Rays News

Jake McGee: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Drew Jenkins

Possibly the biggest surprise of the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays was the way the bullpen turned out. Grant Balfour was brought in to be the closer, and Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo gave the Rays a pair of guys who had seen their fair share dominance as closers in the past. These three were expected to be great pieces for the Rays, but by the end of the season Bell and Oviedo weren’t even with the team, and Balfour was relegated to pitching in low-leverage situations. Through all that negativity, though, there were some positive takeaways in the bullpen, and one of those was Jake McGee.

McGee entered the year with some questions of what kind of pitcher he truly was. McGee had a great 2012 season, posting a 1.95 ERA, but in 2013 he regressed to a 4.02 ERA. In the end, though, McGee bounced-back from his rough 2013 and had an outstanding 2014 season.

In 71.1 innings for the Rays, a career-high for McGee, he posted a great 1.89 ERA, an 11.36 K/9, and a 2.02 BB/9. ERA estimators like his 1.73 FIP, 2.58 xFIP, and 1.98 SIERA also favored McGee’s work. McGee also got to spend significant time in 9th inning for the first time his career, notching 19 saves. He was never officially named closer, but that was because the Rays wanted to also use him in the 8th inning if they were facing the heart of the opposing team’s lineup. There is no doubt that McGee was Joe Maddon‘s most trusted reliever, and overall he was among the league’s best relievers in 2014.

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Heading into 2015, all McGee needs to prove is consistency. The last time he had a great season, he followed it up with a disappointing one. That does not mean that he will do something similar in 2015, but it does mean that he needs to ensure he is prepared to avoid a similar early-season meltdown in 2015 as he experienced in 2013.

Next season, expect McGee to once again be the Rays’ most reliable reliever for the course of the season. Though he deserves some recognition for such a great 2014 season, McGee will not be named the Rays official closer. The reasoning behind that is the Rays would rather use McGee in a game’s most important situation, be that in the 7th or 9th inning, rather than committing to use him solely in the 9th. All-in-all McGee’s 2014 season was a success, and though the Rays’ bullpen is a big in flux heading into 2015, the club can rest easy that a combination of McGee and Brad Boxberger will be around to lock down the 8th and 9th innings.