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MLB ’05 Recap: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

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This is Part 2 of a 30-part series of team-by-team analyses of
the 2005 MLB season. Bookmark http://www.futonreport.net for the upcoming schedule as well as all past reports.

After their best finish in franchise history (fourth) The Devil Rays returned to their cellar-dwelling ways.

But while the first half of the season was marred by inconsistency, injuries and distractions, the second half produced a respectable end of the summer.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Manager: Lou Piniella (3rd year)
2005: 67-95; 5th place, AL East
—1st half: 28-61
—2nd half: 39-34
2004: 70-91; 4th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Carl Crawford (.301)
Home Runs: Jorge Cantu (28)
RBI: Cantu (117)
On-base pct: Julio Lugo (.362)
Stolen bases: Crawford (46)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Scott Kazmir (3.77)
Wins: Mark Hendrickson (11)
Strikeouts: Francis (174)

Holds: Joe Borowski (19)
Saves: Danys Baez (31)

Free agents:
2B Roberto Alomar (retired)
OF Danny Bautista
3B Alex Gonzalez
1B Travis Lee
1B Eduardo Perez

► Kazmir’s 3.77 ERA was only the second time a D-Ray starter went below 4.00 in team history. The other person was Rolando Arrojo in the 1998 expansion season (3.56).

► The Rays combined win-loss record against the division winners (Yankees, White Sox, Angels) are 18-16. They were also 6-4 against the Indians.

► The D-Rays pitched a major-low one complete game, which was a Hendrickson loss in the second to last game of the season.

The season didn’t start out right at all as Roberto Alomar retired in spring training, Rocco Baldelli missed all year with an ACL tear and Lou Piniella publicly lambasted the front office for not spending money and getting in — and keeping — a competitive team.

But to be honest, the team was competitive and at least fun to watch in the second half.

We were introduced to outfielder Jonny Gomes (.282 average, 21 HR, 29 RBI) who can easily be considered one of the league’s top rookies.

We met infielder Jorge Cantu (.286, 28, 117) who set a franchise record for RBIs in a season.

We met pitcher Scott Kazmir (10-9, 3.77 ERA), the former Mets prospect, who finished the season as the team’s ace.

And we already knew about the speedy Carl Crawford (.301, 15, 81) and Indians castoff Danys Baez (.286, 41 saves)

The team stats are puzzling, because they are third in the AL in team batting average (.274), and eighth in runs scored. But their pitching staff was clearly the Achilles heel, 2nd to last in the majors in ERA (5.39) and third to last in WHIP (1.54). Opponents hit .300 with runners on base, also 2nd worst in the majors.

In September, the team chose not to call up their golden boys Delmon Young and B.J. Upton, who have tore up the minor leagues. The reason was purely financial, because the young, exciting players would have added to the young, exciting mentality and give the Bay Area denizens something to hope for next year.

Their best winning streak was a 6-gamer in July, something seven other teams couldn’t do this past year.

So while the team has shown streaks of excitement, that proves the passion is there. The team wants to win. It just doesn’t know how. And it needs pitching. There is no question the team has talent, but several prospects have misfired in the major circuit, including their two overall No. 1 picks – Josh Hamilton – a sad story in itself – and Dewon Brazelton (1-8, 7.61 ERA).

The team has gutted its front office, so we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.

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