tampabay.com

Rays Tales: Hits and misses

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007


Though they have the worst record in the major leagues for the fourth time, the Rays did a few things right. In an otherwise lost season, they had:

The likely AL comeback player of the year

Carlos Pena had a season like no other Ray, logging a team-record 45 homers and 120 RBIs and winning team MVP honors. Not bad for a guy signed to a minor-league contract after spending all but 18 games last season at Triple A with the Yankees and Red Sox after being released in the spring by Detroit.

The potential AL rookie of the year

Delmon Young's performance is worthy of making him the first Ray to be so honored, but reputation - his and the team's - may be an issue. Boston's Dustin Pedroia seems to be the popular favorite, but Young has more hits, homers and RBIs.

The AL (and perhaps major-league) strikeout king

Scott Kazmir dethroned three-time winner Johan Santana with 239 and did so in a relatively economical 2062/3 innings. Plus, he set a Rays record with a 3.48 ERA.

The possible AL stolen-base leader

Despite missing the final 12 games with a left groin strain, Carl Crawford went into the final two days with a chance to, um, steal a fourth title. Baltimore's Brian Roberts was one down with two to play.

A 20-20 man

B.J. Upton has hit 24 homers and stolen 22 bases in his first full major-league season, the first 20-20 man in team history and one of six in the AL this year. If he hadn't missed 30 games, he might be 30-30.

A pair of aces

With James Shields and Kazmir the Rays were one of only two AL teams (Cleveland) to have two starters pitch more than 200 innings with ERAs of 3.85 or lower.

A 25-save guy

There were some ugly moments, but Al Reyes, who had six saves total in 11 previous major-league seasons, converted 25 of 29.

Special Ks

If the Rays really wanted to make their new logo accurate it would be of a batter striking out. Because more batters struck out in Rays games than any other AL team ever.

As hitters, the Rays breezed past the American League record of 1,268 by the 1996 Detroit Tigers and now have 1,314, the fourth-highest total of all time. The biggest whiffer? B.J. Upton with 154, five shy of the team record.

As pitchers, the Rays lead all AL teams with 1,186 and are closing in on a top-six ranking among all AL teams ever, led by Scott Kazmir's team-record and major-league high 239.

In the process, they'll be just the sixth team in the past 50 years to lead its league in batter and pitcher strikeouts, joining the 1961 Angels, '63 Indians, '72 Mets, '87 Rangers and '02 Cubs.

And when you add it all up, the Rays are quite the fan club, involved in more strikeouts this season than any team in AL history:

 

Yr Team Total Ks Hitters Pitchers

'07 Rays 2,500 1,314 1,186

'01 Red Sox 2,390 1,131 1,259

'97 Mariners 2,317 1,110 1,207

'02 Yankees 2,306 1,171 1,135

'97 Jays 2,288 1,138 1,150

Lack of relief

The bullpen was the least effective in the majors but the most entertaining. Beyond a 6.19 ERA that ranks among the worst ever, consider the Rays lost 7 games they led in the ninth and 15 from the seventh on, there were 27 times they allowed the winning run from the seventh on and 15 from the ninth on, they blew leads of 8-1 once and 7-1 twice, they were outscored 466-317 from the sixth inning on, and they lost 13 times on the final at-bat.

The world of Elijah

There is no way, nor enough room on this page, to detail all of the issues, distractions and bad publicity caused by rookie OF Elijah Dukes. Suffice to say, he's an impact player.

Most fortunate injury

Carlos Pena should probably buy Greg Norton a steak. Or maybe a steakhouse. Amid all the Rays' unfortunate injuries, they had one that turned out to be very fortunate. If Norton hadn't hurt his right knee in the penultimate spring training game, Pena wouldn't have been called back from minor-league reassignment (that he hadn't decided whether to accept), wouldn't have made the team, wouldn't have resuscitated his career, wouldn't have had a team-record 45 homers and 120 RBIs and wouldn't have guaranteed himself millions next year, and into the future.

By the numbers

972 Losses by the Rays in 10 seasons.

 

4-18 Record in games when Carl Crawford doesn't start.

 

5 Consecutive seasons in which Crawford improved his batting average, the eighth major-leaguer since 1900 to do so.

17,131 Average home attendance, 29th in the majors, more than 15,000 below the MLB average.

189.0 ERA of rookie reliever Jeff Ridgway.