Jay Dieffenbach of the Arizona Republic has an interesting piece on the young season’s surprising and disappointing teams.

The calendar flips into May this week, and with that, the baseball season moves from “it’s early” to “maybe that’s how good they’re going to be.”

After running through a few hot and cold teams, he asks:

…does anyone believe that this is the season the Tampa Bay Rays finish at .500 or better?

[Raises hand, and right eyebrow.] Um, I do.

Why not? Their best slugger had 46 homers last year. That was more than anyone else in the AL East, save A-Rod. Their best pitcher led the league in K’s. And that was last year, when they lost more games than any other team in MLB. This year, they’ve still got those guys—Carlos Pena and Scott Kazmir—though Kazmir has yet to join the big-league club this year. But even without their ace, the Rays already have the second-best ERA in the American League and they’re tied for first in batting average allowed. And frankly, I don’t think it’s a fluke. The Red Sox came into the Trop this weekend with the hottest offense in baseball: three of the top five batting averages in the AL belonged to Boston hitters, and the Sox had scored an average of 6.4 runs per game in their last two series. Boston leads the league in runs scored, OBP, and total bases. Yet the Tampa Bay pitchers limited the juggernaut to a measly five runs over three games.

The Rays swept Boston and now sit atop the AL East standings. Will they still be there in September? I don’t think so. But they’re 10 and 6 in the division so far. They’ve got the AL East’s best run differential, with 17 more runs scored than allowed, and they’ve got their pitchers to thank for it—not just their young starters, but their stingy bullpen as well. I can’t remember a Tampa Bay team with pitchers like this. And when throw in hitters like Pena, BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, and the hotly anticipated Evan Longoria, you know they’re going to score some runs, too.

So maybe this is how good they’re going to be. The rest of the AL East had better pick up the pace.

5 Responses to “Tampa Bay Rays: Your AL East Leaders”

  1. That is a serious spare tire for Beckett…it really is amazing these guys can perform as well as they do with the bulge factor quotients they put up

  2. eh, I’m not worried yet. they’re one groin pull away from being back in the basement. I do appreciate the hustle though,fellas, really. and you are welcome to start basebrawls whenever the hell you feel like it.

  3. Not worried yet? Oh, you will be. Maybe not this year (though I think around a .500 finish is definitely possible), but next year Kaz, Shields and Price could quite possibly become the top threesome in the league. Combine that with the rest of their pitching talent that is developing and with the offense they have, and you’ve potentially got a pretty nice looking team.

  4. Also, whose groin is getting pulled? Because the Rays already have their ace pitcher down with an arm injury, their starting DH is out with an injury, their primary set up man is out with an injury, their starting 3B out with an injury (though I do love that Longo is now up instead), and their number three pitcher was out with an injury for two weeks just a bit ago. And yet, they’re in first place. Make of that what you will.

  5. alright, way to rub my face in it. didn’t realize someone was such a rays fan. jeeeez let’s remind ourselves that it’s still a) ONLY APRIL and b) everyone in the division is separated by a 1 1/2 games at MOST.

    Evan Longoria can kiss Jacoby Ellsbury’s ass. I’m still not worried.

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