Jeremy Hellickson put together six very good innings, allowing no runs of four hits, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ bats banged out thirteen hits in their 8-0 win over Baltimore yesterday. In so doing, they jumped over the Orioles in the American League East standings as well. Hellickson was effective, largely due to his changeup, striking out five in six innings. In all, four Rays’ pitched struck out nine and allowed no free passes. Three relievers, Alex Torres, Jamey Wright, and Kyle Farnsworth struck out four while putting up zeroes across the board.
The Rays’ pitching seems to be rounding into shape. Traditionally strong on the mound, Tampa Bay has struggled to put things together until recently. The offense has carried the day, but over the past two games, the Rays allowed only one run, while shutting down a deep Orioles’ lineup.
Here are the Rays’ numbers and rankings in three important offensive categories both last year and this:
OPS – 2012 – .711, ranked 20th in baseball
OPS – 2013 – .745, ranked 7th
Strikeouts – 2012 – 1323, 8.17/game, 5th
Strikeouts – 2013 – 422, 6.91/game, 25th
Runs scored – 2012 – 697, 4.30/game, 18th
Runs scored – 2013 – 298, 4.88, 7th
The ability of the Rays to strike out, on average, 1.26 times less than last season might not seem like much. In actuality, that means Tampa Bay has put the ball in play or walk 76.86 times. Now, if you calculate based upon the team’s batting average, that adds up to 19.9 hits. By walking or putting the ball in play more often, that allows the lineup to turn over more often, which puts a greater strain on the opponent’s pitching staff.
With all the new-look Rays have established on the offensive side of the ball, it’s looking more and more like the pitching staff is tightening its belt. This ten-game home stretch can go a long way toward putting the Rays back around the top in the East.
The annual free agent player draft is over, and Tampa Bay chose catcher high school Nick Ciuffo with the 21st pick of the first round. With the 29th choice, they selected Ryne Stanek, a hard-throwing right-hander from the University of Arkansas. Ciuffo gives them an opportunity to develop a top-flight catcher, a position that has been in a state of shuffle for some time. Stanek could have been a top-ten choice according to many, and the Rays’ were glad to take him with their second choice. More on the draft picks to come….