The Season is about 20% over, and I thought it made sense to look at the Raysand ask whether they are likely to be a real threat to win either a wild card or the Division. The short answer is I think they are, though the relief pitching should be expected to regress substantially. This post is going to look at the Rays pitching. I will look at the hitting in the next few Days
At the start of the season, the 6 optimists still remaining here would focus on the starting pitching. Let's make some quick comparisons between the Rays, the RS and the Yankees
Runs allowed per game:
New York: 4.1
Tampa: 1.17 (Best in the AL)
New York: 1.308
At this point, the Rays pitching is substantially better than Boston and NY. In fact, the Rays are allowing close to a full run less than the Red Sox are.
Let's look at the starting pitching and the bullpen separately:
The starters are giving up 4.01 runs per 9 innings, second best in the AL behind only Oakland (versus 4.28 for NY and 4.59 for Boston). 58% of the time they get a quality start - about league average. The Rays are starters are going an average of 6.2 Innings - second longest in the AL.
Will they keep it up? Let's go starter by starter:
David Price: Whip is 1.12 versus 1.19 in 2010. ERA is 3.26 versus 2.72 in 2010. I see no evidence that suggests he won't be as good as last year. You can have an interesting argument over whether he is better than Lester. This year Lester's numbers are better (Lester has a 2.33 ERA, 1.101 WHIP and ERA+ of 1.75 versus 113 for Price). Last I think Price was a little better. I don't think there is a whole lot of difference between them.
James Shields: .950 WHIP in 2011 (versus 1.461 in 2010 and 1.32 in 2009), His ERA is 2,14 versus 5.18 in 2010, 4.14 in 2009 and 3.56 in '08. Shields had a horrible second half last year, but there is evidence that the BaBip was inflated during the second half and indeed for most of 2010. I doubt he will continue at this pace, but I think his second half last year was an aberration. He will regress some, whether to the 2009 numbers or the 2010 numbers is the question.
Wade Davis: ERA 2.77 versus 4.07. WHIP 1.28 versus 1.35 in 2010 (though versus 1.21 second half of 2010). Davis was a strange story in 2010 - by all appearances he regressed as the year went on. When you look more deeply though, he was unlucky. His WHIP actually was lower in the second half than in the first. He is 25, with great stuff. My guess is he doesn't regress that much.
Hellickson: He might be call the appointed one given his rep in the minor leagues. Not outstanding thus far (4,31 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, ERA+86) but there is plenty he is young, and I would expect to see him get better as the year progresses. At this point he is a very good fourth starter - he may be more than that by summer.
Nieman/Sonnenstine: Nieman went on the DL after posting a 5.71 ERA - which continued his numbers from the second half last year. Sonnenstive is really a AAA pitcher. The Rays are going to get worse here, and my guess is Sonnenstine doesn't hold the role for long.Alex Cobb who came up to do a spot start will likely be in this spot before July.
Bottom line: Shields and Davis may regress some, Price and Hellickson may improve. The 5th starter is an unknown. All in all, this is the best starting pitching the Division.
With the losses of Soriano and Benoit, this was expected to be a weakness. It really hasn't been. Rays relievers are second is save % and 4th in the AL in letting inherited runners score. The four main relievers are:
Kyle Farnsworth, .84 ERA, .844 Whip.
No way he keeps this up...
Joel Peralta: 2.70 ERA, .9 WHIP - these numbers are actually worse than he put up in Washington, but well below his career average. He is 35.
Juan Cruz: 2.25 ERA, .917 WHIP - these numbers are far better than when he was in KC - but he had some good years in Arizona.
Adam Russell- 2.31 ERA, 1.371 WHIP - he had a lower WHIP last year. Russell has already thrown as many as innings this year as last and his durability is a question mark.
This unit isn't really all that young, and are WAY outperforming their numbers. Regression has to be expected here.