Archive for the ‘Tampa Bay Sports’ Category

By: Eran Fabian

This year the American League East has been like something out of the X-Files. The Baltimore Orioles are currently tied for first with the Tampa Bay Rays in the division. The New York Yankees sit only a 1.5 games away. The Toronto Blue Jays, certainly the pride of Canada, are right in it at 2 games back. Then finally come the Boston Red Sox, who most would say are playing their worst baseball in a long time, yet they are only 3 games back.

But here’s the thing, the Red Sox (26-25 this season) are playing some pretty fantastic baseball, at least offensively. They have a team

David Ortiz has been playing like he’s hit his prime all over again.

batting average of .273, 491 hits, 814 total bases, and 265 runs, all of which are 2nd best in the American League. Big Papi is having one of the best seasons of his career so far. His .318 BA, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs, .392 OBP, 61 Hits (30 of which were for extra bases) are all team-highs. And this Saltalamacchia, he’d be worth picking up if he’s available in your fantasy leagues. Honestly, it is the pitching that is just destroying the Sox. Their team 4.61 ERA and 230 Runs Allowed are the 2nd highest in the AL behind the lowly Twins. Clay Buchholz has been the leader of the circus with a 7.19 ERA across 56.1 innings. If the pitching can come together for Boston they could be scary good; especially so if this injury to Dustin Pedroia doesn’t force manager Bobby Valentine to put him on the DL.

Our friends from the Great White North have been surprisingly, well, average this season. The Blue Jays (27-24 this season) aren’t shattering records or riding some hot streak, they’re just playing pretty good baseball and it has them right in the mix. Edwin Encarnacion has been everything but average this season. He is currently hitting .274 with 17 HRs and 42 RBIs (already tying his total from last year). The Blue Jays have shown that they have the talent to succeed with guys like Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Brett Lawrie. Brandon Morrow has been an excellent ace for the Jays this year and if the rest of the bullpen can come together they stay in the chase all season long.

Soriano has stepped in to try to fill the biggest shoes a closer has ever worn.

Then there comes the Evil Empire. The men in pinstripes lost one of the biggest icons in the game a few weeks ago and it has shown its effects. The absence of Mariano Rivera has forced the Yankees (27-23 this season) to move Rafael Soriano to closer and out of his position as set-up man. Then the injury to David Robertson really hurt because they lost the new set-up man. Obviously, the late inning bullpen is a little less reliable than when the season started which has brought some hardship. Despite having the second highest BAA, the Yankees rank 3rd in ERA. When it comes to their approach at the plate, the Yankees have played really well. They rank in the top 5 in the AL for runs, RBIs, hits, and average, not including a 1st place finish in HRs (76). And their fielding has been excellent, as their 20 errors are the least by any team in the league this year. The Yankees are a team that will always be hanging around come October.

The top spot in the division is split between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays (29-22 this season). The Orioles have been playing really well so far this year. Adam Jones, who just agreed to a 6 year, $85.5M extension, has been swinging a white hot bat this year. His .314 BA, 16 HRs, 34 RBIs, .365 OBP, and 64 Hits are all leading Baltimore so far this season. Right Fielder Nick Markakis was just placed on the 15 Day DL today. Their bullpen has been fantastic and the play of their closer, Jim Johnson, has really helped put them where they are. If Adam Jones can stay hot, and I think he can, the Orioles could really contend for a playoff spot this year.

My Tampa Bay Rays are miraculously clinging to their spot at the top of the division. I wrote about the problems with the individual problems (like Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria on the DL) as well as the successes (the hot bats of Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton) but I didn’t touch on their overall performance as a team. The Rays’ 400 hits is 2nd worst in the AL and their .239 BA is the 3rd worst. It is the pitching staff that has truly kept the Rays atop the best division in baseball. Their 3.54 ERA, .240 BAA, and 179 runs allowed can only outdone by the Angels. The Rays have been painful to watch at times this year but, like I’ve said before, if they can play this poorly and stay in first, they Rays have a definite shot at going far this October.

Adam Jones’ big contract comes with big expectations and he’s answered so far.

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By: Eran Fabian

The Tampa Bay Rays may be standing tied for the lead in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, but very little of what the Rays have done of late has come easy. Carlos Peña started off hot but is hitting an embarrassing .163 over the last 30 days. B.J. Upton, after starting the season sidelined with an injury, has been playing the way Rays fans have hoped he could as he flirts with a .300 average. But even behind the bats of Matt Joyce (.288, 9 HRs, 28 RBIs), Luke Scott (.235, 8 HRs, 32 RBIs), and Upton (.291, 16 RBIs, 11 SBs), the Rays have been struck with the injury bug and it has really forced manager Joe Maddon to show some creativity with the lineup card.

Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, and Brandon Allen are just a few of many in the Rays program who have been forced off of the diamond because of injuries. These injuries have shown the depth of the farm system for the Rays as many role players have come up and made plays when it counted. Young guns like Will Rhymes and Drew Sutton showed some pop and promise but can’t fill the void left by Longo and Jennings.

Jennings is expected back sometime next week but the timetable on Longo is still unclear. In the meantime, Maddon was almost forced into calling up Hideki Matsui from the minors a bit earlier than expected. Matsui arrived to the Trop in time for the game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday and he didn’t disappoint. The Sox may have gone on to win with a 7-2 victory but Rays fans can’t help but be excited after watching Matsui launch a ball from Sox pitcher Phil Humber into orbit into his second at bat.

The 813 is far from baseball paradise lately but, with the Rays perched atop the AL East with four months to play, no one will be reaching for the panic button any time soon.

To lighting up the roof every night, Cheers!

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Hideki Matsui talks to the media before making his debut in Tampa.

By: Eran Fabian

There is no denying that Fernando Rodney has been nothing short of incredible for the Rays this year. The former Los Angeles Angel stepped into the closer role at the start of the season and has been lights out, posting a 1.08 ERA through 25 innings while picking up 16 saves and 2 wins. Manager Joe Maddon’s confidence in Rodney understandably couldn’t be higher. But it does raise some serious questions as to what will happen when Kyle Farnsworth returns to the team in late June.

Farnsworth had arguably the best season in his 15 year career setting a career high in saves (25) and tying his personal best in wins (5). He also posted an amazing 2.18 ERA across 57.2 innings (the 2nd best of his career). The Rays organization planned on using Rodney and other guys to just bide time before Farnsworth arrival but Rodney’s stellar performance has left some serious question marks.

Fernando Rodney continues to pitch lights out for the Rays.

It is a great problem to have but is still a problem nonetheless. I believe the Rays will continue to let Rodney slam the door and bring in Farnsworth as a setup man in the 8th. This powerful 1-2 punch could propel the Rays down the stretch and keep them in the game during the late innings where they are known for doing some serious damage to opposing bullpens.

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