August 23, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) hits a RBI single in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Rays Set Up Evan Longoria To Hit The Ground Running

In September of 2011, Evan Longoria was incredible, posting a ridiculous .289/.454/.589 line with 6 doubles, 7 homers, 22 RBI, and 27 walks versus just 16 strikeouts in 27 games. In August of 2011, he managed just a .239/.296/.540 line, but he slammed 10 home runs and drove in 24. The problem was that in June and July, Longoria managed just a .222/.329/.439 line as he was a shadow of the player that we’re used to seeing. In 2011, Longoria came back far sooner than he did after being injured in 2012. Having Longoria out for so long this season was a severe hardship for the Rays offense. But the good news is that this time around he’s back playing more like his usual self and providing the imposing presence that the Rays have missed all season.

Since returning from the DL, Longoria has posted a good, not earth-shattering 260/.315/.470 line with 3 doubles, 6 homers, and 20 RBI in 27 games. But in his last 10 games, Longoria has begun to catch fire. His batting line has been an outstanding .289/.341/.658 and he has slammed 4 homers and 2 doubles while drive in 10. Overall on the season, Longoria has been as good as ever when healthy, posting a .291/.370/.511 line, a career-high 147 OPS+ (47% above the league average adjusted to ballpark). In 2011, the Rays were 73-60 (.549) when Longoria was in the lineup. Without him, they actually played very well albeit in a relatively small sample, going 18-10 (.643). In 2012, meanwhile, the difference with and without Longoria is absolutely staggering. They are 32-18 with him (.640) and just 43-44 (.494) when he has not been in the lineup.

There was talk a while before he came back that Longoria asked if he could come back to the team as a DH-only option even though he was far from 100%. While the Rays would have loved to get Longoria in the lineup, we are seeing why they did not choose to do that. Having Longoria as healthy as he can be right now makes him the dynamic player the Rays were missing. If Longoria came back and then went into a June to July 2011-esque slump, he would not have had nearly the same impact that he has had since returning and he also would have been at a higher risk of getting re-injured. Also, seeing Longoria in the lineup and the offense still sputtering as badly as ever would frustrate the Rays and their fan base to the point of desperation. Would having Longoria back earlier have given the Rays a couple more wins? Probably. Longoria, even in a slump, is a whole lot better than Brooks Conrad, Drew Sutton, et all who the Rays had to give plenty of at-bats to. But the way the Rays have chosen to play this situation has given them the best possible impact they can get from Longoria the rest of the season while at the same time keeping Longoria’s future health in mind.

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