Now that we’ve had some time to reflect on the 2012 season, it’s time to look back at some highlights and low-lights for the Rays. I’m going to break things down into the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. Note: I’m not planning on spending too much time on what to expect next season. A separate piece on 2013 is in the making; you can expect that shortly. Also, feel free to add to this in the comments section. (below) After all, I’m sure I’m going to leave something out.
- Pitching, pitching, and more pitching! Led by Cy Young Award candidate David Price (20-5, 2.56) the Rays were number one across the board in team ERA (3.19), WHIP (1.17), and BAA (.228). The Rays also led the AL in strikeouts, with 1383. Ahem, I should mention that Tampa Bay set the all-time AL team strikeout record.
- James Shields, a tale of two pitchers. Based on his first half numbers, one would have assumed that Juego G may have been better suited for the bad portion of this piece. But something happened when the stress of the trade deadline came to pass, Big Game James made a triumphant return. Shields posted a 4.17 ERA prior to the All-Star break, relenting 68 runs (55 earned) on 135 hits, including 14 home runs. Shields had more in common with All Field Shields through July, but things changed dramatically following the break. Posting a 2.81 ERA in his last 15 starts, Shields gave up fewer hits (73), runs (35, 34 earned), homers (11), and walks (24) than he relented in the first half. He also posted a .188 BAA, while striking out 114. Shields ended the season 223 strikeouts, joining David Price in the 200+ strikeouts and innings pitched columns. If that’s not a good enough case for the Rays to pick up his option, then I don’t know what is.
- David Price, I cannot do the man justice. Seeing is believing. He was incredible this season, and it’s scary (for the opposition, that is) that he hasn’t fully evolved as a pitcher yet.
- Fernando Rodney is the team MVP, and deservedly so. Rodney ended the season with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio, a 0.60 ERA, and 48 saves. Lids to the left!
- Mr. dependable, Ben Zobrist. Zobrist started the season by splitting time at second base and in right field, while ultimately settling at short to finish things off. Regardless of where he was positioned on any given day, Zo was easily the most dependable bat in the Rays lineup, posting a .270 BA/.377 OBP/.471 SLG/.848 OPS line with 20 homers. What’s more, Zobrist killed it following the All-Star break, posting a .292 BA/.383 OBP/.491 SLG/.874 OPS line, with 37 RBI.
- Jeff Keppinger. Forget the fact that Kepp hit .190 in the last seven days of the season, going 4-21 with a homer, two RBI, and a run, Keppinger was a huge asset to the Rays in 2012. Initially picked up because he hits LHP particularly well, Keppinger became an everyday player when the Rays dropped like flies due to the injury bug. He became that much more valuable, when the enormous belly-flopped acquisitions of Carlos Pena and Luke Scott nullified themselves at the plate and on the field. Kepp finished the season by posting a .325 BA/.367 OBP/.439 SLG/.806 OPS line. It fails to be seen just yet whether he’ll return next season, though I’d imagine that he will be seeking more money. No word has been released on what the Rays payroll will look like in 2013.
- Based on the Pythagorean winning percentage formula, the Rays should have ended the season with a 95-67 record. According to Baseball Reference, the “Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored (697) and runs allowed (577). Developed by Bill James, it can tell you when teams were a bit lucky or unlucky.” I would say that the Rays were a bit unlucky. It is nice to look at what could have been.
- Jose Molina? Yes, Jose Molina. Tampa Bay SB Nation said it best, “And Jose Molina may not be an elite hitter, or even a good one, but Max Marchi’s pitch-framing catcher defense metrics have an initial report that Molina was worth 50 runs saved as a pitch framer! That’s five full wins! If that data is accurate, his benefit to the Rays pitching staff was well worth the minimal investment.”
The Bad and the Ugly
- Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, and Elliot Johnson at short? Ouch! The trifecta of tERROR were responsible for 19 of the 23 errors at short, with Elliot “I can’t seem to throw the ball in-line to first“ Johnson taking the crown at 11. Sure, Ben Zobrist is an average shortstop at best, but he was by in large much better on the left side than Brignac, Rodriguez, and Johnson combined.
- Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, the $12 MM mistake. They both under performed their career numbers by a large margin, and Luke Scott had more back injuries than a 65 year-old with arthritis. Maybe if you could combine them together into one annoying strikeout machine, their .210 batting average, 33 homers, and 116 RBI might seem worthy of a new contract. But you can’t, and the Rays shouldn’t re-sign Pena, or pick up Scott’s option.
- 1323 strikeouts, and an almost 3-to-1 team strikeout to walk ratio. Yeesh.
- The injury bug struck the Rays hard. As Yossif put it, “Everybody in the starting lineup besides Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina has spent time on the DL this season, and 15 players from the 40-man roster have been placed on the DL at some point this season.”
- And while we’re at it, I also agree with Yossif’s implication of passivity at the trade deadline, “The Rays are usually one of the more quiet teams during the trade deadline frenzy, but Andrew Friedman & Co. were extra passive this past July. Some big names—such as B.J. Upton and James Shields—were rumored to be on the market for the Rays. The Rays also turned many heads when they said they’d be open to trading any of their starters except Matt Moore. In the end they decided not to trade anyone [on the 40-man roster], and ended up making only one move: acquiring Ryan Roberts.”
- Brooks Conrad and Hideki Matsui were ridiculously bad acquisitions. Duh.
- Attendance. That alone needs no explanation, however I’m going there. The Rays averaged 19,255 paid attendees per game, some 349 more people per game than in 2011. But that number is still down from 23,025 in 2010, which wasn’t mind-blowing either. Hell, even with a higher unemployment rate than in Tampa Bay, (10.7% vs 9.4%) Detroit was able to get three-million fans through the turnstiles in 2012. Tampa Bay ended the season with 1,559,681 total attendees, when the goal was two-million. Was the attendance shotty because of inconsistent play on the field? Were people still standing by their whiny, “The Trop is too far away” excuse? Is there an overall lack of interest in baseball in the bay area? Whatever the case, a stadium that is just over half full is pathetic. Enough with excuses folks, get out to the Trop before it’s too late! Going out to one or two more games per season won’t kill you.
So there it is friends. Next up: what to expect in 2013. By all means, leave your comments below!