The Tampa Bay Rays are at the midpoint of the 2021 season.
The Tampa Bay Rays, the defending American League champions are 49-36 at the halfway point of the season.
The Rays trail Boston by 4.5 games in the AL East. If the season ended today, the Rays would play the Oakland A’s in the wildcard game for the right to advance in the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at some of the surprises and disappointments for the Rays so far in the 2020 campaign.
Best starting pitcher: Tyler Glasnow
Glasnow is the ace in this Rays starting rotation. Glasnow had a 5-2 record with a 2.67 ERA when he was put on the DL with a partially torn UCL.
There is no timetable for his return, but the expectation is that Glasnow will be able to return sometime in September and help the Rays during the stretch run.
Since Glasnow was placed on the DL, the Rays have a 5-12 record and fallen to second place in the division. The Rays starting pitchers have a 5.32 ERA since Glasnow went to the IR.
The Rays will need to get more consistent efforts from starters Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming to make a serious playoff push.
Both Yarbrough and Fleming have pitched well at times, but have also been inconsistent. Luis Patino has been hit hard in his last two outings.
Shane McClanahan has been more consistent in his last couple of outings. The rookie from USF is 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA.
Best bullpen pitcher: Colin McHugh
McHugh got off to a rough start in April as he was coming off the injured list, but once healthy has been the best in the pen.
McHugh has 50 strikeouts in 33 innings with a 1.87 ERA.
Honorable mention goes to JP Feyereisen. Feyereisen is 4-1 with a .96 ERA in 16 games. That was before last night’s outing against Cleveland. Feyereisen gave up two runs in less than an inning, his worst outing for the Rays this season.
Disappointments: Michael Wacha, Chris Archer, and Pete Fairbanks.
Fairbanks got to a great start and was a closer in spots earlier this season. In his last five outings going back to June 20th, Fairbanks has allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings and has seen his ERA go from 1.04 to 3.75
Wacha and archer have a combined 1-3 record with a 5.34 ERA. These two signings have been a disaster for the Rays The 9.5 million dollars that the Rays spent on these two pitchers could have been spent elsewhere.
Best offensive player: Austin Meadows
Meadows still strikes a lot (84 times so far this season) but he is second on the team with 16 home runs and leads the Rays with 56 RBI’s.
With Meadows as it is with most of the Rays, it’s a matter of consistency. Meadows is hot and cold just like the rest of the offense but has some big hits for the Rays in the first half of the season.
Best rookie: Randy Arozarena
Arozarena is one of the front runners for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Arozarena is hitting .252 with ten homers and has driven in 40 runs.
The Rays have also had rookies Taylor Walls and Wander Franco in the lineup. With three rookies playing every day, it will be interesting to see what the Rays will do offensively in the second half of the season.
Biggest disappointments offensively: Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe.
In 185 at-bats, Keirmaier is hitting .232 with one home run and has driven in 13 runs. It wasn’t that long ago that Keirmaier was good for ten to 15 home runs a season. He will be lucky to get five this season.
Wander Franco has two home runs in 48 at-bats since his call-up. At this point, the Rays will need to decide on whether his contributions on defense are worth keeping him on the roster for over his lack of offense.
Keirmaier is the highest-paid player on the Rays at just over $11.5 million a season. That’s a lot of change for the offensive numbers that Keirmaier generates.
Brandon Lowe. Despite his grand slam last night, Lowe has hit below the Mendoza line much of the season. His production has been decent, but his extended slumps have hurt the Rays when they could have used his offensive production.
Lowe has struggled this season with off-speed and breaking pitches. he also has had problems with fastballs as his average has dipped from .326 last year to just .205 this year.
Lowe is hitting .205 with 17 homers and 43 runs batted in. He also is leading the team in strikeouts with 101.
Expectations for the second half of the season
So what can we expect from the Tampa Bay Rays in the second half of the season?
Better offensive production. You can’t be taken as a serious playoff contender when you’re hitting .230 as a team. The offensive has to pick it up and they will.
The pitching has carried this team the first half of the season and has really struggled these last three weeks. This was The Rays will be getting last year’s closer, Nick Anderson, back sometime after the all-star break.
Pete Fairbanks needs to pick it up where he left off in May. There is no other team that uses and manipulates the pitching staff like Rays manager Kevin Cash does.
He will need to continue to have his pulse on the Rays staff and push the right buttons the second half of the season to get the Rays into the post-season.
According to Baseball-Reference, the Tampa Bay Rays have an 87.6 percent chance of making the post-season.