Most of the focus on the Rays pitching staff has centered around Charlie Morton. Morton deserves it. He has been incredible and with a 2.85 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 3.27 xFIP he has put himself squarely in the discussion for the American League Cy Young Award.
Morton’s 5.3 fWAR ranks third in the majors behind only Max Scherzer and Lance Lynn, and his 5.1 RA9 WAR ranks tied for seventh in the majors. Anyway you slice it Morton has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.
However there is somebody else that has been just as important to the Rays staying in the playoff hunt.
Ryan Yarbrough has been the guy that has stepped up in the wake of injuries in the rotation.
After a solid 2018 as the face of the bulk guy Yarbrough had a rough start to the 2019 season. After five appearances Yarbrough had a 8.10 ERA, 4.77 FIP, and 4.71 xFIP over 16.2 innings. He was optioned to Durham.
Tyler Glasnow was removed from a game on May 10 and has been on the Injured List since. Yarbrough was the man called up the next time the rotation needed another arm on May 23.
Since then, in 16 appearances with 7 traditional starts Yarbrough has thrown 88.1 innings with a 2.45 ERA, 2.90 FIP, and 3.78 xFIP. His 22.2% strikeout rate is just below the league average rate of 22.7%, but he’s gotten there by posting a minuscule 2.7% walk rate (8.5% league average).
Yarbrough might own a fastball that averages under 89 miles per hour, but his results have been fantastic. Since May 23, Yarbrough’s 2.5 fWAR is tied for 11th in the majors with Clayton Kershaw. Yarbrough’s 2.9 RA9 WAR ranks 18th in the league.
Yarbrough has given the Rays not only quality, but quantity. His 88.1 innings is tied for 44th in the majors. In 10 of the 16 appearances Yarbrough has allowed one run or less (12 times with one earned run or less). The highlights include a combined perfect game chance that ran into the ninth and coming one out from a complete game shutout.
This likely is a career run for Yarbrough, but it comes at a time when the Tampa Bay Rays need it most. Sure, the Rays have been willing to get creative with pitcher usage, but there is no denying Yarbrough has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last three months when he was recalled from Durham on May 23.
Good teams need players to step up when the opportunity presents itself, and Ryan Yarbrough has done exactly that.