I know others can and probably will do a better in-depth analysis of Niemann's starts, but outside of a bad first inning back in April, the rest of his numbers speak for themselves. Outside of that Apr 11 start, Niemann sports a 2.38 ERA, has given up more than 3 runs in a start only once, and what's better, is his control has continued to improve. Before his 9 inning gem, in his rain-shortened start, he flashed the same type of control (had 4K through 3IP as well). I think Monday's start in New York can go a long way as a litmus test for Niemann. It'll be only the 2nd time any team has faced him a twice this season (Baltimore being the other--Niemann got the win in the 2nd start as well).
Congrats to the Rays for making it through a turn in their rotation where all 5 pitchers lasted 5 or more innings, all quality starts. This was only the SECOND time this year that all five starters made it through five innings, and the FIRST time all five earned quality starts. Coincidentally, the Rays are 4-1 in their last 5. Hopefully the starting rotation can keep this streak going.
Zobrist an All-Star? It was mentioned on a recent Rays broadcast, about the prospect of Maddon making BenZo one of his reserves, honoring the Utility role Zobrist has played so well. It sure helps that Zobrist is putting up numbers to make this an interesting thought. A .303 average, 10 HR, 32 RBI in only 132 at bats. His walks have him t-19th (only 3 bb away from top 10) despite 30+ at-bats less than the players above him. Only Kevin Youkillis has a higher OPS than BenZo in the AL. Right now only 7 players in the AL have a .300 avg, 10+ HR, and 30+ RBI (Miguel Cabrera, Adam Jones, Justin Morneau, Aaron Hill, Evan Longoria, Torii Hunter). That puts Zobrist in pretty impressive category. And of those, only 1 player has more walks and oh yeah, all have at least a 70 At-Bat (or roughly 33% more at bats) than BenZo. If he can continue this pace, it sounds like an All-Star season to me.
More Reasons Why 2 weeks or months cannot define a trade:
While E-Jax is stealing all the headlines, Rays fans cannot forget the trades that got them to that point. A trade with the Dodgers sending Lance Carter and Danys Baez netted them Edwin Jackson, who in turn became Matt Joyce. All in all, if Baez led to the Rays getting a couple of seasons of a SP who in turn becomes 6 seasons in RF, one of Friedman's first deals still looks like a winner. Oh, and remember Aubrey Huff departing to Houston in exchange for utility player and pitching prospect? That one looks better by the day.