HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?
W hen the baseball schedule came out, no one would have been surprised that this past weekend's series between the Rays and Astros would have included the worst team in baseball. We just wouldn't have thought the worst team would be the Rays (27-43). What happened? Here are some reasons.
Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620 and reached at (727) 893-8544 or at [email protected]
They were overrated
Maybe our opinions of them were just a little too high. For example: Coming into this season, Ben Zobrist was a lifetime .263 hitter. Desmond Jennings was a lifetime .250 hitter. Matt Joyce was a lifetime .249 hitter. Maybe we shouldn't be shocked by numbers this season that aren't that lower than their lifetime stats. Executive VP Andrew Friedman constructed this team, and there are major holes that haven't been filled through free agency or player development. Let's not overthink this. Why did we think they were all that good in the first place?
The injury epidemic
You hate to whine about them. Everybody gets them. They're part of the game. But the Rays have had it rough. At one point, they were missing three of their five starting pitchers: Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore is out for a year. Hellickson isn't back. Other key players who have been or are on the disabled list include Ben Zobrist, Ryan Hanigan and Wil Myers. That's a lot for any team to overcome, especially when its minor-league system lacks in developing position players.
An offensive offense
The Rays came into the weekend 27th in the majors in runs scored. No wonder. They can't hit for average (23rd in the majors) or power (26th in slugging percentage). So if you can't hit singles and you can't hit homers, that means this: You can't hit. In the previous 13 games coming into the weekend, the Rays (2-11 in that span) had been held to two runs or fewer eight times, including five shutouts.
Starters' poor start
You can't blame the starting pitching of late, but early on, it struggled. From opening day to May 11, Chris Archer had two victories and a 5.16 ERA. Eric Bedard didn't win his first four starts, and the Rays lost three of those games by a combined score of 9-5. The Rays won only one of Jake Odorizzi's first seven starts. And the Rays won only two of Cesar Ramos' seven starts. By the time the Rays got to the end of May, they already were 10 games under .500.
The closer crumbles
Because the Rays don't get in many save situations, closer Grant Balfour has never been able to establish a rhythm. Coming into the weekend, he had blown only two saves, but it feels as if he has pitched much worse than that, especially when you see that 5-plus ERA. His main setup man hasn't helped.
Joel Peralta's favorite pitch this season appears to be the gopher ball. He has allowed five home runs already after allowing only seven all last year.
Maddon magic missing
We've had themed road trips and a medicine man. But where are the penguins? Where is the snake? Can we get a magician to saw a lady in half, or, perhaps, Jose Molina? Sure, you roll your eyes at this stuff, but it sure worked in the past.
Bound to happen
The Rays had put together six winning seasons in a row. Five times in that span, they won at least 90 games. They have made the playoffs four times. Do you realize how hard that is to do, especially when you're a small-market team? Sooner or later, their bargain-basement shopping was going to backfire. Sadly, the Rays were due, sooner or later, to have a bad season.