With the second half of the MLB season underway, every team is trying to determine whether they are a contender or pretender—buyer or seller.
The Tampa Bay Rays currently sit four-and-a-half games out in the AL East and three and a half back in the AL Wild Card.
While many people believe that the Rays need to make a big move by July 31, I believe the move has to come from within the the Rays' current lineup and rotation.
Sure, adding a starting arm like Roy Halladay would increase any team's starting rotation, and the thunderous bat of an Adam Dunn would be great lumber for a playoff lineup.
True, currently, some players are not playing up to expectations, but they have the potential to turn it around.
Let's look at those players and see what the second half has in store for them.
Longoria started off this season just where he ended his first season. He was slugging the ball better than anyone and on pace for a record-breaking RBI performance. But, since the beginning of June, a nagging hamstring injury has slowed him.
Longoria is getting healthier, and he will be the center focus of the Rays-star studded lineup for the second half of the season.
Peña is the AL home run leader, and he is still up there in RBI. But he is only batting a measely .220 and striking out way too much.
Peña is a streak freak. When he is cold, he has trouble hitting a beach ball. When he is hot, pitchers beware; the ball disappears beyond outfield fences. Right now, Peña is struggling but, after a 2-for-4 outing yesterday, the man they call Los could be have a strong second-half.
Pat "The Bat/No Bat" Burrell
Pat Burrell has been the most dissapointing super star in the Rays' lineup this year. Due to a neck strain, Burrell was on the DL for rougly a month and posted only four home runs before the All-Star break.
Burrell is in for a great second half of the year.
The two weeks leading up to the All-Star break, Rays fans were seeing promising things from the powerful right-hander. They were seeing RBI, doubles, fly balls caught at the wall, and the great eye that Burrell possesses at the plate.
Friday night, the first game back from break, Burrell launched a huge home run to bring the Rays right back in the game. A game they later would win, which began a weekend sweep of Kansas City.
He said that, due to his neck injury, he developed some bad habits, which have been fixed by using and trusting his hands more. Let's just hope that he continues to improve and forgets about his four-strike out game yesterday afternoon.
If these players can get the bats turned around and Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, and Carl Crawford continue with their career years, this lineup will be something that no pitcher wants to see in the closing months.
The Rays' starting rotation is as streaky as the hitting. The young starters feed off each other. When one pitches eight strong innings of two-run baseball, the next guy goes out and pitches a complete-game shutout. When one struggles, they all seem to follow.
The good thing and the bad thing about this rotation is that, one through five, the starters have performed equally. If the playoffs started today, I wouldn't know whether to give Game One ball to James Shields or Jeff Niemann. To me, that is a good problem to have, and let's hope it continues that way—in a positive direction.
The bullpen has been the strong point leading up to this point in the season. J.P. Howell has taken over as the "closer" and has been "Just Perfect" Howell. He finished all three of this weekend's wins with a save.
All other pitchers assume their role, which helps the bullpen perform well.
So you tell me, where do the Rays need to make a move? I would put our lineup up against any lineup in the league. And, one through five, our starting rotation is as solid as any team's rotation, and our "no-name" bullpen just finds ways to get hitters out.
So, when the Rays "make a move," it is going to happen within themselves. The Red Sox and Yankees know they have to keep their eyes on the rear-view mirror because here come the Rays.