Two months of baseball are now behind us, and the Tampa Bay Rays sit at 29-27, two games above .500 and with only one less win than the division leading Yankees (who have played six fewer games on the year).
This small market team is keeping up with the Joneses, so naturally people are starting to notice:
Ultimate sleeper team: The Rays. 17-13 in May, https://t.co/dtt0jemLib tied for most homers in May with Houston. https://t.co/3nH8iI3CKV— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 1, 2017
I can filter leaderboards too, though, and the quality of the Tampa Bay Rays shows in more than May longballs.
After two months, the Rays have the best offense in the American League, by wins above replacement...
As well as the third best rotation...
AL Starting Pitching
... where the Rays edge the Indians rotation in runs allowed.
Tampa Bay’s only struggle throughout the 2017 season has been the bullpen, which lost all four set up men at the start of the season. Chase Whitley, Jumbo Diaz and Danny Farquhar filled in admirably, but the Rays had serious struggles on the road in April without Brad Boxberger, Tommy Hunter, Xavier Cedeno or Shawn Tolleson.
As the bullpen comes back together, with various prospects grow into newfound bullpen roles (Ryne Stanek, Chih-Wei Hu, Jose Alvarado), and as the team’s well assembled prospect depth fills in for injuries elsewhere (Tim Beckham, Jose De Leon, Daniel Robertson), this Rays team could find itself in contention throughout the season.
This might be the first time this decade that the Rays have looked like their vintage selves from the 2008-2010 run of success. The Rays have not seen the playoffs since squeaking in during the 2011 and 2013 seasons, and perhaps they’ll have to do the same when fending off the Red Sox and Yankees, but this year has some magic to it.
Let’s hope it doesn’t run out.