August 22, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields (33) reacts after he pitched the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
This has been brought up on game broadcasts recently -- and it's been quite obvious to those following the team recently -- but it's remarkable enough to highlight again: the Rays' pitching staff has been utterly lights out recently.
Over the last month, their staff has a ridiculous 1.92 ERA and 2.74 FIP, striking out nearly a hitter an inning and walking almost no one. To put it in other words, over the last month, the Rays' pitching staff as a whole has performed better than Felix Hernandez -- currently the top pitcher in the majors -- has pitched this season. They have been far and away the best pitching staff in the majors over that time, and their success has boosted their season stats so they now have the second lowest ERA in the majors this season (behind the Nationals).
How have they managed it? Every single pitcher is throwing at the top of their game right now:
If that top four -- heck, even just that top three -- manages to keep pitching at a dominant rate through the playoffs...well, I won't say anything for fear of jinxing things, but that'd be tough for any team to match-up against.
Matt SwartzBill Petti examined how good Pythagorean Win-Loss is at predicting success at this point in the season. His results suggest we're better off looking at a team's actual Win-Loss record, which should give hope to O's fans out there everywhere.
- Joe Maddon has deemed this week "American Legion Week" in the Rays' clubhouse, with little warm-up before a game starts. This is another one of his ideas to help rest players down the stretch, and there's the added bonus that the Rays treated American Legion members to free food and drinks yesterday.
- Could B.J. Upton's changed stance be a part of the reason he's hitting the ball better? Considering how often we've seen this before, I'm skeptical of any long-lasting changes...but hey, whatever gets him hitting.