Even after defeat, the Rays are better than last year

by Gary Shelton on June 20, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Morrison runs towards home plate./STEVEN MUNCIE

Morrison runs toward home plate./STEVEN MUNCIE

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

You would not call them dangerous. You would not call them dominant. You would not call them dynamic.

Not yet, anyway.

And still, the Tampa Bay Rays are better than they were. Isn't that a start?

This time a year ago, the Rays were about to conclude an 11-game losing streak that would pretty much end any talk about the team. They sunk to 13 ½ games from first place, and already, fans were wondering when they might be mathematically eliminated. They didn't pitch very well, they didn't hit very well and they didn't play defense very well. They ran the bases like men looking for directions.

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Souza Jr. celebrates his 14th homer./STEVEN MUNCIE

Souza Jr. celebrates his 14th homer./STEVEN MUNCIE

This time last year, the Rays were 31-42 and sinking like a rock in water.

This year, the improvement has been noticable. Chris Archer, 4-10 at this time last year, has shaved almost a full point off of his ERA. Three times, he has stopped three-game losing streaks. Alex Colome has 19 saves, the same number as a year ago. Jacob Faria was a mystery to the big leagues; this year, he is 3-0.

The hitters, too, have been better. Corey Dickerson was hitting .209 this time last year; he's 116 points higher this season. Tim Beckham has added 93 points to his average (.currently .283). Steven Souza is 14 points higher and has four more homers. Logan Morrison has an additional eight points on his average, but he has 13 more homers (21) and more than double the RBI (47).

Tim Beckham's average has flourished with playoff time./STEVEN MUNCIE

Tim Beckham's average has flourished with playoff time./STEVEN MUNCIE

Then, there are the additions. Mallex Smith has filled in far better for the injured Keven Kiermaier than anyone did last year. Colby Rasmus has been a bat off of the bench. And Beckham has been solid as a fill-in at short.

Oh, there have been some dips. Evan Longoria is eight homers shy of where he was last year. Brad Miller, even before he was hurt, was showing severe signs of falling back to earth.

But the Rays, so far, have been good enough to make you wonder if the team can continue to flirt with the wild card standings.

Do you trust them yet? Or do nights like Monday, when the team lost 7-3 to a Reds team that had lost nine straight, still make you wonder? Do you fear a trap door like last year's may still be waiting? Do you think the bullpen might catch up to this team?

For now, however, there is reason to pay attention.

Isn't that an improvement?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 20, 2017 at 7:21 am

The biggest surprise has been the offense. We certainly aren’t used to seeing the Rays hit homers like they have or mount comebacks when they are down a few runs. They strike out way too much and the defense kills them at times but overall a huge improvement over the last couple of years. Still you worry about the bullpen. Other than Colome who has been outstanding nobody else can be trusted. But they can be fun to watch. If only they could speed up the pace of the games a little.

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Gary Shelton June 20, 2017 at 7:17 pm

You know, the home runs are only nine ahead of last year’s 102 after 73 games. The comebacks have made it seem like more, though, because they’ve made the homers more important. I agree with you completely about the bullpen, though. It’s the weak point of this team. Pruitt, at times, gets on decent streaks. I had hope for Alvarado, but he gives up too many homers. You’re also right on the pace of the game. Three of the five slowest pitchers in the game are loal. I’ve started to play a game noticing what the Rays’ hitters do between pitches. I think Souza is in a one-man play.

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