Tampa Bay Rays All-Time Strikeout Leaders
The Tampa Bay Rays began play as the Devil Rays in 1998, and while they struggled mostly until they were renamed “Rays” before the 2008 season, it was almost like that name change symbolically transformed them into a winning franchise. The Rays went to the World Series in 2008 and are finally the contender they hoped to become. But they still haven’t had many years to rack up statistics, which may explain this list of their top 5 pitchers of all-time in the strikeout category. After all, the Diamondbacks, who entered the league the same year, have had guys like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling on their roster. Anyway, here is that short list, which is sure to expand in the coming years:
Scott Kazmir (833)—Mets’ fans like yours truly are still bitter about the trade that sent Kazmir to Tampa in exchange for Victor Zambrano, who basically stopped for a cup of coffee in New York before basically falling off the map. Kazmir has great stuff and while he’s only pitched in Tampa Bay since 2004, he has already racked up 833 strikeouts, which leads the franchise all-time. Kazmir’s best season so far was 2007, when he went 13-9 (career high in wins) with a 3.48 ERA and career best 239 strikeouts (led the American League). Kazmir will continue to add on to this total, but he’s also had a history of being injury prone.
James Shields (538)—James Shields has pitched in Tampa his entire career, since 2006, and has become a young bright spot in a solid rotation. Shields already ranks second in Rays’ history with 538 strikeouts and he had a career high of 184 K’s in 2007. But Shields’ best overall season so far was 2008, when he went 14-8 with a 3.56 earned run average and 160 strikeouts and just 40 walks in 215 innings pitched.
Victor Zambrano (372)—Victor Zambrano began his career in Tampa in 2001 and pitched there for a few seasons before being traded to the Mets in 2004 for Kazmir. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2007. Anyway, Zambrano ranks third in Tampa history with 372 strikeouts, and his best season was with them in 2003. That year, Zambrano went 12-10 (on a team that went 63-99) with a 4.21 ERA and career high 132 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Zambrano also led the American League in walks that year with 106.
Esteban Yan (351)—Esteban Yan was taken by the Rays in the expansion draft and pitched in Tampa from 1998 to 2002. He ranks fourth in franchise history with 351 strikeouts, and his best season was 2000. That year, despite a mediocre 7-8 record and awful 6.21 earned run average, Yan struck out a career high 111 batters.
Ryan Rupe (348)—Ryan Rupe pitched for the Rays from 1999 to 2002 and ranks fifth in team history with 348 strikeouts. Rupe had his career high of 123 K’s in 2001, despite a 5-12 record and 6.59 ERA.