December 23, 2005
One of the biggest jobs facing Tampa's new management is to build a pitching staff. Andrew Friedman has cited a strategy of opportunism and flexibility, looking to stockpile valuable players rather than forcing themselves to, say, sign Scott Elarton now just because they don't want Doug Waechter in the rotation. So while the pitching is still in relative shambles, the Rays won't likely be locking themselves into bad contracts anytime soon for the sake of marginal improvement. This is a good thing.
At the same time, we must be realistic with the pitching predicament. Rays hurlers with negative VORPs outnumbered the positive 12-9, and we could lop off the damage wrought by Hideo Nomo (-16.8 VORP) and the staff still wouldn't pass that pesky "replacement-level" meter. Below are the Rays' havoc-wreakers of 2005, conveniently available in BP's sortable stats database.
The good news: it probably can't get any worse. This cesspool of sub-replacement pitching will naturally drain itself to some degree. Regression to the mean could make all the new people in Tampa look like miracle workers.
But the Rays don't have much upper-level pitching on the way now that Scott Kazmir and Chad Orvella have made it. Depending on what Tampa does with Julio Lugo, Aubrey Huff, Joey Gathright, Toby Hall and Danys Baez, the staff could change dramatically in 2006. Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker might prefer talent to balance, but those players present a huge opportunity to reshape the pitching staff.