The Tampa Bay Rays finished off their 2014 season on Sunday, and it is hard to say it wasn’t disappointing. Picked by some as World Series favorites, the Rays were stuck playing meaningless games for a good part of the year, and they will not get to see any October baseball. That said, there are at least a few reasons why the Rays shouldn’t count 2014 as a completely lost year. Here’s three positive takeaways from the 2014 season.
1. Alex Cobb has proved himself an ace
When David Price was traded at the deadline this year, many thought the Rays lacked a true ace. Guys like Chris Archer, Cobb, and Matt Moore had flashed signs of brilliance, but none had ever distinguished themselves as a true number one. Since Price was traded, though, Cobb has pitched incredibly, throwing to a 2.03 ERA over 102.0 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .220/.284/.290 line. Cobb’s overall numbers this year were solid, as he threw to a 2.87 ERA, 8.1 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9. But after experiencing some command problems earlier in the season, Cobb really turned things on and showed he is the ace of this staff. His biggest issue moving forward is going to be proving he can stay healthy for a full season.
Coming into the year, there were plenty of questions about Boxberger and McGee. Both had great stuff, but Boxberger’s command problems made you worry if he could ever harness it, and McGee was coming off a 2013 season in which he put up a 4.02 ERA. But this season, both were dominant. McGee showed he was one of the best relievers in baseball, posting a 1.89 ERA, 11.4 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9. Boxberger likewise was outstanding, as he put up a 2.37 ERA, 14.5 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9. The Rays bullpen may be a bit in flux heading into next year, but the Rays can rest easy that they have the 8th and 9th innings locked down.
3. Jake Odorizzi surpassed expectations
Coming into this year, Odorizzi was thought to have a ceiling as a back-end starter, but he has quickly shown he can be more than that. In spring training, Odorizzi learned a split-changeup that quickly became his go-to out pitch. Then, he learned how to use his fastball up in the zone, and it became devastating to other hitters. Odorizzi’s 4.11 ERA isn’t too special, but if you take out a a rough six-start stretch to begin the year that lowers to 3.69. His 9.2 K/9 was tied for ninth in all of baseball, and he also paired it with a solid 3.16 BB/9. Odorizzi still has work to do on finding consistency, but if he can continue his development he now looks like he could become a number two starter.
Overall, these are three great takeaways from the year. While the Rays as a whole were disappointing, they got some clarity in their rotation even after Price was traded, and the bullpen won’t have a problem in the late innings moving forward. The Rays will hope these players can carry their 2014 success in 2015 to be a key part of a rebound season.