Sports Illustrated has dubbed the Tampa Bay Rays as the most disappointing team of the season. Why, they were the AL Champions last year and started off the season sluggish
BJ Upton started off the season slow. Akinori Iwamura went on the disabled list. Kazmir struggled his way on the DL. The bullpen had all sorts of problems.
However, the Rays have turned things around. They're five games above .500 and within six games of the division lead.
The grade the Rays get for the midseason: B
Primary catcher: Dioner Navarro
Backup catcher: Michel Hernandez
Navarro has played nowhere near the All-Star caliber he was last year. At the All-Star break last year, Navarro was batting .310 with 35 RBI and a .361 OBP. This year, he's batting .218 with 21 RBI and .243 OBP. His numbers have significantly dropped.
Navarro's not great behind the plate either. He already has four errors, only one less than all of last year. His 24.4 caught stealing percentage isn't that great either.
Hernandez is an effective backup. Hernandez is batting .270 with 11 RBI in 18 game. He arguably has a better arm and glove than Navarro.
Primary first baseman: Carlos Pena
Pena bats for power, that's about it. When he does hit a homer, it's great. Other times, his batting is not pretty.
Pena is batting .238 and already has 94 strikeouts. That's the bad, the good is that he has 22 homers, 53 RBI, and a .936 OPS. Even though he strikes out a lot, he also walks a lot.
Pena has not played anywhere near his Gold Glove caliber defense, having already committed seven errors, as opposed to his two total from last year.
Primary second baseman: Ben Zobrist
Injured: Akinori Iwamura
Where the hell did this kid come from? Zobrist is batting .289 with 16 homers, 44 RBI, and a 1.033 OBP. He leads the American League in slugging.
He already has as many bats this year as he did last year and his stats last year were a .253 average, 12 homers, 30 RBI, and a .844 OPS.
Zobrist is a super-utility man. He's played ever position except first base and catcher, and he's played them well. He's only committed one error at second base, which is impressive.
Primary shortstop: Jason Bartlett
This piranha is a devastating one. Bartlett is batting .363 with seven homers, 35 RBI, and a .964 OPS. Last year before the All-Star break, Bartlett was batting .256 with 20 RBI. What an impressive change.
His defense remains consistent, but he has had his share of hiccups, with five errors. But he more than makes up for it was his offense. He has tied the Rays record for most consecutive games with a hit at 18.
Primary third baseman: Evan Longoria
Backup third baseman: Willy Aybar
Yes, three grades of A+ in a row. Longoria has followed up his sensational rookie season with an even more sensational season. Longoria is batting .312 with 16 homers, 62 RBI, and a .874 OPS.
Longoria also has one of the best gloves at third base. Although he has committed seven errors, he has made more run saving plays than run-costing plays.
Aybar is a great backup. When a backup bats .284 with six homers, 23 RBI, and a .858 OPS, you have yourself one hell of a backup. Not to mention Aybar is also a utility man with a nice glove.
Primary right fielder: Gabe Gross
Backup right fielder: Gabe Kapler
Right field is a tale of two Gabes. Gross has been effective, but nothing special. He is batting .288 with four homers, 24 RBI, and a .852 OPS. Gross has a great arm as his four outfield assists elucidate.
The other Gabe started off the season awful, but has played better as of late. Kapler is batting .247 with four homers, 18 RBI, and a .841 OPS. Kapler is also an effective fielder, having only committed one error in his limited opportunities.
Primary center fielder: B.J. Upton
Upton had a great postseason in 2008, so people built up his hype like no other. He started off the season incredibly bad, but has turned things around as of late.
Upton is batting .245 with five homers, 27 RBI, 27 stolen bases, and a .699 OPS. All of his numbers are down from last year's pre-All Star break.
Upton has a great glove, as we see his web games every week. He has a rocket arm, four outfield assists, and has only committed one error.
Primary left fielder: Carl Crawford
Crawford should be returning to the All-Star game, and not just because the Rays need a representative, but because Crawford is batting .314 with six homers, 35 RBI, and a .819 OPS.
Crawford also plays outfield great in tandem with BJ Upton. He has four outfield assists and two errors on the year.
Crawford is a wizard on the basepaths. He's attempting to get to 100 stolen bases and he already has 38, and has only been caught stealing five times.
Primary designated hitter: Pat Burrell
Pat the Bat came from Philadelphia expecting to do big things in the potent Rays lineup. That has not been the case so far.
Burrell is batting .236 with two homers, 22 RBI, and a .660 OPS. Before the All-Star break last year, Burrell was batting .275 with 23 homers, 57 RBI, and a .979 OPS.
Ace: James Shields
Rotation: Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, David Price
Demoted: Andy Sonnanstine
The Rays have a bottom-five starting pitching staff in the American League. The starting staff has a 4.72 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and .268 batting average against.
Shields started off the season slow, but has been stellar since. Shields has a 6-5 record, while boasting a 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 76/23 K:BB ratio.
Kazmir started off the season horrendous. We learned that it was due to injury and he's set to return tomorrow. Kazmir has 4-4 record while boasting a 7.69 ERA, 1.95 ERA, and 35/29 K:BB ratio.
Garza has been the model of consistency on the staff. Garza has a 5-5 record, while boasting a 3.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 85/39 K:BB ratio.
Niemann got the nod of approval to stay over Sonnanstine. Niemann has a 6-4 record, while boasting a 4.23 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 44/33 K:BB ratio.
Price has been nothing short of awful for his hype. Price has a 1-2 record with a 4.45 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, and 33/20 K:BB ratio.
Relievers: Randy Choate, Joe Nelson, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Lance Cormier
Closer: JP Howell
Injured: Jason Isringhausen
Once a major problem for the Rays, the bullpen has turned things around and it couldn't have come at a better time. Jason Isringhausen injured his way out of a career.
The Good: Choate has a minuscule 0.79 WHIP and 1.59 ERA. Cormier has also been brilliant with a 2.45 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
The Not so Good: Wheeler has struggled early (3.96 ERA) but is calming down now. Nelson has struggled at times, and his numbers show it (4.70 ERA and 1.43 WHIP). You can shed the "amazing" from the Amazin' Australian, as Balfour has stunk compared to last year (4.72 ERA and 1.43 WHIP).
Howell has had to adjust to the closer role. He has four saves, but five blown saves. He hasn't blown a save though since June 7th.