Tampa Bay capped off a frustrating series against the White Sox yesterday. That series found the Rays scoring only seven runs over the course of 27 innings. Yeesh. The White Sox gone following their three game sweep, while the Rays had the day off prior to the Orioles series this weekend. Sure, I could write about how AJ Pierzynski is an enormous asshole and should have been tossed along with Jose Quintana, and manager Robin Ventura after that ill attempted “hit” on Ben Zobrist. However, DRaysBay wrote about it here.

I wrote a piece the other day about the Rays seeming inability to generate runs with men in scoring position. The original piece didn’t take into consideration the injuries that have plagued Tampa Bay this season, among other things. That piece probably should have taken into consideration the Rays offensive production overall as well. Sam, a buddy of this here blog, and I got in a discussion on the subject. Following that discussion, I thought that it would be a good idea to look at a few other noteworthy statistics to get a better idea why some of us end up red faced, and whiny, following any loss that could have…nigh, should have, been a win.

We’ll look at a few standard and advanced statistics (at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, on base percentage, slugging average, and on base percentage plus slugging) in six different periods of the 2012 season: overall, April, May, the last seven games, wRISP, and wRISP and two outs. Why April and May? Those months are good samples of what the Rays are capable of when they’re healthy vs. when there are 10 players on the DL.

Overall, Tampa Bay is scoring a higher than average amount of runs, hitting a higher than average amount of home runs, and stealing bases at a good clip. Yet, their batting average is less than the MLB average, both overall and with men in scoring position. To be fair, a teams batting average isn’t the best indication of a successful team. Rather, it is a measure of how many hits a team may be hitting, not a quantitative measure of the type of hits. For that, we’ll look at the slugging percentage, and the on base percentage plus slugging. But I digress.

The Rays are doing a lot of things right, and it’s obvious. And true, the injury situation has really hampered Tampa Bays run production, as you’ll see below. However, the Rays do have a history of not consistently producing when they could or should, extending back into last season. Let’s see if the numbers can clear anything up.

Below is a handy range of on base percentage plus slugging (OPS) values, from excellent to awful. You may want to reference it from time to time.

Also, since pictures are worth a thousand words, I created a table with all of the aforementioned bits o’ statistical information. That  marvel of blue number stuffs is below. Give yourself a few moments to take it all in.

The difference between April and May is striking. Tampa Bay had 168 fewer at bats in April than in May, yet had only four fewer runs, two fewer RBI, and two fewer home runs. All the while they hit more doubles and triples, got on base more often, and had a higher SLG and OPS in April. It’s logical to expect the numbers to be better, especially when the Rays came to the plate more often. Why might there be a an offensive drop off then?

It’s common knowledge that May is, historically, Carlos Pena’s worst month. It’s also glaring that Pena, again, had a horrible May. One only needs to look at his slash lines to see the difference from April to May: .412 OBP/.488 SLG/.900 SLG/.286 BA with four homers, 15 runs and 13 RBI vs. .281 OBP/.255 SLG/..536 SLG/.128 BA with three homers, 10 runs, and nine RBI. I’d be hesitant to blame Tampa Bay’s drop-off in production on he alone. A little sleuthing found that both Luke Scott and Ben Zobrist also had lower numbers in May than in April. Though their drop-off wasn’t nearly as substantial as Pena’s. On the other hand Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, BJ Upton, Matt Joyce, and Will Rhymes all had a fairly good May.

What’s that? Oh right…injuries.

The loss of Longo and Jennings have been big. Imagine how different the numbers may look if Longo and Jennings could have replicated their pre-injury numbers, in May. You could, effectively, tack on 35 more runs, 57 more hits, nine more doubles, three more triples, seven more homers, and 30 more RBI. Thankfully Jennings should be back by the time the Rays get to New York, and Longo shouldn’t be far behind.

RISP has been a big point of concern the last few years. What’s interesting though, Tampa Bay hasn’t had a drop off in production with men in scoring position between this season and last. In fact, the Rays are producing slightly more (uh, like a fraction of a percent…it’s negligible) this season. If you compare the total amount of runs scored with the total number of at bats when men are in scoring position, the Rays drove in runs, just under, 36% of the time last season. They’re driving in runners, just over, 36% percent of the time thus far. That the MLB average is 38%, and the Rays are performing just under that thresh-hold, gives little consolation. Tampa Bay is ahead of only 10 other teams, and close to the bottom third of all of baseball in converting base runners into runs.

What’s more, only 31% of the hits wRISP are extra base hits or home runs. That number drops to 28% wRISP and two outs. Granted 34% of the total number hits are extra base hits, or homers. Not to mention that 28% and 31%, respectively, aren’t far off of that mark. It should be noted too that the MLB average for extra base hits and homers is 33%, and that Rays rank toward the bottom in doubles and homers wRISP. This tells me that the Rays are nickel and diming their way on base, when they could really use an extra base hit in those higher leverage situations. So how do you fix this problem? That’s a really good question.

The Rays ended May with a 14-14 record, seven games over .500. All things considered, that’s not bad. I can only imagine what will happen when Longo, Jennings and to a lesser extent, Keppinger, are healthy and back on the roster.

As with the last piece, and any other really, we encourage any and all of you to post comments. Have at it, turkeys!

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  1. Thanks for the shoutout! haha

    Definitely like what you threw together here. However, I think what should be analyzed are the statistics during the month of April w/ Longo and other DL players vs. w/o. I think that would be best to gauge the team. If the numbers are similar to May, I would say there should be a concern in what this team needs. A team can’t be based on 2-3 key offensive people. I mean if you look at it, that would be about 1/3 of a starting lineup. You would be asking those guys to produce twice as much to pick up the rest of the team. Not what you want in a very long season.

    At first, I thought it was interesting to see a lower OPS wRISP vs. RISP w2out, but of course I had to realize sac flies need to be remembered and will of course are used with less than 2 outs. So those two numbers probably even out if you take out sac flies in the <2out situation.

    But what these numbers really do show, is this team needs to work on situational hitting. They need to practice where to hit the ball, as opposed to how hard to hit the ball. Clutch hitting seems to always drive a team, and they seem to be falling short more and more often.

    Also, I remember cussing out the team last year for not being productive wRISP. Last year's flaws were not necessarily a lack of offense, but a lack of situational hitting. Power and pop went up, but the hits that are really needed did not, and it's interesting to see the actual statistics stayed just about the same. I would really like to know, who is to blame for that? Is it an inherent problem that all of the players seems to have? If so, why isn't the GM finding players to fill those gaps? Or is it a coaching problem, teaching bad habits at the plate in those situtations? If so, why hasn't he adjusted his teaching technique? Interesting thoughts to ponder.

    Finally, I think it's amazing to see the Rays were able to stay where they were decide a month long slump and longer stint with players lost to the DL. However, this is definitely not something that can be relied on. The reason the Rays stayed where they did is because a lot of other teams started playing the same way. The Yanks, I'm pretty sure, were actually doing worse hitting wise with RISP. The Red Sox caught up because they have been playing a little better. But imagine, even without Longoria and Jennings, if the Rays were to flirt with a .730 OPS wRISP how much more productive they would have been. Imagine the possibility of them actually being 2-3 games ahead of first!

    If this team wants to do really well this season, everyone needs to start getting key hits and getting less outs. That drives the lineup and increases the chances of bringing the heavy hitters up and driving in lots of runs. That's the kind of thinking the offense needs to start doing because that is what will win games. Look at the White Sox this past series. They just seemed to never quit when there were guys on base, and before you knew it there was a 3-4 run lead after 1 inning. With the Rays offense and lack of required hitting, it's enough to win the game… especially when they would tack on a few extra runs a couple of innings later.

    Sorry for such a long response, but I think those are some pretty key points to look at.

    Once again, just imagine where the team would be if the offense refused to get an out and produced a few more runs and hits each time. That is fundamentally what needs to happen.

    1. I completely agree. I worried that I left too much out, predicated on whether folks would be able to connect the dots or not. You did, and you also got the underlying message: yes, they’re successful 36% of the time which is slightly better than last year. But, they’re still A) performing below the league average in key moments, B) toward the bottom in converting runners into runs.

      It’s crazy when you compare that conversion percentage to, say, the Yankees or Sox; teams that are having off first quarters of the season. Both teams are converting runners into runs at least 40% of the time.

      I’m hesitant to call it luck, that Tampa Bay is still hanging around, all things considered. However, like you said (in a manner of speaking) it’s not sustainable. Just because Upton, Joyce, Sean Rod, Johnson (save for the last three games), et al, have been able to step up to the plate in lieu of Longo and Jennings, you have to wonder if their success will be long lasting. Joyce? I think he’ll be fairly consistent throughout. However, there’s nothing there to say that Rodriguez, Upton, and Johnson will.

      I’m reminded of the time that I worked at a deli. If someone was fired, or sick, I’d have to pick up their slack while also hoping that my performance wouldn’t slip. In kind, I’d imagine that Johnson, Sean Rod, etc are doing the same. It will be interesting, when Longo and Jennings return, to see how (assuming they don’t flatline) their improvement bolsters run production.

      As for Shelton: a slight improvement in production doesn’t do much to make me feel more confident in him.

      1. Yeah, I just haven’t been impressed with Derek Shelton at all these past couple of seasons. I don’t know why he sticks around like he does, but it doesn’t seem to be working. My guess is that there is no one that much better out. If you look at his numbers when he played, they look pretty good, but they’re such a ridiculous small sample size you question his capability as a hitter and the basic knowledge he has to teach hitting. Plus he only played for two year in the minors sub-AAA.

        But regardless, I have loved seeing the output by Upton, Joyce, S-Rod and EJ. I must say, I really enjoy watching EJ play. I think EJ’s consistency is whether he actually gets consistent PAs. I think the guy has real talent (hell he broke Cervelli’s wrist on the Yankees that started the epic Spring Training bout!). Plus, he is one of the only people on the team capable of laying down a bunt for a hit, or even fair territory (something that has puzzled Rays’ offense this year). He’s also great with the glove and let’s be honest, even hitting .200 is far better than watching Briggy bat. So if Longo comes back, I hope to see him more often than Kep in the middle infield, when he gets healthy (although Kep barely ever strikes out).

        Joyce has really become an integral part of this ballclub. He’s the hometown hero, with just the most beautiful swing, reminiscient to that of Ken Griffey, Jr. (Speaking of him… I’d love to see him picked up as a hitting coach 😉 ) He plays great defense and is solid on right or left field.

        I love watching Rodriguez in the field, just absolutely love it. The guy is a work-horse. His bat has lots of potential. If he got the right instruction with his baserunning capabilities, the guy could be a double king.

        For Upton, I am really impressed with his play this year. The bottomline is the guy makes everything look so easy. But he seems to be producing better ABs this season and looking to just make contact with the ball. It won’t happen every time, but as long as he keeps his head down and just puts wood on the ball, he’ll finish well. Plus, he’s just beautiful in the outfield.

        You know it’s going to suck once players get healthy for the fact that this team has done decent with the players we keep watching. I’ve definitely grown a liking to the defense we have and wish not to see them leave. It will be interesting to say the least to see what will happen.

        All of these players have potential, and I really like the talent this team has, but something needs to be done to instruct these guys the right way. Derek Shelton isn’t doing it. He didn’t do it with the Indians, and I really want to know the explanation as to why he is still around. This offense could do great things, if the hit at the right time.

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