like McGee for other less selfish reasons. Having him on the Boston Red Foxx just helped me take notice.

McGee’s 2014 season was a breakthrough one and his first as the team’s primary closer; at least when Joe Maddon finally realized he had a gem in the bullpen. In 71.1 innings, McGee had a 1.89 ERA. He also struck out 90 batters and allowed only 2 home runs all season long.

Are you in love yet?

He could have been a great closer for another season however he will be starting the 2015 campaign on the disabled list. Until he comes back, the team will have to look elsewhere for the majority of the saves.

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Jake McGee") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Jake McGee”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Luckily the Rays have options. Grant Balfour and Ernesto Frieri are already on the roster and have the experience. However each does have a glaring weakness which could derail their chances.

Balfour had already been the closer for the Rays in 2014 before losing the job. His ERA for the season ended up at just below 5.00. He has a better history prior, but his days as a closer could be over.

Frieri’s struggles at the closer spot are more well-known. Until 2014 things had been smooth as the ninth-inning man for the Los Angeles Angels. Then he imploded and ended up getting traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, probably with the hope that he could reinvent himself. He did even worse in Pittsburgh and finished the 2014 season with an ERA over 7.00.

These two options look pretty weak based on the recent play. Considering this, they may want to use the newly acquired Kevin Jepsen in the closer role. They picked him up today from the Angels for Matt Joyce so they certainly should make the best use of him since it cost them one of their best offensive players. Jepsen may only have 5 career saves, but I think it would be foolish to rule him out as a closer.

If they want to find their new Fernando Rodney, the infamous Brian Wilson also happens to be available since being designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in the day.

By Stacie Wheeler [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Stacie Wheeler [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Hopefully McGee recovers quickly and the Rays manage to get by with any of these options or possibly a closer-by-committee including more than one. Since the 2015 season will likely result in a last or near-last place finish in the division, does really even matter?

Five Statistical Facts about Evan Longoria

Far from a desperate housewife other than in name the franchise player for the Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria, has had an interesting career so far. From the seasons where he challenged for an MVP to the ones where the team wondered if he was actually the best player to build around or completely overrated, these are five statistical facts about his career.

Consistently Inconsistent

I can’t quite put my nose on it when looking at Longoria’s career statistics–mostly because I worry my nose is greasy and I don’t want to dirty up my computer screen. Whatever my reason, there’s something consistently inconsistent about him. Excluding the 2012 season where he only played in 74 games, Longoria has hit between 22-33 home runs each season and driven in 85-113 runs. Many of his other numbers look pretty on-par with other seasons however at the same time some do not. For instance, his batting average in 2010 and 2012 were .294 and .289, respectively. Then in 2011 and 2014 he hit only .244 and .253. There’s something very uncomfortable to me about this and I’m not sure I can ever embrace Longoria because of it.

Postseason Batting

The Tampa Bay Rays have been to one World Series with Longoria and perhaps his horrible performance in the postseason is why they didn’t win and have failed to get back. In the 2008 World Series, Longoria was 1 for 20 with a .050 batting average. His overall postseason batting average is a dismal .191. The only positive I see from the numbers is that he does have 9 home runs and 21 RBIs in only 30 games.

By Keith Allison (001H0783) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison (001H0783) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
All-Star Selection and Gold Glove Drought

In each of Longoria’s first three seasons, he was rewarded with a trip to the All-Star Game. In his second and third season, he also won a Gold Glove. Heck, let’s throw in there that he won the 2008 Rookie of the Year. Then the 2011 season happened where he had a very strange year. Hitting 31 home runs and 99 RBIs would normally be great however he had only a .244 batting average. I’m not sure what happened because he did still have a .355 on-base percentage. The important thing to note here is Longoria has not been back to the All-Star Game or won a Gold Glove since he did both in 2010. What happened?

July Struggles

An amazing anomaly is the batting average Longoria has in the month of July throughout his career. Normally a month where hitters take advantage of the warm weather, he has struggled. Longoria has only a .231 career batting average in the month of July. His .344 on-base percentage is however still better than August where he gets on base at a .313 rate. His batting average that month though is .261.

Great with Runners in Scoring Position

I feel like a lot of what I wrote here about Longoria was negative so let me share something he does well: hit with runners in scoring position. Longoria has a career .284 batting average with runners in scoring position and has hit 41 home runs. Without anyone on base, he’s hitting only .251. I suppose this means the key to the Rays’ success is getting someone to second base by the time it’s Longoria’s time to hit. Can you believe that? Get runners on base for your best hitter equals success. What a surprise.