Because the Gods hate baseball fans, Tampa Bay Rays’ starting pitcher Alex Cobb has elected to undergo Tommy John surgery, and Drew Smyly is most likely lost for the season with a tear in his labrum. Cobb hasn’t even thrown a pitch yet in 2015, and Smyly had only made three starts.
Rays’ starters just cannot stay healthy. According to Marc Topkin of Tampabay.com, the Rays have already seen six of their top 10 starters (both in the majors and minors) land on the disabled list. Talk about bad luck.
Losing Cobb, a pitcher who posted a sub-3.00 ERA and a sub-3.30 FIP in 2014, hurts the Rays as it would any team losing a hurler of his caliber. Cobb is an exciting pitcher with hopefully a bright future if he can bounce back from the surgery. He’s 27, so he’s just entering his prime, although his prime will be delayed for at least a year now. The Rays will surely miss Cobb, but they could have been just fine without him. But now with Smyly out as well, the rotation is in deep trouble.
Cobb and Smyly are gone for the year and Matt Moore hasn’t pitched in a game this season, and yet, the Rays’ starting staff is one of the best in baseball. As of May 9, Rays’ starters rank fifth in ERA (3.37) and FIP (3.36), and have been worth 3.3 WAR already, despite using eight starters through the first month of the season. Alex Colome has been almost unhittable in his two starts, Smyly posted a strikeout rate north of 30% with an ERA of 2.70 in his few starts and Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer have pitched like Cy Young candidates. Cobb’s and Smyly’s injuries will only shine a brighter light on Odorizzi’s and Archer’s success.
However, I don’t think their rotation can keep up its performance. With pitchers like of Nate Karns, Matt Andriese and Colome filling out the last three spots in the rotation, the quality of arms is scarce. Karns has been good in terms of ERA (3.79), but his FIP (4.78) tells us he’s been quite lucky thus far. Andriese, on the other hand, has really struggled, posting a 5.43 ERA in six appearances (three starts). And as far as Colome, well, he’s not going to keep pitching like Felix Hernandez. His 1.80 ERA in two starts is an aberration, nothing else.
Tampa Bay sits in second place in the AL East because of their pitching. They are in the middle of the pack offensively, meaning they’ve had to ride their pitchers to a 17-14 record. But the guys at FanGraphs still aren’t buying the Rays as a playoff team. They have them as .500 team, finishing 81-81, which would be a successful season considering where they finished in 2014. However, if they keep battling injuries, there’s no way they’re even a .500 squad. They really need Matt Moore to come back in top form.
Nonetheless, the Rays have an extremely bright future in the pitching department, but with all the injuries in 2015, that future might have to wait. Just imagine a healthy rotation with the likes of Cobb, Moore, Smyly, Archer and Odorizzi. If they can all stay healthy (a big if) for the bulk of 2016, they could make the case for the top starting pitching staff in Major League Baseball.