With the first half of the baseball season complete, the Rays find themselves in third place in the American League East, 7.5 games out of first. However, they find themselves only a half game out of the second Wild Card spot, just behind the Baltimore Orioles. Given the multitude of injuries the Rays have suffered this season, this is probably better than should be expected.
The biggest reason for the Rays being able to stick around in the playoff hunt is their pitching staff. The Rays have a team ERA of 3.73, the third best mark in the AL. David Price has continued his evolution into a legitimate ace, and Fernando Rodney has been truly dominant closing out games. Despite the struggles at the start of the season, Joe Maddon has figured out a bullpen that has, for the most part, been effective since May.
Offensively, the Rays have struggled thus far. They have only managed to score 363 runs, which is ninth in the league, despite their league leading 70 stolen bases. The Rays rank twelfth in batting average, slugging, and OPS; while ranking eleventh in on base percentage. Some of this can be explained due to their injuries this year, as Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, and Matt Joyce have all missed considerable time. However, the Rays have gotten virtually nothing from their catchers and from Carlos Pena, or from third base since Longoria’s injury.
Defense has been the biggest problem thus far. Through the All-Star break, the Rays have made 71 errors, compared to 73 all of last season. This is especially surprising as the Rays went out of their way to improve the defense this year. Jose Molina in particular was brought in for his ability to frame pitches and for his defensive reputation, yet he has not been nearly as good as advertised.
Looking ahead, the Rays do have help on the horizon, as Longoria, Joyce, and Jeff Neimann are all expected to return. With a couple of shrewd deals, the Rays could be in contention for another run through October.