18. Tampa Bay Rays (71-73, minus-12, LT: 19)
In the midst of their 2008–2013 glory years period, the Rays accomplished something that’s jarringly rare in modern baseball: They went 2 ½ years without any of their starting pitchers hitting the disabled list. With that streak now long over, they’re back to experiencing the same worries as every other team. Namely, wondering if a little twinge or a bad outing could be a sign of something more grave.
It’s tough not to feel at least a little concerned about Chris Archer at the moment. On Sept. 2 against the White Sox, Archer left his start in the first inning due to forearm tightness. That condition can often be a precursor to Tommy John surgery, so it was obviously cause for alarm. Team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Koco Eaton examined Archer’s arm, found no structural damage, and pronounced him fit to make his next start. Then the Red Sox lit him up for eight runs and nine hits.
Maybe that was just a coincidence. The Red Sox offense has been erratic at times this season, but certainly has the talent to put up a bunch of crooked numbers. Moreover, if Archer was hurting when he faced the Sox, you couldn’t tell it from his fastball velocity, which was actually up slightly on Friday night, at an average of 96.5 mph. Still, with their playoff hopes slowly fading into the rearview mirror, the Rays can ill afford a major injury to their staff ace, even less so when his contract could keep him around through 2021 at rock-bottom prices.