Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Bad decisions, bad luck add up to bad offense for Tampa Bay Rays

As the Rays autopsy and analyze their season-long offensive impotence, they will find multiple causes for their failures.

The construction of the lineup, as promising as it may have looked in January, February and March and even into April, has to be questioned. Measured by on-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS, they rank in the bottom three of the AL at three positions — first base, catcher and DH — and also would at shortstop had Ben Zobrist not moved over.

The performance, or lack thereof, of several key hitters is obviously a major component, the list led by Carlos Peña (who, at .198, has the lowest average of all qualifying big-leaguers), plus Luke Scott, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, etc.

Injuries played a big part, starting, of course, with the 85 games they were without their best hitter, Evan Longoria. B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, Sam Fuld, Scott and Joyce were all also on the DL.

Decision-making by the bosses was also a factor. Not making a substantial acquisition to replace Longoria turned out to be a mistake, though it's hard to fault them since no one knew at the time he'd be out that long. Not adding a bat at the trading deadline, not so much.

And the coaching has to be reviewed, though Derek Shelton's work is routinely praised by manager Joe Maddon and the impact of any hitting coach on an entire group can be negligible, especially with a lack of roster continuity, making a change seem unlikely. (And, for what it's worth, all the coaches have another year on their contracts.)

There are myriad ways to measure the degree of failure.

They are 12th in the league in average and OPS, 11th in runs, ninth in on-base percentage and second in strikeouts. (On the positive side, they do lead the majors in walks.)

They have had 71 games when they've scored three or fewer runs (14-57) and 33 games when they haven't had more than five hits (8-25). Also, they have lost 20 times when their pitchers allowed three or fewer runs.

In addition to their usual offseason turnover, they acquired seven position players during the season. And, our favorite, of the 10 hitters who batted cleanup, three were designated for assignment.

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