If there’s one player that could epitomize the Tampa Bay Rays disappointment this season, it is Evan Longoria. Expected to once again be the key to the Rays offense, Longoria has struggled at the plate compared to his previous seasons. This year he’s hitting .255/.325/.399. Every player goes through their ups and downs, but this year is Longoria’s lowest single season OPS by 118 points. But now, Longoria might finally be improving at the plate.
Over his last 7 games, Longoria is hitting .345/.355/.621. Of course that is a small sample size, but it is evident when watching Longoria that he has made progress. First of all his approach has gotten much better. In these last few games, Longoria has not been afraid to pull the ball. This year Longoria has been timid at points. While he’s been slumping, he has been trying to play it safe and poke the ball the other way rather than be aggressive and hit the ball to left field. That is a big reason why his power has been down, but if he can get back to pulling the ball then his power numbers will see a boost.
Mechanically, Longoria has also made progress. For a good part of this season, Longoria has struggled to keep his bat through the zone for long enough. Instead he has been losing his bat path too early, either rolling over on the ball and hitting grounders to the left side of the infield or dipping under the ball and hitting shallow pop flies. But lately, Longoria has been much better. His bat has been staying through the zone much longer, resulting in him pulling the ball with more authority.
The last key for Longoria is simply gaining confidence back in himself. For most of the season, it has been evident that Longoria has been frustrated at himself. The Rays have been losing and Longoria hasn’t done much to change that, and that has hurt his confidence. Regaining trust in himself means he will be more aggressive at the plate, which will result in more power. Let’s hope he can continue this recent tear so that he can keep gaining confidence in himself.
Evan Longoria has to do more than hit for 7 games if he wants to make up for his disappointing season. However for the first time this entire season, we are seeing progress out of him. Through a combination of a better approach and improved mechanics on top of slowly increasing confidence, Longoria is starting to look like the All-Start caliber player that we know he can be.