Tampa Bay Rays Familiar Faces Providing Less Relief
Manager Joe Maddon thinks he knows why the Tampa Bay Rays find themselves a disappointing three games below .500 with one-sixth of the 2013 season now in the books. “We just can’t keep doing this,” he said after the Kansas City Royals came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat the Rays 9-8 Wednesday night, “ we’ve given up too many leads this year.” This diagnosis turns the spotlight squarely on the Rays’ vaunted relief corps.
In 2012, Rays pitchers led the major leagues with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP and set an American League record with 1,383 strikeouts. To be sure, Cy Young winner David Price was a big part of this story, but so was a stellar performance by the Rays’ bullpen.
Last year, the pen turned in an American League-best 2.88 ERA and a FIP of 3.19 that led the majors, while striking out more than a batter per inning. Fernando Rodney set an AL record with a 0.60 ERA en route to 48 saves and one of the best seasons any reliever has ever had. Jake McGee’s 1.81 FIP also led AL pitchers. With Rodney returning to the closer role and Joel Peralta, McGee, and 2011 saves leader Kyle Farnsworth holding down the late innings again, it seemed that entering 2013 the Rays had a core group of relievers who would again be a team asset to be counted on.
Well, not so far. Through 27 games, the 2013 edition of the Rays bullpen brings up the rear in the AL with a 4.62 ERA. More frustrating to their fans, Rays relievers have taken the loss five times.
While Peralta has held his own, allowing just two runs over his 10.2 innings of work, Farnsworth, McGee and Rodney have yielded 20 runs in their combined 23 innings. McGee’s outings have been particularly unsuccessful, as he has two losses and three blown saves already. He has given up seven walks and 11 hits including two home runs, even as he has struck out 13 over his nine innings of work so far.
The famously patient Rays hope it’s that last data point – only nine innings of work – that eventually proves the most meaningful.