Home > Rays Talk > Could the Rays Have Three 20-game Winners?

Could the Rays Have Three 20-game Winners?

I am a complete nerd when it comes to reading statistics. I’ve been known to sit in front of my MacBook for hours looking at numbers. I noticed something pretty incredible a few days ago.

I was perusing through Rays pitching stats on ESPN.com. While ESPN doesn’t have the most impressive or in-depth stat sheets available (for that I go to baseball-reference.com), one thing I do like is their projections.

As of today, James Shields is projected to win 19 games. Matt Garza and David Price are projected to win 24 games each.

Could the Rays possibly have three 20-game winners? If they do, it would be the first time since 1973 when Ken Holtzman, Jim Hunter and Vida Blue each won 20+ games for the Oakland Athletics. Oh yeah, they won the World Series that year, too.

Why it could happen. Everyone knew the Rays were going to be good this year, but few knew they would be this dominating. They’re scoring runs, the bullpen is taking shape, and they’re winning on the road. They have the best team earned run average in the American League (3rd best in MLB), and they have all the run support they need. Their run differential, +84, is astronomical.

But the biggest reason it could happen is the maturity factor. Shields, who was lucky to throw over 90 mph mast season, is now pitching at 93-95. He is still having a little trouble with the longball, but his improved velocity allows him to get away with a few more mistakes. Garza has seemed to get rid of his mental issues and is putting up Cy Young type numbers so far, as expected. Price has also gotten past his learning curve, and now has four dominating pitches, unlike last year.

All three are on pace to throw over 210 innings and strike out over 180 batters. If the trio can stay healthy and continue to eat innings, they definitely have a chance. And let’s not forget about Jeff Niemann (3-0). If it wasn’t for some bad luck, he could be easily be sitting with five wins as well.

Why it won’t happen. As optimistic as I would like to be, I need to be realistic as well. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but there are more factors working against them than for them.

First, there is the dreaded five-man rotation. We’ve all heard this before, but It’s the truth. And it’s the reason why no team has accomplished this feat since the early 1970’s, which was when the five-man rotation started becoming mainstream. Starting pitchers back then made upward of 40 starts, and pitched over 270 innings a year–pitchers just don’t come close to that anymore.

Second, we all know about Joe Maddon’s affinity for match-ups and pitch counts. 115 pitches later, and here comes the hook. Starting pitchers are no longer needed to throw nine innings anymore. With the glorification of middle relievers, set-up men and lefty specialists, a six inning outing is considered a job well done.

If everything works out, the Rays’ starters can accomplish this improbable feat. Though great obstacles stand in the way, there are enough factors working in their favor to make it feasible. This trio has the talent and the determination to make it happen.

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Categories: Rays Talk
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