This past July was a month to remember for the Tampa Bay Rays. They posted a franchise-best 21-5 record in the month, hitting for a 115 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) as a team (3rd in MLB) and combined for seven complete games from four different starters in the rotation.
The Rays’ hot stretch has not only put them into playoff position, but it gives them the second-best record in the AL (best before last night’s loss) entering August.
Let’s take a look at how each player contributed to the Rays’ remarkable July run.
James Loney: A
James Loney continues to give the Rays consistent production at first base. He posted an impressive .325/.356/.422 slash line in July while playing terrific defense at first.
Ben Zobrist: A
Zobrist had a huge month offensively in June and didn’t dissappoint in July either. He put up a very strong 119 wRC+ (which equals Loney’s mark) and—like the rest of the team in the past month—was rock solid defensively.
Sean Rodriguez: A-
Rodriguez enjoyed what was the best statistical month of his career in July, batting .326/.383/.419 over 49 plate appearances. The strong numbers from S-Rod are likely nothing more than a fluke (his .467 BABIP is a key indicator), but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come for the Rays’ utility man.
Yunel Escobar: A+
Yunel Escobar has been such a valuable player for the Rays all season, but he has really broken out offensively in the last month. Escobar’s .351 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) in July is second best amongst all AL shortstops. When it comes to defense I think it’s pretty clear how great Escobar has been this month, as well as all year long.
Evan Longoria: D+
It’s amazing that Tampa Bay managed to go 21-5 in July with their best player slumping the way he was. Longoria hit .194 with just 11 RBI, but the Rays were still somehow able to score plenty of runs. I do, however, think Longo earns a D+ here because of his usual Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner.
Kelly Johnson: A
After an ice cold June, Johnson responded in a big way in July. He had just 57 PA’s, but really made the most out of them, posting a 172 wRC+.
Sam Fuld: D+
I was a pretty unproductive month in what has been a rather unproductive season (-0.3 WAR) for Sam Fuld. He had 30 PA’s in July and hit .250. The game-saving play he made last week in Fenway Park was a memorable one, though.
Desmond Jennings: A
Desmond Jennings’ production at the top of the Rays’ lineup was a huge part of the team’s July success. He hit for a 117 wRC+ and went 7 for 8 in stolen base attempts.
Wil Myers: A+
Wil Myers’ June call-up to the big leagues is really what triggered this great run for the Rays. He leads the league in batting average post All-Star break (.447) and enjoyed an outstanding July, putting up a 166 wRC+ and knocking in 18 runs.
Matt Joyce: D-
Things have gone downhill for Matt Joyce in the second half of the season. His numbers for July aren’t pretty; a .222/.344/.241 line without a single home run and just two RBI.
Luke Scott: A+
Luke Scott’s red-hot bat really carried the Rays earlier in the month and won them a handful of games. Scott posted a 160 wRC+ in July with nine extra-base hits (four home runs).
The Starting Rotation
David Price: A+
David Price came off the DL July 2nd looking to return to his 2012 Cy Young form. He appears to be even better now, as he was nothing short of incredible in July. In six starts, he tossed three complete games and five quality starts to go along with a 1.68 ERA, a .199 opponents’ average and an unrealistic 35.00 K/BB rate.
Jeremy Hellickson: B
In his five July starts, Hellickson went 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA and delivered three quality starts. He appeared to lack command in his last three outings, though, combining for seven walks.
Chris Archer: A+
Along with teammate Wil Myers, Chris Archer is making a great case for American League Rookie of the Year. He won all five of his starts in July, pitching two complete-game shutouts (the first two CG’s of his career) and posting a minuscule 0.73 ERA.
Matt Moore: A
Matt Moore also started five games in July, and besides for his last outing in New York, he was fantastic. He finished the month 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and a 2.72 FIP which included a complete-game shutout in Fenway park. A sore elbow bothered Moore in his latest start, which has landed him on the 15-day DL
Roberto Hernandez: B
With his job in jeopardy—and likely still in jeopardy—from Alex Cobb’s return, Hernandez put together a solid performance in July. He posted a 3.94 ERA in five starts, which included a complete-game win Tuesday night.
Alex Torres: A
Ten scoreless innings for his month of July—can’t ask for much more than that. Torres ERA drops to 0.27 as his innings pitched total reaches 33.0.
Cesar Ramos: D
Ramos pitched just seven innings in July and allowed five earned runs. He only made one appearance that wasn’t low leverage and actually picked up a win in extra innings.
Kyle Farnsworth: D-
The end of Kyle Farnsworth’s 15-season MLB career appears to be very near. Farnsworth pitched only 5.2 innings in July and gave up four earned runs.
Jamey Wright: D-
Wright is another low-leverage reliever in this Rays bullpen who struggled in July. He allowed five runs in just 7.1 IP.
Jake McGee: B-
McGee surrendered three earned runs in 8.2 IP last month. He did post an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12-2, though.
Joel Peralta: B+
Outside of one lead-blowing three-run homer given up in Houston early in the month, Peralta hasn’t allowed a single run. He also picked up seven holds in July.
Fernando Rodney: A
Things have really come together for Rodney since June. Tampa Bay’s closer was nine-for-nine in save opportunities in July and let up just two runs.
The American League Rookie of the Year Award. An award that has been familiar with Rays players for the past 3 years. This year the Rays have two strong candidates, one who I think deserves to win the award. The two guys are Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson, who was a ROY candidate in 2010.
When it comes to the best rookie pitcher, I don’t think it’s much of an argument. The “Hellboy” has the best statistics; with the lowest ERA and most innings pitched of all AL rookie pitchers. Sadly, many baseball fans around the country still have failed to recognize that the underrated Hellickson is the best rookie pitcher in the American League. Many assume that Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova is the best rookie pitcher, because of his astonishing 15-4 record. Even though Nova is having a pretty good rookie season, the run support from the big New York bats is the reason for that record. Nova’s ERA is a full run higher, with 26 less innings pitched than Jeremy. And if strikeouts is a stat you value in these debates, Hellickson has the 2nd most K’s of AL rookies and 22 more punchouts than Nova. Young fireballer Michael Pineda of the M’s is the third pitcher in the running for Rookie of the Year. The 22 year old, 6-foot 7 Pineda has already shown that he has some of the best stuff in league. To be fair, his win-loss record is not a legitimate in his case because of being on one of the worst teams. But he still has 9 wins with a 3.74 ERA, and leads all AL rookies in strikeouts with an impressive 163 K’s. I think Pineda will one day be one of MLB’s premier pitchers. Still the ERA (the most important pitching stat), is nowhere near Hellickson’s.
On the other side of things, there are some offensive players that get in the way of a potential ROY award for Hellickson. Besides Desmond Jennings, some names include Brett Lawrie, Eric Hosmer, Mark Trumbo, and Dustin Ackley. Lawrie and Jennings both have the same problem. They have both played under 50 games (Lawrie with 30), not close to a full season. Still their impressive (and similiar) stats have put them in the arguement. They both are hitting over .310, with 20+ RBI’s and 8 homers each. Jennings has already racked up 15 steals and 50 hits.
The Royals Eric Hosmer, and the Angels Mark Trumbo have both produced a bunch of runs for their respective teams. Hosmer has knocked in 65 runs, while also hitting a solid .287. Trumbo has hit 26 bombs and 80 RBI’s, but his .258 average will hurt him in the voting. Dusting Ackley has played 69 games for Seattle at second base, and is batting a high .301 average. With all these rookie bats, I still think Jeremy Hellickson is the player that deserves this award. If Jennings or Lawrie played 100+ games, than we might have a much different story. If one of those two doesn’t win this year, they will have a terrific shot in 2012.
I would like to see what the readers think, leave your vote on the poll below: