It is mid May, and your Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays are in sole possession of 1st place in the AL East. And the scary thing is, they might have the second best rotation in the division behind Toronto; how long does Gibbons go before getting the ax, and a talented line-up. I know they will fade, but if they stick around into July and the ownership decides to spend money to make a run, they have the prospects in the system to get a Texiera to bolster the line-up or an Oswalt to solidify the rotation. The shock of the Rays has even hampered my ability to spell, either that or doing the usual J.D. Drew/Coco Crisp injury drinking game has impacted it.
-They're 17-11 against the AL East going into May 14. -They're 10-7 against the Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox (three teams that made the playoffs last year; they don't see the Indians until July). -They have the second-lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, behind (ahead?) of only the Florida Marlins...who are also in first place of their division.
That's just bonkers. Yeah, they'll fall off just like the '05 Orioles did, but this is still a hell of an accomplishment for the Rays.
You wonder if it might have some karmaic meaning that once they dropped the "Devil" from their name, they became a good team. Anyway, I think they could be a good team, but not a playoff team. They don't really have a scary hitter in their lineup (I think you need at least 2 in the AL- ex. Boston with Manny & Ortiz). And while the starting lineup will be stronger once Kazmir comes back, I don't trust having a closer like Percival, who hasn't been anything special since '04.
The crazy thing is how good the pitching has been considering Scott Kazmir didn't even play the first month. So it's like they just added an ace a little over a week ago.
I'm not THAT surprised though. They have talented guys, I'm not sure any of them are really shocking developments. What I'm more shocked about is while the Rays had a six game winning streak the Pirates have won 7 of 8. The Pirates one game under .500?? Will the 16 straight losing streaks come to an end??
Depends on if you think Japanese fundamentals equals better pitching or not. If the pitching isn't up to snuff, the hitting will take care of itself. If the Japanese had to play catch up, I am sure superior pitching would dominate them.