Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays are playing longest games in majors

SEATTLE — As if all the losses, after all the ineffective pitching, impotent offense and oddly inconsistent defense, haven't made for long enough nights for the last-place Rays and those watching them, there is also this:

They actually are playing the slowest games in the majors.

"At least we're leading in something right now," manager Joe Maddon cracked.

For a combination of reasons — and not all bad — the average length of Rays nine-inning games is the longest in the majors, 3 hours, 17 minutes and 45 seconds. That, through the week ending Sunday, is nearly six minutes longer than the next team (the Yankees, at 3:11:49) and nearly 13 minutes in excess of the American League average.

"I'm not surprised," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "It's tough, man. It's tough to stay focused for that long. It's tough to keep your energy level up throughout the course of the season if you're playing such long games. It's difficult."

Monday's 12-5 loss to the Mariners, played in a relatively swift 3:10, was the Rays' 14th consecutive game that took more than three hours to complete, and the 30th of their first 39. They've had 15 of more than 3½ hours and five — including extra innings — in excess of four hours.

"Horrible," Maddon said. "They've been really long. That's too much. I don't like them that long."

Still, Maddon said he doesn't consider the lengthy stretches on the field to be directly responsible for how the Rays are playing.

There are several components that result in the long nights:

• Replay: Maddon, to the surprise of pretty much no one, has been one of the most aggressive managers in asking for reviews, leading the AL and second to the Cubs' Rick Renteria overall with 15 challenges. (He is 6-9, by the way.)

And there is no tracking of the seemingly nightly slow walks Maddon takes onto the field to chat with an umpire while waiting for a sign for whether video coordinator Chris Fernandez thinks a call could be overturned.

• Pitches seen: This is the good reason, as Rays hitters rank near the top of the AL in pitches seen, which Maddon considers the most basic indicator they are working quality at-bats. Through Monday, Rays hitters had seen 5,976 pitches (third most in the league) for an average of 3.90 per plate appearance, sixth most and slightly above league average (3.88).

"We have worked good at-bats the whole season, and that normally takes longer," Maddon said. "When this first became an issue a couple years ago, the Yankees and the Red Sox were kind of like the poster children for this because they worked really good at-bats, and a lot of that was, I thought, misplaced when there was a lot of blame placed on them."

Adding to the totals, their pitchers have thrown 5,990, second most in the league overall, and 3.93 per plate appearance, ninth most.

• Slow workers: The Rays have the majors' two slowest working starters, based on time between pitches tracked by fangraphs.com, in Chris Archer (26.5 seconds) and David Price (26.2). They have four of the seven slowest relievers in Joel Peralta (34.5, slowest in baseball), Josh Lueke (30.3), Grant Balfour (29.4) and Brandon Gomes (29.1).

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