Baseball is a sport that was tailormade for the sunny southern states. Of course, Florida is one of the most baseball-crazy states, and for good reason. Beside the picturesque fields and sun overhead, it is also home to two MLB teams: the Rays and the Marlins. How are these two teams looking at the halfway point of the MLB season?
Tampa Bay Rays
At the midway point of the season, the Rays are in a fantastic position and have fans ecstatic about the possibilities going forward. This team has been maintaining a win percentage above .580 for some time now. While they have been playing exceptionally well for the most part, the team still find themselves below the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Considering the elite level that the Red Sox have been playing at, this is a rivalry that will likely go on until the last games of the regular season.
The Rays are holding strong so far and are in the running to compete in the American League Championship at this rate. The predictions on the match tell us that the Rays have +700 odds to win the American League Championship overall, putting them alongside teams like the Red Sox at +600 and the White Sox at +325. At the current moment, the Rays are in 6th place in the MLB power rankings, with only star-studded teams like the Dodgers and the Giants ahead of them.
What’s Going Right for The Rays?
While the Rays have been on a roll for the last couple of seasons, this year the team has really come together. Among the current roster are a lot of individually talented players that are helping the team soar during their good stretches and keeping them going during the rocky ones. Starting off is All-Star catcher Mike Zunino who deserves a lot of credit at the midway point.
Zunino has been great with the Rays’ pitching lineup thus far. More importantly, he has been crushing it at bat. Despite a lackluster .200 average, he has 19 HRs for the season as well as 37 RBIs. Infielder Joey Wendle has also been a big asset for the Rays this season. In addition to his defensive prowess, he’s getting on base more than anyone on the main lineup with a .336 OBP and 7 HRs with 33 RBIs.
Other players like Randy Arozarena, Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe all deserve praise as well and, together, the Rayshave a talented offensive lineup. The pitching here has also been consistently good, even without Blake Snell. Their pitching bullpen still consists of big names like Ryan Yarbrough, Rich Hill, Tyler Glasnow, and Josh Fleming. When you bring all these players together, you have a consistent and well-rounded team.
However, one problem the Rays have clearly been facing is finishing games out strong. In the first 34 games the Rays lost this season, they led in 18 of them. They have 8 walk off losses, the most in MLB right now. Many of their road games were lost in the last inning. While this is frustrating, it also means the Rays are better than their record shows. If they can fix this weakness, they can sweep the AL East.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Marlins are having a less than stellar season. The team is currently sitting at the bottom of the NL East and at #22 in the power rankings. While this is concerning for fans, the good news is that the NL East is the weakest division this season and a mere 7 games separates the leaders, the New York Mets, from the Marlins. Regardless of what critics may say, when we take a closer look at this team there is certainly reason to be optimistic.
What’s Been Holding the Marlins Back?
Sometimes we can look at one stat or metric and get a clearer picture of the challenges a team faces. For the Marlins, they are having exceptional trouble closing games out strong. The Marlins have lost more than 20 of their games by one run, the 2nd most in MLB. This is due to a number of factors.
The Marlins currently have one of the worst strikeout percentages in the league at over 26%. When we couple that with a solid pitching lineup, there are destined to be some close games that go down to the last inning. The team needs some more hitters that can help bring in runs. With that said, we can be thankful for the talent they do have.
Jesús Aguilar and Adam Duvall are receiving a lot of attention. They have 35 HRs and an astounding 128 RBIs between them. Though they don’t have the best batting averages, they are certainly carrying the Marlins’ offense. At the halfway point of the season, one thing is clear:the Marlins may be down, but they are certainly not out. It wouldn’t take much for the team to rise up the ranks in the NL East and even compete for a wildcard spot.