ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays have had some good offensive players over the last two-plus decades, the organization has made it very clear that they’re built around stellar pitching, and it has showed season after season.
Over the last decade or so, it’s difficult to find an organization that has consistently pitched as well as Tampa Bay. In fact, since 2010, the Rays have finished in the top 10 in the Majors in ERA eight times, including each of the past five seasons.
Though the team has dominated as one unit, there have been some stellar single-season performances that have stolen the show. With that being said, let’s take a look at the Rays’ five best single-season performances by a pitcher.
1) Blake Snell, 2018
At the beginning of the season, Snell told pitching coach Kyle Snyder that he was going to win the Cy Young Award. Coming off a 4.04 ERA season in 2017, Snell bounced back to accomplish his goal, winning the Cy Young Award over Justin Verlander.
En route to winning the award, Snell set franchise records for a starting pitcher with a 1.89 ERA and 21 wins. Right-handed hitters hit just .188 against Snell in ‘18 and left-handers hit an abysmal .135. Not only did Snell have the best single-season performance by a Rays pitcher, but the left-hander executed one of the most flawless seasons in MLB history.
2) David Price, 2012
Before Snell broke nearly all of his records, Price’s 2012 season was easily considered the best single-season performance by a Rays pitcher. Like Snell, Price won the AL Cy Young Award, becoming the first Rays pitcher to accomplish the feat. His 20 wins and 2.56 ERA that season are both career bests.
3) Fernando Rodney, 2012
Relievers are people, too, so we had to make sure to include at least one of them on this list, and it’s impossible to not have Rodney’s 2012 campaign at the No. 3 spot. To make this simple, Rodney’s season was the best by a reliever in Rays history, and it’s not even close.
He posted a 0.60 ERA in 74 2/3 innings of work and recorded 48 saves. His ERA+, which is adjusted to a player’s ballpark, was 641. Anything above 100 is considered good, which makes 641 otherworldly. Rodney’s season was so good that he finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting and even that might’ve been too low.
4) James Shields, 2011
Big Game James, as fans affectionately called him, had a lot of good seasons with the Rays, but his 2011 season was probably his best. Shields set career highs with 16 wins and a 2.82 ERA. His ability to log 249 2/3 innings was also impressive, especially when you consider the workload of pitchers around the league. Shields finished third in the Cy Young Award race that season, finishing behind Verlander and Jered Weaver.
5) Charlie Morton, 2019
When the Rays signed Morton to a two-year, $30 million deal before the 2019 season, most people agreed that having the veteran right-hander would be a perfect fit for a young, hungry clubhouse that was ready to take the next step. But nobody expected Morton to put up career numbers as a 35-year-old pitcher.
As the Rays dealt with injuries to Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Snell, the one constant in the rotation was Morton. He made a career-high 33 starts, won a career-best 16 games and finished with a career-low 3.05 ERA. Morton’s superb season earned him a third-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award race, finishing behind his former teammates Verlander and Gerrit Cole.