Are the Rays’ hitters improved this season?

by Gary Shelton on May 5, 2016 · 1 comment

in general

Brandon Guyer has hit .333 in a part-time role

Brandon Guyer has hit .333 in a part-time role

Thursday, 6 a.m.

Are they better, after all?

Do they make better contact? Do they have more power? Are they more efficient with runners on base? And if so, how can you tell?

The crucial question about the hitters of the Tampa Bay Rays did not take long to answer. Through all of the team's efforts, through all of the adjustments to the roster, are they more of a threat? Are they more dangerous?

Through the first 25 games of the baseball season, you would have had

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Casually and two hits , including a homer/TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Casually and two hits , including a homer/TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

a hard time making the case. The Rays were averaging only .221 per game, which is 19 points lower than the worst they have ever done. That's pretty bad when you consider  they have had offenses that didn't know which direction to hold a bat. They were a waste of good lumber and clean batting gloves for a lot of lost seasons where the team reminded you just how much accomplished hitters cost in major league baseball.

Ah, but in the 26th game, the Rays were fireworks and light shows. They hit four home runs Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers and two doubles. They scored eight runs one night after scoring five — and the 13 visits to home plate left them kind of giddy.

But was it one night of excellence, a blind squirrel finding a peanut? Or was it a team — finally — finding itself.

Look, the Rays are going to have to score some. Their starting pitching isn't so outstanding that the rest of the league will kneel at their sight. Run prevention isn't as good. The bullpen has been very good, but it's shown a few cracks over the last couple of nights.

Nights like Wednesday will help.

“We'll take any of them (big offensive nights),” said manager Kevin Cash. “We scored five last night; eight tonight. So 13 in two days – we haven't been averaging that. It's time for us to give our pitchers a little breathing room. They have not had it. If this is a breakout, sign us up for it.”

The thing is, you cannot get around how historically bad the Rays had been. They were tied with the Yankees for the lowest average. Desmond Jennings was on an 0-for-24 streak (that reached 26 before his eighth-inning single Wednesday). Corey Dickerson, who seems to try to come out of his socks on every hack, is now 0-for-23. Souza was two-for-21 before hitting a home run against the Dodgers (he's now three-for-23.) Curt Casali was hitting .157 before his two hits.

And so it goes. Logan Morrison is hitting a league-last .094, and he still hasn't driven in a run. Brad Miller is hitting .176. Tim Beckham is hitting .172. Hank Conger is hitting .172. Jennings is hitting .179. Dickerson is at .192.


“We're going to win most of the games when we put up runs like that,” Guyer said. “I think we're ready to turn the corner. We have had a lot of guys hitting the ball really hard and not finding the grass.”

Cash, naturally, thinks his hitters will come around. He's invested in them. What else is he to think? But Morrison and Souza and Conger didn't have very good years last year, either.

“We've got good hitters,” Cash said. “When you're looking at people who have a track record of hitting, they're going to hit. Corey Dickerson is a guy who, if you look at the back of his baseball card, he's hit in the minor leagues, he's hit in the big leagues. He will hit. I think it turns into a snowball effect you have 3-4 guys just scuffling.

Still, there is this burning question. And it is asked with all seriousness.

Are the Rays hitters really better than last year?

Think about it. Is the platoon of Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison really better than last year? Are Miller and Beckham better than Asdrubel Cabrera? Is the dh better with Dickerson than it was with John Jaso?

If Tampa Bay is going to really compete in the AL East, this year's hitters will have to come around. In particular, the dead zone part of the lineup. Dickerson ended the game hitting .192. Jennings is hitting .179. Beckham .172. Casali .182.

I know, I know. Everyone wants perfection from the starting pitchers. But there hasn't been a lot of room for error. There have been too many nights like Drew Smyly's Wednesday, when he gave up two earned runs...and got a tie.

The Rays' starting pitching has all of four wins all season. That's half as many as the bullpen, which isn't a healthy mix.

For the Rays, the answer this season has been hitting. No secret there. There have been nights when that bottle race, the one with the mascots running in full outfits, could race across home plate. And the Rays still couldn't hit them.

Could this have been the start of something. You hope so, if for no other reason than the sake of our summer.

Smelly allowed two earned runs in five innings.

Smyly allowed two earned runs in five innings.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cecil DeBald May 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm

We can wait all season for the bats, of course, team option. But for me, if we’re not hitting, I’m all for saying goodbye to a few of the bats, pay them to stay home, and bring up some of our young guys from the minors. They won’t do any worse, and they will be with us for a while, need the reps.



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