Looking back at the 2018 Rays’ season

by Gary Shelton on October 3, 2018 · 10 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell could win the Cy Young award./STEVEN MUNCIE

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

5 Observations

1. If you aren't convinced yet about the strength of the opener, you will be. Too many teams simply don't have enough starters and, as a result, will try to limit the matchups. You'll see more in the future.

2. The reason I would vote for Kevin Cash for Manager of the Year is simple. Swap the guys in the dugouts. I think Cash could manage talented, high-paid players. But could those guys squeeze 90 wins out of the Rays?

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3. Blake Snell ... worst to first. If he doesn't win the Cy Young Award, they ought to stop giving it away.

4. There is a small dark cloud over the head of Kevin Kiermaier. He won't be traded yet, because his return would be too small. But it would be nice if he could stay healthy for a year.

5. Well, I guess I was wrong about the size of mistake that letting go of Jim Hickey was, huh? If there is an assistat coach of the year, you have to give it to Kyle Snyder.

Cash saw his team ripen./JEFFREY S. KING

On Other Fields

(Where the Rays would have ranked in other divisions)

AL East               3                       18

AL Central         2                         1

AL West             3                        13

NL East              1 (tied)             --

NL Central         3                        5 1/2

NL West             3                        1 1/2

Snell was pleased with his performance./JEFFREY S. KING

ESPN's Cy Young Predictor

1. Blake Snell. 21-5 1.89 221

2. Blake Treinen. 9-2 0.78 100

3. Corey Kluber 20-7 2.89 222

4. Justin Verlander 16-9 2.52 290

5. Edwin Diaz 0-4 1.96 124

José Alvarado celebrates a save that wasn't blown./STEVEN MUNICE

Areas Where They Missed the Playoffs

1. They lost in on the road. They were just 39-41, as opposed to 51-30 at home.

2. They lost it to the National League. The Rays were just 7-13 against the NL.

3. They lost it in the late innings. The Rays were fifth in the majors with 22 blown saves, including eight by Sergio Romo.

4. They lost in close games. The Rays played in 59 one-run games, and they lost a league-tying (Arizona) 31 of them.

5. They lost it on the basepaths. The Rays were caught stealing 51 times this year, which was 10 more than the next-to-last finisher (the White Sox) and 30 more than the league leaders (New York and Oakland).

Mallex Smith helped the Rays hit for more average./CARMEN MANDATO

Comparing the Years

2017                                                      2018

694                Runs                              716

,245             Average                          ,258

228                HRs                                150

88              Stolen Bases                   128

1,538              Strikeouts                  1,388

Cash enjoyed his first 90-win season./JEFFREY S. KING

Best Rays Seasons

1. 2008                  97

2. 2010                  96

3. 2014                  92

4. 2011                  91

5. 2012                 90

2018   (tie)          90

Duffy had a great comeback season./JEFFREY S. KING

Top 5 Players

1. Blake Snell

2. Joey Wendle

3. Mallex Smith

4. Matt Duffy

5. Tommy Pham

Jake Bauers celebrates his winning homer../STEVEN MUNICE

5 Best Wins

July 22 6-4, Miami             Robertson walk-off grand slam

Sept. 10 6-5, Cleveland      Ji-Man Choi walk-off two-run HR

June 24 7-6, Yankees         Jake Bauers walk-off solo HR

April 27 8-6, Twins             Carlos Gomez walk-off two-run HR

Aug. 7 4-3, Orioles              Adames walk-off solo HR

Romo saved some, but he blew some./JEFFREY S. KING

5 Tough Losses

1. Sept. 20. This one still stings. The Rays were ahead of Toronto 8-2 in the ninth, but for some reason, Kevin Cash stayed with Jamie Schultz for 41 pitches. Then Sergio Romo poured gas on the fire, and the Rays lost a 9-8 game.

2. Sept. 14. The A's won 31 one-run games this year. The Rays lost 31 one-run games. But never was the disparity as noticeable as when the A's took a 10-inning, 2-1 win over the Rays as Khris Davis hit his 42nd home run.

3. May 13. The Baltimore Orioles were dreadful in 2018, but not so much against the Rays. They beat the Rays 17-1 on this night.

4. June 1. Seattle's Mitch Haniger hit a 3-2 fastball in the bottom of the 13th for a walk-off victory.

5. July 7. Jose Bautista hit a grand slam for his first walk-off homer ever to lift the New York Mets to a 5-1 victory.

Yarbrough won 16 games as a rookie./JEFFREY S. KING

Most Ray Wins, Season

1. Blake Snell, 2018        21-5

2. David Price, 2012        20-5

3. David Price, 2010        19-6

4. Matt Moore, 2013       17-4

5. Ryan Yarbrough, 2018   16-6

James Shields, 2011       16-12

Pham was better for the Rays than the Cardinals./STEVEN MUNCIE

5 Who Finished Strong

Before Aug. 1 After August 1

.248 Tommy Pham .343

.200 Willy Adames .329

.285 Joey Wendle .324

.288 Mallex Smith .309

.135   Brandon Lowe. .272

(Lowe did not come up until after August 1. His before-and-after totals are as of August 24.)

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Gomez didn't hit much down the stretch./CARMEN MANDATO

5 Who Didn't Finish Strong

.221 Carlos Gomez .152

.243 Jake Bauers .153

.226 Jesus Sucre .179

.195 Kevin Kiermaier .236

.304 Matt Duffy .272

Cron provided most of the Rays' power./CARMEN MANDATO

5 Borderline Guys Worth Bringing Back

1. C.J. Cron

2. Ji-Man Choi

3. Chaz Roe

4. Kevin Kiermaier

5. Jesus Sucre

Wendle hit .300 in his fist season./CARMEN MANDATO

5 Top Rookies

1. Joey Wendle

2. Willy Adames

3. Ryan Yarbrough

4. Yonny Chirinos

5. Ryne Stanek

Stanek could open again, or he coudl close./STEVEN MUNCIE

5 Questions

1. Who is going to close out games in 2019? Sergio Romo is running on fumes, but there doesn't seem to be anyone equipped to finish games on the roster. Could Jose Alvardo do it? Ryne Stanek? Or might that be the Rays' only investment in the off-season?

2. Who is among the next wave of youngsters to arrive, and will there be any room for them once they get here? Already, we have heard the trumpeting for Wander Franco and Jesus Sanchez, but the roster doesn't have a lot of slots left.

3. Can any of this year's long relievers take over as regular starter? That's the plan long-term. With Ryan Yarbough, Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks, there are possibilities. But don't expect the Rays to wander far from their new toy.

4. Are the Rays a good argument that the MLB playoffs should expand by two teams? Hey, it isn't as if the sport could use the additional interest. The NHL and NBA each allow 16 teams into the post season and the NFL allows 12. Major League baseball allows just 10.

5. Will Kevin Cash stay up nights thinking about lineups? In the middle of the infield, does he go with Willy Adames and Daniel Roberson? With Joey Wendle? What about Brandon Lowe? Who does he play in the outfield? Smith, Kiermaier and Pham? Does Austin Meadows get a thought? How about catcher? Michael Perez was impressive. Nick Chiuffo had his moments? There are others in the minors. And isn't it supposed to be difficult?

Adames surged after Aug. 1./STEVEN MUNCIE

5 Best Averages

1. Joey Wendle .300

2. Mallex Smith .296

3. Matt Duffy .294

4. Willy Adames .278

5. Tommy Pham .275

-- Pham hit .343 with the Rays This is his combined average for the year.

Kiermaier was hurt much of 2018./JEFFREY S. KING

5 Worst Averages

1. Kevin Kiermaier .217

2. Johnny Field .213

3. Carlos Gomez .208

4. Jesus Sucre .209

5. Jake Bauers .201

Snell led the league in wins, ERA../JEFFREY S. KING

League Stats

Wins                                               21. Blake Snell

ERA                                                1.89 Blake Snell

Batting                                         8.  Joey Wendle

11. Mallex Smith

12. Matt Duffy

Stolen bases                                 3.  Mallex Smith

Home runs                                    25.  C.J. Cron

Saves                                                8. Sergio Romo

Blown saves                                    1. Sergio Romo

Singles                                               10. Matt Duffy

Triples                                              2. Mallex Smith

3.Kevin Kiermaier

Attendance                             29. Rays (All the way to next to last)

 

Longoria hit just .244 for Giants./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Where Did They Go?

(Say this for the Rays. They know when to trade a guy. With a couple of exceptions, they didn't miss their 2017 regulars.)

Logan Morrison, Twins             .186               15 homers

Brad Miller, Brewers                  .230

Adeiny Hechavarria, Yankees.  .194

Evan Longoria, Giants                .244

Denard Span, Mariners             .272

Corey Dickerson, Pirates          .300

Steven Souza, Diamondbacks.  .222              5  homers

Tim Beckham, Orioles                 .230

Chris Archer , Pirates                      3-3              4.33 ERA

Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox               3-3              3.33 ERA

Alex Cobb, Orioles                          5-15            4.90 ERA

Jake Odorizzi, Twins                      7-10            4.49 ERA

Alex Colome, Mariners                  5-0               2.53 ERA       1 Save

Brad Boxberger, Diamondbacks  3-7           4.39 ERA  32 Saves

Predictions

Wild Card Games

New York Yankees over Oakland

Cubs over Rockies

First Round

Chicago over Milwaukee

Braves over Dodgers

Astros over Indians

Red Sox over Yankees

Second Round

Chicago over Braves

Red Sox over Astros

World Series

Red Sox over Chicago

5 Closing Thoughts

Mallex Smith is much better than he started./JEFFREY S. KING

1. I don't know if this season will help the Rays get their new stadium. But it couldn't hurt to make the voters smile.

2. I still think the Rays would have been tough to beat in a one-game playoff with Snell on the mound.

3. Instead of Saturday concerts by over-the-hill bands, the Rays' post-game will now feature soccer matches by over-the-hill midfielders.

4. Quick proposition: Who wins mmore games in 2019? Tyler Glasnow or Chris Archer?

5. This team has set up the Rays for the future for either success or disappointment. Next year, people won't project 100 games. They'll expect Snell to be one of the league's best pitchers, and Joey Wendle to be a versatile player who hits nearly .300 and Willy Adames to break out. They'll think Mallex Smith is going to be a star and Ryan Yarbrough will win in double digits and the opener to make sense again. All of that's tougher to deal with for the players, but it's baseball.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Willson October 4, 2018 at 10:36 pm

This is one of the best and most informative sports columns that I have read all year……thanks Gary.

Reply

Gary Shelton October 5, 2018 at 8:44 am

Thanks. It was fun to do.

Reply

Larry Beller October 3, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Great column Gary. You really captured the highs and lows of the Rays season. If you don’t mind I’d like to add my own 5 closing thoughts.

1) The Rays management has proved this year that they are way more knowledgeable than any of us gave them credit for.
2) I’m bringing back both C J Cron and Choi. Jake Bauers hasn’t proved anything yet and could still be a bust although we certainly hope not.
3) If MLB wants to expand the playoffs that’s fine with me but only if they shorten the regular season. It’s way too long now and we can’t be playing playoff games during Thanksgiving week.
4) The Rays definitely need to find a closer. The match up game is fine for the first 8 innings but in the 9th I want a guy who is money.
5) If the Rays and the As get can get their stadium issues resolved then MLB can decide it they are going to expand and then get around to realignment. The Rays have to get in another division and away from the Yankees and Red Sox.

Actually make it six because here is 1 more.
6) The biggest reason the Rays didn’t make the playoffs is due to their horrible start. They do that just about every year and have to get that fixed in spring training next year. Make the guys work a little harder in the spring so they are ready to go on day one.

Reply

Gary Shelton October 3, 2018 at 4:01 pm

That’s six fine takes, Larry. The only quibble I have is bringing back Choi and Cron. I’m not sure the roster can handle them both. Have you looked at it? It’s going to be a tight fit in a lot of areas. The jury is out on Bauers, I agree. But he has to play so we’ll see. That leaves the DH (unless it’s Meadows) for Cron and Choi to fight over. Neither are particularly versatile players who can help you in other areas (defense? pitch running). It’s good we have a season worth reflecting. Last year, no one would have read this.

Reply

Larry Beller October 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm

I know it’s a really tight fit at 1st base and DH. Choi may have to go. He is a LH hitter and the Rays have a lot of those plus he can’t play the field as far as we know.

Have to keep Cron to platoon with Bauers at first and DH. If Bauers flames out Cron becomes the regular. If the Rays let him go they will regret it. If Cron does well he will become too expensive to keep 2 years down the road but they can trade him then and get a good return. The Rays need some power and Cron is the best they have.

Reply

Gary Shelton October 3, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Personally, I think the team has to choose between Cron and Choi, and I think how much Cron earns is going to make the difference. If he gets a huge arbitration settlement then he’s gone and the team settles for Choi. I think they think more of Bauers than you do.

Reply

Larry Beller October 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm

I was sure Bauers was a keeper when he first came up and did so well right away. But as time went on he slumped badly. That’s all I have to go on. Everyone assumes he is going to be a very good player but he still has to go out there and do it. At this point he has a lot to prove.

The Rays 2019 payroll will be their lowest in years so unless they add outside established players in the off season so they certainly can afford to keep Cron if they like his production and I don’t know why they wouldn’t. But given their history anybody on the roster with a big salary is a trade target so you are probably right that he won’t stick around. I think that’s a mistake.

BILL MYERS October 3, 2018 at 8:34 am

Ok! I am officially on the 2019 Rays band wagon. A few adjustments and tweeks and this team could make a serious run for a championship! GO RAYS!

Reply

Gary Shelton October 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm

It’s nice to worry about the field rather than the empty seats or the new stadium or Montreal, isn’t it?

Reply

Gary Shelton October 3, 2018 at 10:52 pm

I like Cron, too, because the team has zero other power except for him. Their history, however, says that they don’t pay big bucks for designated hitters. I wouldn’t let him go easily, but this organization has done a lot of things right lately, and I disagreed with a lot of the moves. If all of their analytics say that they should trust Bauers, that won’t sour me on this team. Yet.

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