As the playoffs turn to the championship series for each league, enough time has passed to reflect on the rough season had by the Tampa Bay Rays. Even though the Rays finished 80-82 on the season, fourth in the American League Eastern Division, the team did prove they were undervalued at the beginning; as many industry experts, as well as The Lion’s Pride itself, projected 90-plus losses for the Rays this year.
The Rays were in first place in late June, with an outstanding starting rotation, and a bullpen that had the second lowest earned run average in the American League. The offense struggled, as expected, but the batters had done enough to keep the team on top of the Eastern division despite James Loney, Daniel Nava and Tim Beckham going down with injuries.
Unfortunately, things began to fall apart. The same bullpen that maintained the low ERA started to crumble under the weight of the workload of the season. The back end starters, Matt Moore specifically, did not perform up to expectations when returning from injuries. The offense dried up, making any pitching performance that resulted in more than three runs allowed was a loss. All of this combined to cause a free fall that the Rays could not escape from.
That is not to say there is no hope for next year though. The Rays retain a young core of very talented starting pitchers, including 27-year-old ace Chris Archer, who lead the team with 252 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA. 25-year-old Jake Odorizzi also had a superb season, with a 3.35 ERA, good for 8th in the American League. Along with making the All-Star game, closer Brad Boxberger led the American League with 41 saves.
The batting is, and will continue to be, the central problem. Other than third baseman Evan Longoria, there are not many batters that inspire fans. Logan Forsythe led the team with a .281 batting average, which means he was the only Tampa batter that finished in the top-30 of American League batters. Longoria finished top of the team with 73 RBI, which was only good enough to tie for 38th in the league.
It won’t take much to fix the Rays. If they are able to acquire a batter to protect Longoria in the lineup, his stats will rise, giving them a better offense overall. They have more than enough starting pitching, so trading one for that bat would not be a bad idea. All things considered, if the Rays are cautiously aggressive with their off season moves, a push for the 2016 postseason is not out of the realm of possibilities.