Remember back in the day when you and your pals would joke and poke fun at lowly sports franchises like the Tampa Bay Rays? Maybe that was just me, but either way, those days are over as Joe Madden’s club has become one of the biggest playoff hopefuls for the 2012 MLB season; in large part due to their deadly rotation of hurlers.
You see, while the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays were out losing game after game and becoming the brunt of many jokes around sports bars, their minor league system was getting ready to wow the majors with names like David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore.
Paired together with late-blooming star James Shields and a less-than-intimidating American League East, you’ve got the recipe for a dominant season on the mound for this rotation.
Hellickson came into the league with huge hype, and boy did he live up to it, boasting a 2.95 ERA and 117 strikeouts in his first major league season. His impressive first season earned him the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year award.
Price and Shields are the veteran anchors of this relatively young staff, with a combined 10 major league seasons under their belt. Price has been the ace in Tampa for a few seasons now, quickly becoming one of the best strikeout pitchers among starters in the AL.
While the Tennessee-native is coming off a down year statistically, with an improved offense and rotation to easy the weight on his shoulders, Price can easily rebound from a 2011 to forget last year.
Regardless of Shields’ up and down ERA from year to year, he’s always been a shoe-in for double-digit victories during his career, posting five during his six years in the big leagues. The veteran is coming off his best year ever, with an ERA of 2.82, 225 strikeouts and 16 victories in 2011, all of which were career-bests for Shields.
Which brings me to Matt Moore, or as some would call him, Hellickson 2.0. Moore has yet to make his first MLB start of the New Year, but comes like Hellickson, he is coming in with huge hype.
The newest addition to the Rays lineup tore up the minor leagues, posting an ERA of 1.92 last year during his time in Double and Triple-A. He also appeared in three games for Tampa last year, holding batters to a 2.89 ERA with 15 strikeouts in only a handful of innings.
You can talk about Justin Verlander out in Detroit, you can speculate on what the New York Yankees might have one Michael Pineda is healthy and Andy Pettitte is back, but there is no other rotation in all the American League that can hold a candle to what the Rays have been able to put together on their campaign towards the World Series trophy this season.