So far in the 2009 Major League Baseball season, the Tampa Bay Rays have had an interesting season. They are currently three games over .500, but have struggled just to get to that level.
Injuries and inconsistency have played a huge part in their season thus far. Here are some positives and negatives that have contributed to this inconsistent season and what can be expected the second half of the season.
Evan Longoria .309 16 HRs 61 RBI .390 OBP .590 SLG
Evan Longoria has had a wonderful sophomore season. He started out the season as hot as anyone, struggled a bit, and now has leveled off to become one of the best players in baseball.
Ben Zobrist .289 15 HRs 42 RBI .399 OBP .629 SLG
If Longoria is the team's MVP, Zobrist is a very close second. With injuries to Upton, Bartlett, Burrell, and Iwamura, Zobrist has kept the team going with his stellar offense and defense. Zobrist can play every position except for catcher.
Carlos Pena 22 HRs 52 RBI 55 Runs
After hitting 46 home runs in 2007, Pena hit only 31 home runs in 2008. Pena's power is definitely back. He leads the team in home runs and runs scored. Although inconsistent, Pena has helped to solidify the team as they struggle through injuries.
Carl Crawford .310 6 HRs 32 RBI 50 Runs 37 SBs
Crawford has been spectacular this season. He is the best stolen base man in baseball. Injuries have plagued Crawford the last couple of years. It doesn't seem to be affecting him this season.
He is on pace to have a career high in runs scored and stolen bases.
James Shields 6-5 3.36 ERA 71 K's
Despite a 6-5 record, Shields has been the Rays' best starter by far. If he got any run support, he may be 9-2 instead. Look for Shields to have a wonderful second half.
Carlos Pena .236 92 K's
Pena makes both lists. He is the most frustrating player on the team. He has tremendous power, but hits for a horrible average. He also strikes out way too much. For the Rays to develop any consistency, Pena needs to develop more patience at the plate.
B.J. Upton .245 5 HRs 24 RBI
Upton's inconsistency can be attributed to his recovery from an injury at the beginning of the season. It has taken Upton a lot longer to get back to his late 2008 form than people thought.
Upton is a key player for the Rays in the second half of the season. If he has a good second half, the Rays may be a tough team to contend with.
Scott Kazmir 4-4 7.69 ERA
Before he went on the DL, Kazmir was downright awful. He didn't look anything like the team's No. 2 starter. A stint on the DL is probably what he needed to get back to his old form.
The good news is that he is only 25 years old and should be off the DL soon. With a good second half, the Rays will be top contenders for AL Wild Card.
Andy Sonnanstine 5-7 6.60 ERA
It's amazing Sonnanstine has won five games this year. James Shields could use his run support. Sonnanstine's days as a starter are number. With Jeff Niemann pitching better and Scott Kazmir coming off the DL, Sonnanstine may be looking for work soon.
There are few teams in baseball that have had more problems with injuries than the Rays. They haven't had a full team all season. With the Rays getting healed, the outlook for the second half looks a lot better.
Dioner Navarro .216 BA and Pat Burrell 2 HRs
Navarro has had an awful year. He is not the same player he was last year. If he doesn't get better soon, the Rays may need to look for another starting catcher.
Burrell got off to a rough start and then went on the DL. He looks to be making a comeback, but needs a lot more consistency to help the Rays.
Second Half outlook
The Rays look like a team ready to contend for a Wild Card spot in the American League. I think the Red Sox have got a stranglehold on the AL East title, so the Wild Card looks like a good goal for the Rays at this point.
The rotation is a huge key for the team. Once the Rays figure out their rotation, they can see what kind of pitching they have.
If Burrell, Upton, and Navarro play better, the team will be tough to beat. A lot has to happen, but the Rays are not out of contention. It should be an exciting second half.
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