The Tampa Bay Rays have been quite the surprise in 2019, and the pitching is the reason why.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Rays surprised baseball by winning 90 games despite having a legit rotation. They are the team that started the “opener” trend. The club exceeded expectations and were the sixth-best in pitching in 2018 with a 3.74 ERA. Lefty Blake Snell was the only notable starting pitcher in the starting five. The club benefitted from Snell’s Cy Young award season, and extended him after the season.
Now, the Rays are the top team in the American League. They have the best pitching in all of baseball with a 2.99 ERA and a 21-12 record. In baseball circles, there was not much shock that the Rays were good but it is a surprise that they are this hot. Tampa also has the best road record at 12-5. The offense ranks 21st in baseball, so the pitching has carried this team. One standout has been righty Tyler Glasnow.
Glasnow was acquired by the Rays last year in the Chris Archer trade. At the time, he was a guy with a huge ceiling, but he struggled to impact at the Major League level. In his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had difficulty being consistent. His ERA in his time with the Pirates was not great: 4.24 in 2016, 7.69 in 2017 and 4.34 in 2018. He was not able to put hitters away and could not control his breaking ball.
Glasnow has a nasty curveball and heat-seeking fastball. If he could control them, positive results would follow. This year he has been able to pitch with runners on, holding batters to a .143 batting average. Glasnow does not give the at bat away no matter what the count, and he isn’t afraid to throw his breaking ball when behind in the count. He is more confident in his stuff now more than ever. His ridiculous start won’t stretch over the course of the whole season, but there is no reason to think he’s going to regress.
Are we finally getting a glimpse of Glasnow’s ceiling? We just may be. If he can continue to trust his stuff and control the strike zone, the rest of the league should take notice. The Rays fleeced the Bucs in the Archer deal, as they also got former top prospect Austin Meadows. Both players have been nice surprises for Tampa and are important to their success atop the AL.