The Tampa Bay Rays expect to contend in 2017, due in large part to their pitching staff. How Alex Cobb is able to pitch during the upcoming season will go a long way towards those hopes.
With a 68-94 record, the Tampa Bay Rays certainly struggled last season. The offense was unable to put runs on the board with any consistency, and the pitching staff struggled, posting a 4.20 ERA, eighth in the American League.
However, there is hope for the 2017 season. The Rays pitching staff could be a strength this year, and the offense looks more balanced heading into the year. But in order to have that season they are hoping for, the Rays need to have a few players step up.
Of those players, Alex Cobb may be one of the biggest keys to the season. He struggled last year as he came back from Tommy John surgery, with a 8.59 ERA and a 1.773 WHiP in his 22 innings. Cobb still showed solid command, with only seven walks, but he also had only 16 strikeouts. Cobb was hit hard, allowing a .337/.379/.589 batting line with five home runs. Although players typically struggle coming back from the procedure, Cobb’s struggles were beyond what was expected.
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For their part, the Rays are optimistic about Cobb in 2017. He is now heading into his second season after surgery, and the Rays feel that he is healthy once again. If that is the case, that is great news for Tampa Bay.
Before his injury, Cobb was one of the better pitchers in the game. From 2013 through 2014, he posted a 23-12 record with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.143 WHiP, striking out 283 batters against 92 walks in 309.2 innings. Opponents only managed a .229/.293/.338 batting line against Cobb, with just 24 home runs. If Cobb can get back to that level of performance, then the Rays could be a surprise team this year.
Typically, it is not until the second year after Tommy John surgery that a pitcher returns to form. Cobb is being counted on to be the Rays second starter, teaming with Chris Archer to give Tampa Bay that 1-2 punch they need from the rotation. And if he is healthy, as the Rays feel he is, they may well get that.
The Tampa Bay Rays need Alex Cobb to be that pitcher he was before being injured. Now that he is healthy, it is time to see if he can return to form.