Even since the Rays began contending, it’s been the same story. The team has pitched extremely well but just had to hope desperately that enough runs would cross the plate for them to win. It was immediately evident that 2013 would be different, but to precisely the wrong extent for the team’s fortunes–the pitching had collapsed. But as the season has progressed, the pitching has rebounded and was has stood out more than anything has been the offense.
In the first half of the season, seven of the Rays’ nine regulars managed an OPS+ of greater than 100, the most in team history. What that means is that when adjusting for the pitcher-friendly affects of Tropicana Field, seven of the nine Rays starters were better than league average in terms of on-base plus slugging. The Rays only had three players manage OPS+ marks below 100 as recently as 2011, but this year is much more different than that. That 2011 squad featured Sam Fuld at 91 (9% below average), Kelly Shoppach at 71 (29%) and Reid Brignac at just 28 (732). On this year’s team, Jose Molina comes in with an 80–but Jose Lobaton, who has made just 2 fewer plate appearances, has a 103 (3% above average). And then there’s Yunel Escobar, who has a 91 but has put up a 112 mark since April 21st. This Rays team is clicking on all cylinders, and there’s no weak spot anywhere. And that goes without saying that the Rays’ nine starters have been a whole lot more than slightly above-average. Evan Longoria, Luke Scott, and James Loney have managed marks of 140, 134, and 133 respectively, marking the first time since 2010 that the Rays have had three or more players at 30% or more above league average. This Rays offense is dangerous everywhere but several players especially incite fear in opposing pitchers. And that is with Ben Zobrist not quite hitting his stride and Wil Myers still acclimating himself to the major leagues. We’ll have to see where the Rays offense stands at the end of the season. But in all probability it will be right up there among the best in baseball and primed to only get better.