How did the season get away from the Rays?

by Gary Shelton on September 27, 2017 · 12 comments

in general

Cash watched his season slilp away./JEFFREY S. KING

Cash watched his season slilp away./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 5 a.m.

It is over. The season has lost its pulse.

In the end, it was a more than the season of a year ago, but less than what we wanted. It had bright spots (Corey Dickerson's first half, Adeiny Hechavarria's glove, Kevin Kiermaier's return, Alex Colome's closing), but it had flaws. The team would go into the darkest funks against the darnedest pitchers you could imagine. The starting pitching was wobbly for a franchise that counts on it. And the division beat up the Rays.

Looking at the numbers, then, how did this season slip away. And how did the Rays go from overachievers to underachievers?

They lost by the calendar. In only one month (May), did the Rays have a winning record.

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They lost it by being an all-or-nothing team at the plate. Sure, the 220 homers were nice. But can anyone mix in a little small ball?

They lost in the American League East, where they were nine games under .500 (31-40).

They lost without Matt Duffy, who didn't play at all this season.

Bright spot: Kevin Kiermaier is hitting .309 since returning from the disabled list.

They lost by striking out too much, second-most in the history of the American League. The Rays whiffed 1,496 times this year (so far). Last year, they struck out 1,482 times, which means they've struck out 2,978 times (and counting).

They lost because they could not figure out the guy on the mound. Repeatly down the stretch, the Rays would lose to a guy with no discernable resume.

The lost because they gave Tim Beckham away to the Baltimore Orioles to make room for Brad Miller to play more. Miller hit .198.

They lost late. The Rays' biggest run gaps were in the seventh (outscored 76-58), the eighth (outscored 86-62) and the ninth (outscored 53-41). The Rays had one walkoff win after June 10.

They lost because Corey Dickerson fell off a cliff. After June 26, he hit only .221 on the season. Dickerson was still the Rays' leading hitter, finishing 54th in the majors.

They lost it on the mound. Their four top pitchers were 35-36.

They lost because Logan Morrison stepped off a curb. After the All-Star break, he hit .223.

They lost because Chris Archer was 0-5 in September with a 9.82 ERA. Archer was 36th in the majors in ERA.

They lost it at the plate. They hit .244, 12th of 15 AL teams.

They lost because of fielding. Tampa Bay commited 99 errors, ninth in the majors.

They lost because they could not figure out left-handers. The Rays were 18-28 against southpaws.

They lost because Steven Souza Jr. stepped in a hole. Souza had three hits as the Rays were eliminated Tuesday night, but he was hitting .121 in the 20 games before that.

They lost because Lucas Duda was three for his last 31.

Bright spot: Adeniy Hechavarria hasn't made an error since July 30.

They lost when the bats disappeared. In game in which they scored fewer than five runs, the Rays are 25-67.

They lost because Wilson Ramos had trouble with runners. He threw out only three of his last 30 players attempting to steal.

They lost because they could not get runners home. The Rays were 28th in the league with a .229 average with runners in scoring position.

Bright spot: Alex Colome has five more saves than anyone else in baseball.

They lost it in the stands where, once again, they were in last place.

They lost it at the cash register, where Spotrac says they were 27th in the league in spending.

Bright spot (sorta): With five games to go, the Rays have won eight more games than a year ago. Is that enough?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

barry mcdowell September 27, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Another possible reason: I think many of their losses were due to the “vaunted” starting pitchers having just one bad inning in their outing. Give up just 4 runs but in one inning and then the offense feels the pressure. I do wonder how many of the losses occurred this way and, if so, could there be an explanation?

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Gary Shelton September 28, 2017 at 10:13 am

I think the explanation is that the rotation isn’t as good as we thought. I read a stat recently that that average start was now 5 2/3 (it had been six as recently as 2014). I think managers hunger to get into that matchup game sooner than ever. That’s part of it. But all of the Rays’ starters had nights where they just bombed. That happens some to all staffs; it seems to happen more often with the Rays.

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Larry Beller September 27, 2017 at 2:36 pm

The Rays hit their high water mark of 7 games over .500 on 7/18 and the team has been a miserable 12 games below .500 since. That’s after the bullpen was retooled, a top defensive shortstop in Hechavarria was added and Ramos came off the DL.What nobody could have foreseen was the Rays going into a historic hitting slump that started in early August. Anyone who says the team needs to get back to trying to win with pitching and defense should pay close attention to what went on during that period. When Dickerson, Morrison, Longoria and Souza were hitting, the Rays were scoring runs and were competitive. When they slumped so did the team and they dropped out of the wild card race. That’s how it is in baseball today. Nobody can win without a better than average offense anymore. And you better have a good bullpen too.

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Gary Shelton September 27, 2017 at 4:32 pm

You can only win with pitching and defense if it is excellent pitching a defense. If it’s not — and the hitting goes south — you finish out of the money. Right?

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Larry Beller September 27, 2017 at 7:02 pm

You can win more than the Rays do now but that’s a pretty low bar. And here is the thing. The Rays don’t have nearly enough pitching or defense to win like that now and they don’t have the wherewithal to get it. You could argue that down through the history of baseball teams have won with pitching and defense and that would be true. But in today’s game where the ball is juiced and the players may be too, and nobody wins 20 games anymore or pitches complete games, it’s really, really difficult to win without a pretty good offense to go along with the excellent pitching and defense.

The Rays themselves have had teams with excellent pitching and defense but still didn’t win because the offense was so bad. They lost a ton of 1-0 and 2-1 games in the Madden years when that excellent pitching was wasted. They call 6 innings with 3 or fewer runs given up a quality start now because there are so few pitchers that can do better on a regular basis. Way too many top pitchers wind up getting Tommy John surgery and don’t last. Very few go an entire year without being on the DL at some point in the year. Don’t forget that even in the Rays golden years they never won a Championship. The offense was never good enough.

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Larry Beller September 27, 2017 at 7:06 pm

My final comment is the Rays need an upgrade in every area of pitching, defense and offense before they can be competitive. Lean towards pitching and defense if they must but don’t ignore the offense. History shows they can’t win without it.

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Gary Shelton September 28, 2017 at 10:14 am

Agreed

Gary Shelton September 28, 2017 at 10:17 am

First, Larry, we have to define what “winning” is. I’d disagree when you say they didn’t win under Maddon. They did. Perhaps they didn’t win enough, however. They could get to the postseason on pitching and defense, but they’d usually run into a buzzsaw of better lineups and lose. I’d agree that to win big you have to have more offense that the Rays usually had, but getting the post-season is winning, agreed?

To me, there are levels of success in sports. Everyone wants to be the champion. But I’m not ready to say the Indians had a bad year last year because they lost a seven-game series to the Cubs. Likewise, I think a fan can take a little heart in a post-season berth as he analyzes why his team didn’t get farther.

Obviously, you increase your chances when you’re more complete. I suspect the Rays are a long way from that. But after four losing seasons, I have to say this: Losing in the post-season is better than this, especially on a budget that none of us wants to consider anymore.

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Larry Beller September 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

I never said they didn’t win under Madden. Of course they did. I said they didn’t win it all and that was primarily because of having a very weak offense. In those winning years they could have done so much better with just an average offense.

Yes winning is getting to the playoffs. That is a terrific goal. The problem is you can’t win it all if you don’t have a more complete team. I hate the thought of the Rays going all in with pitching and defense and just ignore the offense. Too many games are dreadfully boring now and to give up offense to load up on pitching and defense is going to make for an unwatchable product. There has to be some entertainment value to get fans to even watch on TV.

I suspect the Rays are a long way from having excellent pitching also. And to get there is going to be just as difficult as building a complete team. But they have to work towards that goal. I’m just saying they should include improving the offense in those plans. I think we both agree on that.

Rick Martin September 27, 2017 at 7:02 am

Might have put the Sportrac line in the beginning – because it could explain everything.

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Gary Shelton September 27, 2017 at 8:43 am

And waste everything else?

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Gary Shelton September 28, 2017 at 11:53 pm

Yep.

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