Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Things to watch as Rays play out string

Typically we wait until around Labor Day to look at what else the Rays have to play for besides making the playoffs. But this obviously is not a typical season, as their miserable month-long skid, losing 22 of 25 going into the All-Star break, pretty much sabotaged any chances they had to play meaningful games in September. So with that said, and with the potential for some fresh talent to be added by Monday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, here are some things to monitor over the final two months:

Chris Archer's losses

Although Chris Archer has been pitching better of late, he still leads the majors with 14 losses, and he still has 10 or 11 starts remaining, including Monday night — assuming he is not traded — against the Royals.

That means there is still a chance he will become the first major-leaguer to lose 20 games in a season in 13 years, since LHP Mike Maroth collected 21 for Detroit in 2003.

Actually, it would be an even more rare feat, as Archer would be the first to lose 20 after being an All-Star the previous season since Hall of Fame RHP Phil Niekro did so for Atlanta in 1979.

A more realistic accomplishment, if you can call it that, is that Archer could match or surpass the team record of 18 losses, set by RHP Tanyon Sturtze in 2002.

Though it may become a more popular topic, you should know that Archer won't care much about his final record.

"When the team isn't winning, then the pitcher isn't going to have an individual win," he said. "But it's not even a factor in my world. A team win is, and that's what hurts. But a personal win? I know that's almost archaic now because people look at deeper things to judge a pitcher than win-loss."

So if he happens to end up losing 20, he says it won't be any more than a notation.

"It won't bother me," Archer said. "It might be fun for people to joke about and talk about. I had a losing record last year (12-13, 3.23) and I was in the top five in the American League (Cy Young Award voting). I'm not saying I'm okay with losing. I don't do everything that I do to lose. But that's one particular stat I don't dwell upon."

Plus, Archer said, "it'll make my story next year even better when I win 20. I could be the first person to lose 20 and the next year win 20."

Evan Longoria's final numbers

3B Evan Longoria has been the Rays' best player all season ranks among the AL leaders with 23 home runs (tied for eighth), 27 doubles (tied for sixth), 52 extra-base hits (tied for fourth), 215 total bases (eighth) and a .540 slugging percentage (10th). And if he can finish what he started, he might, at age 30, have the most productive of his nine years with the Rays.

"I'm trying to go out there and put up the best season that I've ever had," Longoria said. "Personally right now, it's going really well. I hope I can use some of that to try and get us back on track. It's never as fun when the team is not doing well. But it's nice to be able to come to the ballpark and not have to stress about my swing right now or all the other things when it's not going well that you have to think about."

Here is a comparison of Longoria's projected stats for this season and his previous career high in each category:

'16 High (year)

Avg. .289 .294 (2010)

Hits 183 169 (2010)

2Bs 42 46 (2010)

HRs 36 33 (2009)

XBHs 82 77 (2009)

RBIs 92 113 (2009)

OBP .338 .372 (2010)

SLG .540 .531 (2008)

OPS .887 .896 (2012)

How low will they go?

At their current pace, the Rays will finish 65-97. As if that's not bad enough, if the Rays start using some of their younger players and pitchers to get some better ideas for 2017, their final record obviously could get worse. Here are the worst seasons the Rays, and Devil Rays, have had:

Year W-L Pct. Fin-GB Manager

2002 55-106 .342 5-48 Hal McRae

2006 61-101 .377 5-36 Joe Maddon

2001 62-100 .383 5-34 Rothschild/McRae

1998 63-99 .389 5-51 Larry Rothschild

2003 63-99 .389 5-38 Lou Piniella

2016* 65-97 .401 5-27 Kevin Cash

2007 66-96 .407 5-30 Joe Maddon

* Projected

Brad Miller's power show

SS Brad Miller rapped two more extra-base hits Friday, then homered in his first at-bat Saturday, giving him 38 extra-base hits for the season, second among AL shortstops to Houston's Carlos Correa and well on the way to surpassing Julio Lugo's team record of 52 set in 2004. (That includes a majors-most five games with a double and a triple.)

With his 16th homer, Miller broke the team record for players who play primarily shortstop, which was shared by Lugo (2003) and Asdrubal Cabrera (2015).

Deeper into history, Miller became just the sixth left-handed hitting shortstop to hit more than 15 in a season. The others:

Player, team HRs

Dick McAuliffe, 1964 Tigers 24

Dick McAuliffe, 1966 Tigers 23

Brandon Crawford, 2015 Giants 21

Stephen Drew, 2008 D'backs 21

Arky Vaughn, 1935 Pirates 19

Corey Seager, 2016 Dodgers 17

Source: baseball-reference.com

Will Kevin Cash get fired?

In a word, no. As bad as this season has been, the Rays consider the extensive spate of injuries — 12 players placed on the DL in the past 10½ weeks — and inconsistent performances from their starters as the root cause. Plus, this is not an organization prone to scapegoating, and Cash is in just the second season of a five-year deal.

Rays rumblings

Former Rays OF David DeJesus, talking to Fox Sports Sun's Todd Kalas in the Dodger Stadium stands, said that though he didn't play this season, he is not retired and is hoping for an invite to camp somewhere next spring, when he'll be 37. … The mlb.com top 100 midseason prospects list had four Rays: No. 14 LHP Blake Snell (majors), 28 SS Willy Adames (Double A), 51 RHP Brent Honeywell (Double A), 90 1B/OF Jake Bauers (Double A). … ESPN's Keith Law's top 50 had only Adames, at 28, with Honeywell honorable mention. … Congrats to Triple-A Durham manager Jared Sandberg for getting an Arizona Fall League managing gig, which is a good resume addition. … The Rays will be incidental observers next weekend to the Yankees celebration/reunion of their 1996 championship team, and Mariano Rivera's Monument Park plaque dedication. … Durham radio man Patrick Kinas leaves today for Brazil, where he will broadcast Olympic swimming and other events for Westwood One radio. … Given the size of his meaty paws, maybe the Rays should be referring to C Luke Maile as Big Hand Luke? … Former Rays C Toby Hall this week opens an indoor training facility, TBC Baseball Performance Center, on Hillsborough Avenue near the Oldsmar Flea Market site.

     
 
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