Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays credit stronger defense with overall improvement

ST. LOUIS — The Rays defense has been so good that one of the Tampa Bay area's resident experts has noticed.

Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin called the team last week to pass on his congratulations and encourage manager Joe Maddon to keep stressing that style of play. Maddon was so enthused he immediately invited Kiffin to address the team, probably during the next homestand.

"Who better than Monte Kiffin to know the value of defense in winning a championship?" Maddon said.

Simply, the improved defense has been among the reasons why the Rays have done better so far. And it might be the biggest reason why they can keep winning, since defense doesn't tend to slump as hitting and pitching do.

"Everyone looks at this game from an offensive perspective," Maddon said, "but if you look at it historically, the teams that pitch and play defense are the ones that normally win."

Executive VP Andrew Friedman made it an offseason priority to improve one of the AL's worst defenses; the Rays were tied for last with a .980 fielding percentage and made the second-most errors, 117, .72 per game.

So far, they've done even better than expected, Maddon said. With the additions of Jason Bartlett at shortstop and (granted, sooner than expected) Evan Longoria at third, the shift of Akinori Iwamura to second and the improvement of B.J. Upton in center and Dioner Navarro behind the plate, the Rays are now among the league's best. They went into play Saturday with the third-best fielding percentage (.987) and third-fewest errors, 20, .48 per game.

At that rate, defense might end up being something lots of people consider worth talking about. "Eventually it does," Maddon said. "Because it wins games."

Rays credit stronger defense with overall improvement 05/17/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 17, 2008 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Vernon Hargreaves needs to improve


    TAMPA — The Bucs now rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 301 yards per game in their 2-3 start, and coach Dirk Koetter was asked Monday how concerned he is with the play of second-year CB Vernon Hargreaves.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, throwing an incompletion under pressure after replacing injured Jameis Winston against the Cardinals,  would start this Sunday in Buffalo if Winston’s shoulder is still bothering him.
  4. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe


    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]