2009 Season Retrospective: Part Two

Welcome back everyone to my 2009 Rays recap. Well first, the Yankees and the Phillies will be playing in the World Series from Hell. I’ve had visions of this in nightmares. As a Rays and Braves supporter, it gets no worse. I will be boycotting the 2009 World Series, and I invite everyone else to join me. Let’s start enjoying football and fall weather. Though football would be more enjoyable if the 0–7 Buccaneers would win a game.

Now on to the recap. This time, it’s personal. Personal opinion, at least. I will be sharing some insight — good, bad and insulting — about this year’s team. Straight to the chase, here it is:

Positive:

  • Jason Bartlett had an amazing season. Already the team MVP in 2008, he stepped his game up and delivered big offensive totals. He jumped from .286 to .320 and from one to 14 home runs. Those are staggering figures by his standards. If this is typical Bartlett from this point forward, we need to sign him long–term and build around him. Tim Beckham will have a few more years to develop.
  • Speaking of monster statistics, Ben Zobrist leaped from roleplayer to All–Star. The man known as “Zorilla” hit .297 with 27 home runs and 17 stolen bases while starting at six different positions. His most notable spots were second base and right field. He started making adjustments late in the season, which bodes well for his future.
  • Evan Longoria further cemented himself as a team leader. The first Ray ever voted to start in the All–Star Game (though unable to compete due to injury), he batted .281 with 33 home runs while improving on walks and strikeouts and establishing himself as the face of the franchise. He can be one of the best influences in the game in the next few years.
  • How about the rise of Jeff Niemann? The 2004 first round Draft pick finally showed his potential in the Major Leagues. He narrowly won the team’s ERA title at 3.94 with a nice 13–6 record. The Rays definitely made the right decision between him and Jason Hammel.
  • The Rays posted the two largest comebacks in franchise history in 2009. They battled back from a 7–0 deficit to win 8–7 over the Indians on May 15. They topped that by coming back from down 9–1 to a 10–9 victory in Toronto on July 25. There were those few times when the team displayed the resolve of a champion.
  • Tim Beckham made nice strides at Class A Bowling Green. The number one pick in the 2008 Draft hit () with five home runs and went 13–for–23 in base stealing, not bad for a guy who started 1–for–8. I think by 2011 his power potential will show. As long as his skills are being refined now, his potential ceiling is off the charts.

Negative:

  • Situational hitting was lackluster. The 2009 Rays might hold an all–time record for most times leaving the bases loaded in a season. Bunting was slightly improved, but still far from perfect. And the strikeouts — more on those later — lost critical games. This was the reason hitting coach Steve Henderson was fired. The focus definitely needs to shift.
  • Almost the entire bullpen took a nosedive. J.P. Howell had its best ERA at a respectable 2.84, but struggled with a slow start and a rocky finish. He blew eight saves, among the most in the league. Grant Balfour slid back to Earth, running his ERA up from 1.54 to 4.84 as hitters figured out his fastball. Chad Bradford spent most of the season injured and was unproductive. Joe Nelson, the big offseason signing, was designated for assignment by season’s end. Dan Wheeler was the only consistently decent reliever. Just an excruciating year for these guys. They just need to implode some of that bullpen and rebuild it.
  • Need I mention strikeouts? Carlos Pena (160), Evan Longoria (140), Pat Burrell (), B.J. Upton () and Ben Zobrist (104) hit triple digits. Carl Crawford finished with 99. Jason Bartlett hit a career high, and Fernando Perez had 17 strikeouts in just 36 at–bats. The K’s helped kill this team’s playoff chances. Every hitter on the team needs to cut that down.
  • Pat Burrell = Epic Fail. .221 with 14 home runs does not an $8 million player make. If he doesn’t hit 30 home runs in 2010, he will go down as a huge disappointment and a waste of valuable money.
  • B.J. Upton, Dioner Navarro and Andy Sonnanstine all had miserable seasons, as I previously mentioned. Upton’s 42 stolen bases were the only real accomplishment among them. Trading Upton may be a real possibility, though I could give him one more chance. Navarro should be replaced soon — 2008 is looking more like a one–time fluke. Sonnanstine… we could have kept Edwin Jackson. Enough said.
  • Scott Kazmir tanked himself to a 5.92 ERA with the Rays. It dropped to 1.73 in six starts with the Angels before he became a postseason liability. Hopefully that performance starts silencing those Rays fans calling for Andrew Friedman’s head. We did get some value out of trading Kazmir, notably Sean Rodriguez.

That’s about it for this season. When I find out from ESPN who wins the World Series, I might be back. I should also keep everyone posted on any offseason roster moves. They already fired hitting coach Steve Henderson, but retained pitching coach Jim Hickey. I personally would have done the opposite, though the Rays do need to focus on situational hitting. Until next time, go Rays.

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One comment

  1. Jonah

    I was present at that July 25th game against Toronto. I’m a Blue Jays fan, and while it was disheartening (and vomit-inducing) to see my team blow leads of 8-0 and 9-1, I give props to the Rays for never giving up on the game.

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