Rays Report Card 1-5
Best thing about making a lst about the first half is trying to explain to the Yankee and Boston fans that we are not going away this year….or in the near future.
I am proud to say this is the final blog about the Top 5 things that needed to happen in the first half for the Rays. I think we all know they went above our expectations in so many levels, but now they are home and need our support for a stretch run. Remember, we only have a handful of homestands left in the year to throw a few monkeywrenches into the fire, so get out here and clank those bells for the Rays.
See you at the ballpark:
5). Starting Lineup leads off with 3 lefties:
I am so glad that Rays Manager Joe Maddon corrected this before it got us in a huge hole. I understand the logic of having Akinora Iwamura leading off for the team. He is a contact hitter who currently is batting .274 , and is has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games, even during the losing streak Aki was hitting. Aki also leads the club with 14 infield hits this season.
Carl Crawford seems to me to be a more natural hitter at the 2 spot, but he is still a bit too aggressive at the plate. Putting him number 2 actually seemed to calm him down a bit, but his average has suffered this season for the first time in his career. He recently went through a 0-25 streak and is still 6th in the AL in runs scored with 62.
Crawford also recently got his 300th career stolen base, making him only the 9th player in the modern era to hit that peak before his 27th birthday.
B J Upton batting 3rd has broken the lefty hex and put a legitimate right-handed up in the lineup. This makes it more difficult for peole to try and pitch around him with Carlo Pena behind him. B J has used this spot to produce 61 walks, 27 stolen bases and he has reaxhed base 150 time this year. All these statistics put Upton in the top 10 in the AL. Upton is batting .409 over the last two season when he doesn’t strike out.
Crawford and Upton needs to develop better plate discipline in the 2nd half to give the Rays better baserunning opportunites with men in scoring position. Aki is coming out of a fly ball curse to finally driving the ball on the ground for basehits and give the Rays’ runners a better chance to advance on the play.
4). Long Term Deals or extensions tfor the anchors of the team:
I have to publicly commend the Rays fron toffice for several deal this year to shore up the squad for the future. I particularly like the James Shield contract. It showed an eraly committment by the team to tis youg players. But we had no idea what else they had cooked up…
The contract for Scott Kazmir surprised alot of people. It was a pleasant surprise for me, and one that I thought was long over due, but negotiations can be like that sometimes, agents do not always work in harmony with the teams. And the Evan Longoria contract is looking like more of a bargain ever day now. To lock up these 3 guys is a huge committment to the fans and the team for the next 5 years or so. Great job Rays front office!!
Only thing better would be a extention for Crawford before the end of the season. I think a nice offer to J P Howell would also be in the best interest of the club. And maybe a 2 or 3 year contract for Eric Hinske might make everyone in the stands cheer Andrew’s name.
3.) A Healthy Rotation could be a Monster for our division:
The Rays have one of the youngest starting rotation in baseball. There is not a single starter older than 26 on the squad. That will bode well for them in the next few years as the rotation will have upgrades and not huge changes based on free agency. A remarkable statistic is that although Andy Sonnanstine has the most wins (10) for the Rays this season, he also had allowed the mosr run against him (66), and gotten the best support by the Rays offense ( 3.47 runs per start).
Edwin Jackson, long considered by most Rays fans as the most inconsistant on the staff is actually one of the best improved pitchers over the last year in the majors. Considering that Jackson had a losing record last season, his 5-6 mark this year is a massive improvement. Jackson also has 9 quality starts htis season, 1 behind Shields and Matt Garza.
I think Jackson and Kazmir will be turning up a notch the rest of the year for the team. With the rosters expanding in Sept., you might see David Price and maybe Wade Davis up here pitching for the Rays down the stretch.
2). Health,Health, Health:
The Rays have lost 93 games each due to the injuries to Rocco Baldelli and Chad Orvella. They lost Carlos Pena for a finger injury for20 games, and Jason Bartlett should be ready to come back soon after missing 9 games.
The Bullpen has lost Troy Percival for only 11 games this year. But Gary Glover missed 14 games for shoulder tendonitis, and Al Reyes has missed 25 games for shoulder tendonitis. Cliff Floys (29 games), Matt Garza ( 16 games), and Scott Kazmir (30 games) have been lost this season to injury.
Grade………………………………………………..C for injuries.
But an “A” to Ron Porterfield and Paul Harker for their efforts as the Rays training staff.
Joe Maddon took time before practice yesterday to talk to the team and remind them of the upcoming second half’s stress and goals. That this team has to put the last week of the first half to bed and awaken renewed and get back that killer vigor that dominated the clubhouse in the first half.
The best thing about beginnings of “new” halves or segments to a season is the transformation you can make to your attitude and confidience levels as a team. If this team would just look at the records and the positive results from the first half, how can you not get excited and want to get out there and do it again and again.
Joe has this squad wanting it again, and that can only mean trouble for the rest of the AL. With huge homestands and bigger roadtrips down the stretch, this squad needs to remember what got them to this level and step it up one more notch. Go get ‘em Rays.
Well, that is review of the First Half of our “Miracle Summer.” The team has alot of work ahead of them to get to those goals of post-season or beyond. I am going to predict 91 wins by the end of the year, and a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.
I would enjoy a AL East crown more, but with the Trading deadline 13 days away still, our divisional foes might make a blockbuster and upgrade beyond our expectations. But, playoffs are in the mix in my mind, and we shall go from there.
Do not forget to “Fill the Trop.” tonight. Hess Express will be giving every fan in attendance a free $5 Gas card.
Also, it is Rays Fantasy Baseball night, as well as $ 1 Hot Dog night. So come on out and support the team…..See you at the Trop!!!!!!!!!!!!