The Rays are close to the end of April hanging on near the top of the division race. According to latest SI power rankings that are powered by Fangraphs, at the time of the article the Rays were slightly exceeding their expected wins; their WAR wins totaled 8 while the team had actually had 9 at that point.
The offense so far has been doing fairly well. Matt Joyce, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria have come out the gates swinging and the return of BJ Upton will allow for Jennings to shift back to left and will probably allow Maddon to platoon Joyce (though that question is for another thread). Zobrist has struggled due to a much higher K% rate than normal, and so far has seen his contact rate much lower than career levels, and has seen less pitches in the zone than ever before. Small sample size I know, but hope he breaks out soon. He hit a home run yesterday but his contact rate is something I'll be watching. We knew shortstop wasn't going to give us much, and Luke Scott has been a nice surprise so far.
However, advanced stats from the starting pitching may be cause for concern. Among starters, both Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore are sporting xFIP's over 5; Moore is posting a BB% rate of 14.1% while his K rate is only 12.9%. Meanwhile, Fielding Independent pitching statistics still won't give Hellickson a break - his ERA is 3.26 but just as we have seen last year, he has a small BABIP (.206) which his helped him hold opponents to a .213 batting average. David Price currently sports an ERA that is a full run below his FIP. James Shields also sports an ERA well below his FIelding Independent scores, though both SIERA and FIP are nicer to him. To top it off, Jeff Niemann has an ERA a full run higher than his FIP levels, the only Ray in that regard. His 25% K rate is much higher than his career levels, which are closer to 19%.
Is Hellickson finally going to regress toward expected outcomes or continue to defy BABIP and FIP? Is Matt Moore going to find the form of his minor league numbers and his big league cameo in September? David Price's last start gives us reason to look forward, but is the starting rotation a cause for concern this early in the season?
Also this is my first post on DRaysBay! long time Rays fan, back when the only Ray most people could name was CC.
* I wrote this article last night before Matt Moore's start against the Angels. As Brian Anderson mentioned during the broadcast, Moore seems to have made a mechanical adjustment to help his arm catch up and help me snap off his breaking stuff as well as not let his fastball run too much arm-side. He definitely looked on top of his game - Trumbo's bomb really wasn't that bad a pitch, just saw a little too much plate but still kept the ball down. His 3rd inning K to Wilson on a backdoor curve (which I think was his first breaking ball of the game??) absolutely froze him.