Poll: The 2011 Rays

The Rays won baseball's toughest division last year, putting up 96 wins in the AL East to beat the Yankees (95 wins), Red Sox (89 wins) and Blue Jays (85 wins) for the title. The Yankees retained their prominent free agents this offseason and the Red Sox added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, among others. 

Meanwhile, the Rays lost Crawford and Rafael Soriano to their biggest rivals and saw Carlos Pena and most of their bullpen depart via free agency, too. But executive VP Andrew Friedman rebuilt the team's bullpen and added some bats. The team is set to introduce Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez at a press conference today, so the Rays will have some veteran sluggers in the mix this year.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes that he thinks "the demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated," but we want to know what you think…


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108 Comments on "Poll: The 2011 Rays"


MB923
4 years 7 months ago

I voted 85-89.

alxn
4 years 7 months ago

oh ok

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Haha, gotta give you a Like for that one.

TwinsVet
4 years 7 months ago

Their biggest problem may very well be that they won’t be able to steal as many games from an improved Baltimore club this year.

Their rotation alone puts them around 85 wins, though, and that should be the starting point for the discussion. Whether they end up around 89 or 95 depends on the questions in the bullpen and offense.

4 years 7 months ago

what i don’t understand is people saying “they’re still going to be a good team despite losing major pieces” I mean, wouldn’t they be better without carlos pena and jason bartlett? they were basically automatic outs. crawford i can agree with, but not at his salary.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Replacing Crawford with Damon is a huge drop off. And going from Benoit/Soriano to Farnsworth/Howell is another drop off. I still think they are a good team and will compete, but bearing any major injuries to the Yankees or Red Sox again, I don’t see them finishing in 2nd or above.

Anything can happen of course. I’m sure none of us expected them to go from the worst team in 2007 all the way to the World Series the next year. All of us baseball fans know anything can happen and that’s what makes the game very exciting.

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

Their rotation is still so good. They will have to win a lot of close, low scoring games, but its still possible.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

That’s why I expect them to compete still.

Motor_City_Bombshell
4 years 7 months ago

2008 all over again, essentially.

bbxxj
4 years 7 months ago

Pena and Bartlett had OBPs of .325 and .324 which aren’t great but are far from sub .300 auto outs.

Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Not to mention Pena’s power…
I think it’s safe to say, Pena doing bad is still better than Dan Johnson and Casey Kotchman for a full year.

stl_cards16
4 years 7 months ago

I voted 85-59, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them win 90 plus again. I think the biggest question to fill will be their bullpen. But with all that talent they have in the minors I am pretty confident they can at least put a decent bullpen together.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

85-59. bold prediction on their record there. You’re also about 18 games short.

Yes yes, I know you meant 85-89 wins.

stl_cards16
4 years 7 months ago

lol oops……I’m guessing this 20 inches of snow will not melt until mid April causing MLB to cancel several games. yes 85-89 wins.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Uhh, be safe in the snow. Up in the Northeast we don’t know what to expect tonight. Meteorologists suck anyway. Last week they said 8-10 inches, it ended up being 19 inches.

stl_cards16
4 years 7 months ago

I’m in Illinois…right now they are saying 15-22 by tomorrow morning. But it keeps going up. Yesterday they were saying 10-15. But good luck and be safe when it gets there. Seems to be quite the storm. At least we have MLBTR to keep us busy while we wait it out!

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

I think their rotation can carry them past 90 wins…

Last year their offense wasn’t their driving force.. They may have lost Garza but Hellickson could offer comparable stats, if not better.

Manny will easily surpass Pena’s totals from last year, maybe not the power, but he will make far less outs while still providing some power.

Damon will be a small scaled version of crawford, but i think the difference between the 2 (when considering salary and commitment as well) will not amount to more than a 5 win difference.

I think they duke it out with the yanks all year long for the wild card.

metsman
4 years 7 months ago

pretty good synopsis, I’ll go with that, except for the 90 wins. I think the AL east dominance might be on hold for a while and the wild card could end up coming from another division.

4 years 7 months ago

85-89. That bullpen is a massive question mark, and their offense is up in the air, too.

4 years 7 months ago

Everyone is talking about their rotation, but this isn’t the Phillies here. I’m not sold on Nieman, and Shields seems to go through rough patches. Hellickson is still mostly untested in the majors. Is it a solid rotation? Absolutely. Probably 2nd best in the division unless the Yankees add Pettite. But with the bullpen losing key pieces as they did, the starters will have to completely carry the team for them to win 90+ games.

02waster
4 years 7 months ago

The standings will end up like this in my opinion

BOSTON
NEW YORK
TAMPA BAY
BALTIMORE
TORONTO

Motor_City_Bombshell
4 years 7 months ago

Toronto in last?? Why??

02waster
4 years 7 months ago

Toronto traded away their best player, and Baltimore has what I believe to be a very good underrated off-season so far. It only improves when/if they sign Vlad.

start_wearing_purple
4 years 7 months ago

Please tell me you think Marcum was their best player.

02waster
4 years 7 months ago

Wells

start_wearing_purple
4 years 7 months ago

Don’t like Jose Bautista or Ricky Romero? Wells was an overpaid burden who just put up his first WAR above 1.5 since 2006.

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

if by their best player you mean biggest contract, then yes, yes they did

Wells is far from their best player though

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

“Toronto traded away their best player”

Bautista was traded?

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

Travis Snider was traded?

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Aaron Hill?

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

Jeremy Accardo?

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Marc Rzepczynski?

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

Shea Hillenbrand?

MaineSox
4 years 7 months ago

Alex Anthropoulos?

4 years 7 months ago

Come on! Obviously he meant Brian Tallet.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Baltimore ahead of Toronto?

start_wearing_purple
4 years 7 months ago

What Baltimore is going to be is a massive wild card: How will Reynolds adjust to AL East pitching, will Hardy finally rebound, how will Lee age, how long will Duscherer pitch, will Wieters and the rookies breakout?

Personally I think people are looking at most of the variables in rosier terms than what will happen.

kingoriole
4 years 7 months ago

Adjust to AL East pitching?

LA, SD, SF, and Col have better cumulative pitching (3.73 ERA, .29 better than NL average) than Bost, NY, TB, and TOR (4.07, .07 better than AL average).

4 years 7 months ago

bit of a stretch using those stats…wouldn’t your ERA be lower if you got to pitch to a pitcher every 9 hitters

kingoriole
4 years 7 months ago

yes but not as much as everyone assumes. which is why I compared it to the league average. (AL average – 4.14 ERA, NL average – 4.02)

dawg28269
4 years 6 months ago

Look at what happened to both Petitte and Clemens when they went to the Astros. ERAs dropped over 1 point, but they had crap records (no run support). AL pitchers have better ERAs when migrating to NL than NL pitchers have when migrating to AL.

kingoriole
4 years 6 months ago

obviously the NL ERA is going to be lower. It’s just not as much as a lot of people think.
Last year it was .14 of a run lower. In 2009 the NL ERA was .26 of a run lower then the AL (4.19 to 4.45).

And neither Pettite nor Clemens had a full run better ERA in the Senior circuit, even if 2 pitchers is somehow a better argument than a 1000+ pitchers.
Pettite (AL- 3.98, NL- 3.38)
Clemens (AL- 3.21, NL- 2.40)

FNDomination
4 years 7 months ago

I do think those last three spots are going to be in heavy rotation.

4 years 7 months ago

1. Boston
2. Tampa Bay
3. New York
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

sorry, people seem to forget how weak new york’s rotation is

start_wearing_purple
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t think anyone is forgetting the potential of the yanks pitching staff, but their offense will still be top 3.

Since_77
4 years 7 months ago

I am amazed how easily people dismiss Garza’s effectiveness in a tough division.

You loose a solid #2 guy who won 15 games, averages 200 innings and 30 starts per year, pitched a no-hitter and also pitched well in the post season. You replace him with a guy who pitched only 36 ML innings and not expect to miss a beat. Ok.

Stuntman23
4 years 7 months ago

There is no way that Tamp finishes in 2nd place. They lost major pieces of a 96 win team, half of their players have left via free agency, and they traded their #2 starting pitcher and their SS. They will battle Baltimore all year for 4th at best!

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Bartlett isn’t a very good shortstop anyway. His defense has declined every year the past 6 years and he had 1 good season with the bat.

popular_mechanics_for_pitchers
4 years 7 months ago

Garza will be the toughest to replace, but they have a great starting five. Hellickson is a stud. No way they’re battling for 4th all year unless a bunch of their pitchers get injured.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

Since when does having a weak rotation hurt your chances from a playoff spot?

If you claim the strongest starting pitching wins, then why did the Rangers beat the A’s in the West last year?

By the way, Cliff Lee was very ineffective as a Ranger (in the regular season)

And why did the Reds beat the Cardinals in the Central?

Oakland and St. Louis had the best ERA in baseball among starting pitchers, why did they lose to teams with much worse starting pitching than them?

The Yankees amazing offense and bullpen can easily make up for their below average rotation

Russell Mania
4 years 7 months ago

NY
TAMPA
BOSTON
TORONTO (close with Boston)
BALTIMORE

In my opinion.

wickedkevin
4 years 7 months ago

LOL

Smrtbusnisman04
4 years 7 months ago

There is no question that they have one of the best rotations in the league. I’m worried that their defense will be worse. Damon won’t cover the same range as Crawford did, nor will he steal many bases.

The bullpen is still okay with J.P. Howell, Cesar Ramos, and Joel Peralta.

I say they win 83 games, behind New York for 3rd Place.

FNDomination
4 years 7 months ago

I think they finish below .500 this year. On paper, Toronto, Baltimore, and Tampa all look pretty similar to me. I see those three beating the crap out of each other and battling it out for third place.

4 years 7 months ago

I agree with you. Everyone is in love with that rotation but I don’t really see it. Price is great but beyond that I’m not sold. Shields, Niemann and Davis are all 3rd-5th starters at best. They’re solid but they’re not shut down starters that can win games for their team on their own. If Hellickson doesn’t develop into a legit #2 SP very quickly, I think their team is in trouble. He had a great debut but its a small sample size. I think he’ll be great eventually but he’s no given right now.

People saying their offense isn’t going to struggle are insane. Manny didn’t look like he had much left in the tank and Damon is a huge step down from Crawford. Add in the steps back they’ve taken on defense and in the bullpen, and I don’t see them finishing above 4th this year.

kingoriole
4 years 7 months ago

Manny didn’t have much left in the tank but had a 403 OBP. That’s very good for a has been. Manny and Damon isn’t a huge step down from Crawford and Aybar (who was awful in 300+ PA). If Manny can perform the whole year it’s almost a wash.

While their rotation isn’t quite as good as everyone thinks, it is still way better than Yankees, Toronto, and Baltimore’s. I think Boston’s might be a smidge better and is in line to rebound.

Good bullpens are underrated but expensive bullpens are way overrated. The Rays have found quality bullpen arms for cheap the last 3 years and I don’t see them failing to do this – considering they have the best pitching farm system in the majors.

Toronto overperformed last year and then lost two MAJOR contributors.
Baltimore will be TONS better this year but they need be 15 games better just to reach .500.

Tampa only falls to 4th if EVERYTHING goes right for one of those two clubs, which is possible… just not likely.
Now if everything goes right for the Rays, they’ll be in the playoffs.

4 years 7 months ago

Yea. Generally offense wins in the regular season and pitching wins in the postseason. (I know there are exceptions)

bigpat
4 years 7 months ago

I voted 75-84 though I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them pass that number. Their lineup has a ton of question marks outside of Evan Longoria. Will Damon be a valuable player when he has to play in the field? Will Manny hit like he used to and still stay motivated all season? Will the young players like Joyce, Brignac, Jaso, and Rodriguez all have above average seasons?

Their rotation is pretty good, but it’s not as amazing as some think. Price had an incredible season and they lost their second best pitcher in Garza. Regardless of the peripherals, James Shields had a miserable season and they will certainly be hoping FIP predicts better luck for him this year. Niemann and Davis need to improve and I expect great things from Hellickson, though they won’t get 200 innings from him.

Bullpens are up and down each year, but they are a very important part of a team that plays close games, and I don’t see how the guys in their pen will be able to consistently get big outs vs all the strong lineups in their division.

I know the Rays are the poster child for smart, forward thinking franchises, but they really have their work cut out for them this year.

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

1.Yankees
2.Boston
3.TB
4.Toronto
5.Baltimore

Thats my order

4 years 7 months ago

I’m a Yankees fan but they’ll need either Pettitte back or a big TD pitching acquisition (possibly both) to beat the Sox for the division this year.

Thurman8er
4 years 7 months ago

Classic bell curve. Sweet.

Whatever improvements Baltimore has made will be more than nullified by the Yankees poor rotation. The big difference is Boston’s health and ridiculous offense. They will win the East by 10 games. And I will curse a lot.

Slopeboy
4 years 7 months ago

I see the Rays winning 85-90 games and coming in third behind the Red Sox and the Yanks. While the starting rotation looks solild, the pen has taken a major hit and the replacements are nowhere near those that departed. The loss of Pena is also significant in terms of power, OBP and his overlooked defense at 1B. Damon’s defense in LF is non-existent and he had leg issues his last two years in NY.Last season he played less than 50 games in the field and playing on artificial turf won’t benefit him at all. He will hit, but not enough to compensate for his negatives. Manny is the wild card in the mix, I don’t think he will be a trouble maker but will lose interest if the Rays are not in the race after July and just go through the motions as he did with Chicago last year.
The Rays have talent but with the division having improved throughout, except for the Yanks, I see it being a less than stellar year for the Rays.

touchmymonkey
4 years 7 months ago

Bullpen dropoff will cost them 4games
Damon instead of Crawford 3 more games
Manny adds 2 wins over Pena
Baltimore, Toronto and Boston all got better – 6 games
Yankees stayed the same – no difference
Weather will cause more rainouts early in the year – more double headers later in year will cost them 3 games
Fact that I am still disappointed that they changed from devil rays – 3 more losses
factor in that I have no idea what I am talking about ( 10% margin of error)
That totals up to 72 – 86 wins bank it
thats puts them in the

Lunchbox45
4 years 7 months ago

Toronto didn’t get better and they play in a dome.

other than that funny post!

$5427573
4 years 7 months ago

I’d say the bullpen improved by 3-4 wins. Though depending on how the news guys pan out could go down by the same margin from losing Wells.

iheartyourfart
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t think there will be a 95-win team in the AL east this year. The division is just too goood head-to-toe. Every team got better than last year.d

fisk72
4 years 7 months ago

Ben – just a side note to your first paragraph: while listing the Red Sox addition of Gonzalez & Crawford specifically, you (as other fans) neglect to mention their loss of Beltre & Martinez. While the argument can surely be made that the net of this activity should make Boston incrementally better, their loss of those two is not insignificant. That omission seems to skew the discussion somewhat IMHO.

MB923
4 years 7 months ago

I know they don’t plan on doing this, but I think a smart move for the Rays, at least on the defensive side, would be to put Damon at 1B, Jennings in LF, and Dan Johnson off the bench.

Now I’m not looking up numbers currently, but I would doubt Damon is better defensively at 1B than Johnson, but a 1B/LF of Damon/Jennings works better I think than Johnson/Damon.

tmorgan9
4 years 7 months ago

I think that the Division definitely is tougher, but there will still be a 95-win team, which, heading into the season looks like the Sox. Even with the loss of Beltre and Martinez, they see a tremendous gain in Gonzalez and Crawford. Martinez only played in 127 games, missing some time to injury. I see that trade-off as a substantial net gain. With the amount of time the were without Pedroia and Youkilis last year, their two best hitters (with the exception of Gonzalez, now), they are bound to improve. I pencil them in for 95+ wins. The Yanks have a ridiculous lineup, which will allow them to compete even with the rotation in its current state. And their pitching may not be as bad as we are all expecting. They should get 90-94 range, I think. The Jays won 85 last year, and I think they are definitely capable of repeating that total. Even with a good off-season, the O’s will have trouble competing in this division, because it is so deep. I think that they will do better than last year in terms of wins but still occupy the cellar.

The Rays have the capability to make a run at the playoffs, but could also drop to fourth with some bad breaks, there is so little room for error. They need some luck (Red Sox injuries, etc) to compete for the division title, but the expectation here is that it is Tampa or NYY with the wild card.