Thursday, July 16, 2009

RaysSpeak: The Second Half

Tomorrow marks the unofficial second half of the season, so let's take a few minutes to see where the Tampa Bay Rays stand:

Boston (54-34)
New York (51-37) - 3.0 GB
Tampa Bay (48-41) - 6.5 GB

I was going to include Toronto, but they sit 11 GB of the Red Sox, and are 2 games UNDER .500 (!) Seems like just yesterday we thought they could be contenders...once they hit the AL East Buzzsaw, that quickly changed.

The Rays no longer have the best run differential, but are sitting pretty at +76, good for second in the American League. The offense, while being at times frustratingly inconsistent (see: every start James Shields has made) still is second in the AL in runs scored, and is fifth in runs allowed.

On paper, these are Wild-Card getting numbers, and with more luck in 1-run games, division winning numbers if they keep it up. However, Bartlett and Zobrist have been unbelievable, and can't be expected to maintain their current levels of production. This is where the Rays will be heavily relying on Pat Burrell, who started to show signs of getting out of his slump with some hard-hit doubles against Oakland last Sunday.

On the pitching end, Kazmir's return from the DL has brought solid (but far from spectacular) numbers, and Price is improving every time he takes the mound. Jeff Niemann has been excellent as the fifth starter, and stands to continue his current level of production, if not exceed it.

So where do we go from here? The Rays embark on a 10 game road trip out of the break: 3 at Kansas City, 4 at Chicago, and 3 at Toronto. First game will feature Shields against Greinke - if we win, it will be a huge bonus. I'd expect the Rays to head home following this trip with no less than 6 wins if they want to keep pace with New York and Boston.

Stay tuned for some postgame threads and thoughts as the 2009 season comes to a close!

[Editor's Correction: First game will be Shields vs. Bannister; Second game will feature Kazmir vs. Greinke.]

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