Autopsies of this failed Rays season — both analytical and anecdotal — will find that a dearth of offense was the primary cause. More than the injuries to the starters, more than the dropoff in defense, more than the bullpen blowups, it was the inability to score that hurt the most. Though offense is in decline throughout the game, the Rays are down even more, evidenced by their majors-most 17 shutouts. They rank last in the American League with 547 runs (through Friday) and are on a pace to finish with 624, second-fewest in their 17-season history.
The falloff has been a team effort, a combination of insufficient individual performances, a collective failure with runners on base and a series of statistical declines they consider bad baseball luck, giving them reasonable hope for a significant improvement next season, when the cast is expected to remain primarily the same.
"I know people want to point fingers and blame people, but there's effort and there's performance," manager Joe Maddon said. "The effort's been there, the work's been there, the information's been there, we have not performed at the level that we thought we would overall. For the most part, nobody's having a career year, and I think you can even say some guys are just struggling to have even average years from an offensive perspective. That's probably been our biggest problem."
When Maddon cited Thursday's frustrating ninth inning against the Jays of what was then a scoreless game — when they had runners on first and third with no outs and didn't even put a ball in play — as a microcosm of their soiled season, he had a valid point as the lack of production with runners in scoring position has been a major shortfall.
Here is a look at several key areas for their struggles:
What has doomed the Rays the most is the inability to get a clutch hit — their .246 average with runners in scoring position 11th in the AL — and more pointedly with a runner on third and less than two outs and with the bases loaded.
In 287 plate appearances with no or one out and a runner on at least third, the Rays failed to drive in a run 166 times. The 119 times they did, going 58-for-198 (.293, though with only 15 extra-base hits), they scored only 165 runs.
And in 144 plate appearances with the bases loaded, the Rays failed to drive in a run 81 times and only one another 41 times. Overall, their bases-loaded average of .241 is 14th in the AL and their .567 OPS last.
Getting runners isn't really the problem, as the Rays have had 1,732 men reach base, seventh in the majors. But they have left a majors-most 1,055 on, an inefficient 60.9 stranded rate.
Homers have never been a huge part of their game, but even less so this season. After averaging 175 over the past six seasons, they have 100, on a pace for 114. Evan Longoria leads with 18; only two others are in double digits.
From 2008-12, the Rays averaged 159 stolen bases, ranking first in the AL four times. Last year they dropped off to 73, ranking 12th; this year, 55 so far, ranking 13th. The lack of steals reflects an overall lack of athleticism and speed, which, given their usual absence of much power, further reduces their production.
A big hole
Traditional position slots aren't as applicable since the Rays move so many players around, but there are still some obvious deficiencies by comparison. Based on OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage, the Rays production is near the AL's worst at shortstop, .653, 12th; centerfield, .670, 12th; and first base, .701, 11th.
But the biggest hole has been from the catcher's spot. Between Ryan Hanigan's injuries and Jose Molina's potentially historically bad performance, the Rays are last not only in the AL but the majors at .528, the sum of a .275 on-base percentage plus a .253 slugging percentage. (Cubs pitchers are an NL-best .426.)
While the defense has had problems turning double plays, the Rays have had no trouble hitting into them, 121 so far, third in the AL. That's after 140 last season, third most, as they shifted to a more contact-oriented lineup.
How the Rays stack up offensively, with AL rank:
Avg. .248 11
Runs 547 15
HR 100 13
OBP .319 7
SLG .367 15
OPS .686 13
BB 472 4
SB 55 13
GIDP 121 4
LOB 1055 1
SHO 17 1
• The early read is that next season's Rays will look a lot like this one, officials confident that the group they put together to win this year will bounce back. So aside from a trade or two to relieve the outfield glut (Matt Joyce, maybe Desmond Jennings) and some of the usual shuffling in the bullpen, there won't be many changes. It will be interesting to see if C Jose Molina, who is signed for $2.75 million, is brought back.
• Bench coach Dave Martinez was a finalist the last time the Astros manager's job was open and would seem positioned to have a good shot to replace the recently fired Bo Porter if the club is open to another first-timer.
• One interesting name that already surfaced for the Texas job — and will here whenever the Rays have to replace Joe Maddon — is Gabe Kapler.
The Rays have had 21 crowds under 12,000 and two over the current MLB average of 30,400, on pace for a total of about 1.43 million, which will be their smallest since 2007. … A limited edition bobblehead of radio guys Andy Freed and Dave Wills is available with a ticket purchase during the final homestand through raysbaseball.com/wdae. … Congrats to INF Shawn O'Malley, who, after eight years in the Rays' minor-league system, got a callup by the Angels. … OF Wil Myers will host a Wiffle Ball Challenge on Nov. 1 in North Carolina benefitting the Miracle League of High Point.
Got a minute?
Best meal you can make?
I can cook a little bit. Let's say lasagna.
Karaoke song if you had to?
I'm a big Frank Sinatra fan, so My Way.
Food you hate?
I like some seafood, but sushi.
(Model) Candice Swanepoel