Since the Rays have been in thick of the AL East race basically the entire season, the following is a surprising statistic: for three months of this year, they have been below .500, their most since 2007. They haven’t even had two such months in a season since 2010. What does this mean? Are the Rays a mediocre team that just had a couple hot streaks? Or could it be the exact opposite, that the Rays have experienced their share of losing and can’t possibly be this bad?
This Rays team has endured more than any recent Rays team. The list of players who have hit the disabled list has not featured Evan Longoria like in 2011 and 2012, but it has seemingly featured everyone else: David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Luke Scott, Alex Colome, Brandon Gomes, and Jeff Niemann. That doesn’t even include Jeremy Hellickson‘s recent demotion as the Rays try to get him right mentally and also Jesse Crain and Juan Carlos Oviedo, neither of whom has come of the DL as a Tampa Bay Ray. The Rays’ pitching staff has not been nearly as effective as years past, and with that in mind, it’s downright amazing that the Rays have been so good basically all year. The reason has been the offense, which has been carried by strong years from Longoria, Wil Myers, and James Loney to go along with solid contributions from players like Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson, and Desmond Jennings. But now the runs aren’t crossing the plate and the pitching remains inconsistent, and the result has been a very bad baseball team for the past eight days. Obviously the Rays can’t be this disastrous, but if the offense has fallen back down to earth, can they still be among the best teams in baseball?
Part of baseball is that certain players will be slumping and others will be surging at any given time. For the Rays right now, it seems like everyone is trending downward, with Longoria and Myers’ struggles immediately coming to mind. But the Rays’ lineup is too strong for this to happen for much longer. Evan Longoria isn’t a perfect hitter, but he’s a very good one overall. Myers may be a rookie experiencing his ups and downs, but he’s as talented as anyone on the team and will get back on track. Somehow, some way the Rays will get back to scoring runs. We don’t know who and we don’t know exactly when, but it’s only a matter of time. And the offense’s resurgence should be accompanied by a similar trend on the pitching staff. David Price and Alex Cobb may take a step back from where they are now, but Matt Moore’s return will provide a major lift. Pitchers like Roberto Hernandez and Jeremy Hellickson are questions marks, but the Rays hope Hellickson can rebound and will be willing to go to a pitcher like Jake Odorizzi if that doesn’t happen. And in the bullpen, adding Crain to the late-inning mix sometime soon will give the Rays another late-inning arm and make the entire relief corps better. The Rays have reached their low point now, but the spring is about to shoot back upwards. Every Rays fan is waiting for that game that signals that everything is fine and this team is about to turn itself around. It’s coming.