To state that the Rays’ offensive efforts have been mostly futile this year is a bit of an understatement. At this point in the season, the Rays have averaged a just over four runs a game (4.01, to be more precise). To put that number in perspective, that puts the Rays on pace to score 651 runs over the course of this season, which would be their lowest runs total aside from their inaugural season in 1998.
The then Devil Rays of 1998 had only one player with an OPS+ over 100 amongst their regular starters that season in Fred McGriff. While they had some truly terrible performances with the bat (John Flaherty and Kevin Stocker come quickly to mind), the fact remains that this was an expansion team. Not a whole lot was expected of them in that first season.
The Rays of 2012 should not be the Devil Rays of 1998. These Rays came into the season with high expectations, proven bats in the lineup, and one of the best managers in the game. However, after 108 games into the season, the Rays of 2012 have exactly one regular player in the lineup with an OPS+ over 100 in Ben Zobrist. While several players are hoving in the 80 to 90 range, the fact remains that majority of the regulars have been below league average. In fact, Will Rhymes, their most frequently used second baseman, has been sent back down to the Durham Bulls for the second time in two weeks.
What runs the Rays have been scoring have typically been manufactured. As a team, the Rays have struggled to hit for power, with only 100 home runs thus far. However, they have stolen an American League leading 93 bases. Although they have been caught stealing a league leading 35 times, the Rays continue to be aggressive, pushing the envelope in a desperate attempt to get runs on the board.
Injuries have definitely played a part in the continued struggles of the offense. Evan Longoria has missed over three months with his hamstring injury, and although he is not 100%, will be activated and used as the designated hitter. Jeff Keppinger and Matthew Joyce, the most productive players on the team not named ‘Longoria’ this season, missed time. And Sam Fuld, who has been swinging a hot bat since being reactivated, has only appeared in ten games thus far, having missed most of the first four months due to his injury suffered late last year.
As bad as the Rays have been on offense this year, there is hope that improvement may be right around the corner. Should the offense improve as players get healthy, the past few months could end up as just a footnote in another run towards October. However, if the Rays end up missing the playoffs, the reason may be fairly evident.