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Who was the Rays best pitcher in 2019?

I mean we know the answer, but let’s have some fun

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A month ago, we asked Who was the Rays best hitter in 2019? and there were several legitimate answers to that question. Now, because it’s the end of the calendar year and because it would feel inadequate to refer to one side of the coin and not the other, let’s answer the question: Who was the Rays best pitcher in 2019?

Charlie Morton.

End of article. Thank you for coming.

No, but seriously, Uncle Charlie was pretty clearly the Rays best pitcher in 2019, but let’s have a little fun and see how much we’d have to warp the discussion to come up with any other legitimate candidates.

First, though, Morton’s 2019 bona fides — since, yes, he was indeed the Rays best pitcher in 2019:

  • Morton finished with more than twice as much fWAR (6.1) than any other Rays pitcher (Blake Snell and Ryan Yarbrough were each worth 2.7 fWAR), and that was far from the only category in which he led the Rays.
  • Morton also tallied more than 50 more innings pitched than any other Ray; his 33 starts were 10 more than Snell (and even six more than Ryne Stanek!)
  • And maybe most impressively, Morton’s 240 strikeouts were nearly 100 more than Snell in second (147) for all of 2019.

Charlie Morton was the man the team chose to hand the ball to for the playoff game in Oakland, and he finished third in the AL Cy Young in his debut season with the Rays.

The answer is Charlie Morton.

But that’s not an interesting article, so — if we were to throw out some other plaudits for Rays pitchers — which ways could we go?

Who was the Rays best pitcher in 2019... on a per-inning basis?

Our man, Tyler. Glasnow showed electric stuff in his first full season with the team, with a forearm strain limiting his regular season inning total to just 60.2, but hot damn was he good in those 60.2 innings. He held opposing batters to a minuscule .186/.235/.274 slash line, with a 1.78 ERA that was backed by a 2.26 FIP (2.94 xFIP). Projecting that out over a full season, and the 6’ 8” righty would’ve had a good Cy Young shout of his own.

MLB: ALDS-Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Glasnow’s season ended on a bit of a sour note (cough, trash can banging, cough), but all Rays fans have to be excited to see what Glasnow can do in 2020. If he can stay healthy, the sky appears to be the limit, and an already bonkers Rays rotation could get even scarier.

Who was the Rays best pitcher in 2019... that no one saw coming?

Emilio Pagan came into the 2019 season as a 27-year-old with barely over 100 innings pitched at the MLB level, fresh off a season with a 4.35 ERA and 4.92 FIP.

Leave it to the Rays and their magic touch to turn Pagan into one of the most solid back end options by the end of the season, as the Belmont, N.C. native led the Rays with 20 saves, but far more importantly, was the steadying presence during that scary July-August run when the Rays bullpen looked anything but dominant. (Remember that?)

He ended the year with a 2.31/3.30/3.15 ERA/FIP/xFIP to go along with a 31.1 K-BB% that ranked third among all pitchers in baseball with as many innings, trailing only Josh Hader and Gerrit Cole—not bad company to be in.

Who was the Rays best pitcher in 2019... who didn’t start the year on the roster?

Another easy one.

Nick Anderson came over from the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline and proceeded to turn into the lovechild of Satchel Paige and Mariano Rivera.

The 29-year-old righty struck out 15 of the first 18 batters he faced while wearing a Rays uniform (yes, you read that correctly), and he never really slowed down, posting a mind-melting 52.6 percent strikeout rate in his 21.1 innings out of the Rays pen.

It’s not as if he was letting in runs between all those strikeouts either, as he gave up a scant five runs as a Ray, with his xFIP (1.19) actually suggesting he got a bit unlucky to give up “all” those runs.

So there you have it, Charlie Morton was undoubtedly the Rays best pitcher of 2019, but it certainly was not because he didn’t have some excellent pitchers competing alongside him.