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How the Rays fixed their bullpen

Colome has been great, but he’s not the only bright spot.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

When the Rays decided to become buyers rather than sellers at the trade deadline this season, it was met with near-universal praise from the team’s fans. The Rays had so often landed on the seller side of things during the past that seeing the team take an aggressive stance was a pleasant surprise.

Now, the Rays have actually slipped a bit in the standings since making the “buy” decision, but we’re all about the process not the results here at DRaysBay. The moves the Rays made were mostly to secure a bullpen that had been an area of weakness for the team in the first few months of the season.

In the first half of the season, the Rays had the 20th-ranked bullpen by ERA and 28th-ranked bullpen by xFIP. They had blown 16 saves, just one behind the league lead, and no one felt safe when a lead was turned over to the Rays pen (except the opposing team).

Over the past 30 days, the Rays bullpen has the sixth-best ERA and the third-best xFIP in all of baseball. So how has the pen been of late? Quite strong, it turns out.

The bullpen’s strikeout rate is vastly improved (9.22 K/9 over the past 30 days), and they are handing out the second-fewest walks per nine over that time period. Over the past 30 days, the Rays bullpen has blown only two saves — only four teams in baseball have blown fewer saves over that stretch.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisitions the Rays made at the deadline have indeed played a large role in the bullpen turn around. Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo were the two most prominent arms to join the Rays in late July, and they are both sporting ERAs below 2.00 in a Tampa Bay uniform (1.59 for Cishek and 1.99 for Romo). They have combined for nearly 40 innings since their arrival, and with a combined FIP below 3.00, there’s reason to believe they will continue to have success down the stretch for the Rays.

Rays’ acquisition Dan Jennings (10.2 IP, 5.91 ERA) hasn’t been quite as strong since his arrival, but the re-emergence of dominant Alex Colome has helped to re-steady the back end of the pen. We covered how awesome Colome has been earlier today.

Other contributors have done their part in smaller roles, as Jose Alvarado and Chase Whitley have combined to allow just one run over 8.0 innings in the past 30 days, and Brad Boxberger and Tommy Hunter have been innings eaters, while giving up a few runs here and there.

All things considered, the Rays bullpen is certainly not to blame for the struggles since the deadline. The front office made some smart moves, and they have paid off.

Imagine where the team might be without Cishek and Romo. If the bats catch fire down the stretch, and the starters can maintain their solid-if-not-overwhelming production, the bullpen might just be the key to making up the ground necessary to make that final push to the postseason.