With the second of his two doubles Sunday, Evan Longoria reached a monumental accomplishment.
Sure, breaking Carl Crawford's franchise record was a career milestone. But of more immediate significance, it was just the second of Longoria's 100 games this season in which he rapped more than one extra-base hit.
Longoria's power outage is an ongoing issue, and one the Rays are eager to see end since they know how vital he can be as they try to play their way back into contention.
"Longo is the guy — if we get him really going in the right direction — can make the biggest difference of all, there's no denying that," manager Joe Maddon said. "More than anything, he needs to hit the ball consistently as hard as he has in the past."
The dropoff has been significant, as Longoria is on a pace — with only 16 doubles and 11 home runs — for record lows in all power categories. His slugging percentage of .394 barely ranks in the majors' top 100. Only 28 percent of Longoria's hits have gone for extra bases; his career number before this season was in excess of 45 percent. Only 14.3 percent of his at-bats have resulted in a hard-hit ball, per ESPN tracking, which is tied for 180th out of 251 major-leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances.
Longoria admits that he doesn't know exactly what the problem is and acknowledges that the process of trying to correct something not easily identifiable is obviously frustrating. He can only hope the extra work he has been putting in with hitting coach Derek Shelton and the video he has been watching make a difference.
"I've been looking at a lot of highlights when I was good," Longoria, 28, said. "Just trying to figure out what things I was doing then that I'm not doing now."
The working theory around the Rays is that Longoria's problems are rooted in a change in mechanics, that he got away — for reasons unclear — from his usual form at the plate and started doing small things differently in his setup, and he's just now getting closer to getting back to normal.
"I think for me the word is when I've been at my best in the past … it's more rhythmic. It's just a smoother swing," Longoria said. "So the added mechanics I think has maybe hindered me at times this year — that I'm trying to really focus on things that I'm doing instead of just going up to the plate and trusting that my bat is going to get where it needs to, just like I've done in the past. …
"What I've tried to go back to … is really just dumbing it down and just trusting the fact that I'm going to get into the right position to hit."
Shelton said Longoria didn't intentionally change but just drifted away from his usual form and got comfortable with a different style, which makes it feel uncomfortable to switch back.
"Sometimes things get away from guys, and he got away from what his strength was," Shelton said. "We're working toward getting that back. … I think the three (or) four days before the break he started swinging the bat a little more aggressively, so I think we're going to see the extra-base hits come back and we're going to see the balls go out of the ballpark."
Longoria has had other issues this season as well, talking opening about putting too much pressure on himself to try to do too much to get the team out of its extended early season struggles.
There has yet to be any extended stretch in which he has felt locked in.
"To be honest with you, not really," he said. "It seems like I say this every year at a certain point, whenever it is, but this game is tough, man. There'll be maybe a day or two when things feel good and it's clicking, so to speak, then the next day it's gone, and you feel like you never played the game.
"So this year has been probably the toughest year for me … because I don't really know what it is. It's been kind of a struggle to figure it out. Hopefully at the end of the year I'll be answering different questions about what happened and the outcome overall of the team and the season."
That would be a powerful statement.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.
Rays 3B Evan Longoria is considered one of the more productive hitters in the majors, but this season, not so much. A look at where he ranks in several key categories going into Monday's games:
Evan Longoria has had a significant power outage so far this season compared to past seasons:
Year G AB 2B HR XBH SLG XBH% AB/HR
2008122 448 31 27 60 .531 49 16.6
2009157 584 44 33 77 .526 47 17.7
2010151 574 46 22 73 .507 43 26.1
2011133 483 26 31 58 .495 49 15.6
201274 273 14 17 31 .527 39 16.1
2013160 614 39 32 74 .498 45 19.2
2014100 386 16 11 28 .394 28 35.1
2014*162 625 26 18 45 .394 28 35.1
* Projected at current pace. XBH — percentage of hits that are 2B, 3B, HR