When Power Does Not Mean Offense

By David Hill

Last night, Matt Joyce hit a home run that gave the Rays a 2-0 lead in the first inning in their game against the Royals. The home run itself was certainly nice, and provided a lead at the time, but Joyce’s homer had a bit more significance than the typical two run shot. With that home run, the Rays tied their franchise record by hitting a homer in their fifteenth consecutive game, matching their streak from July 25th through August 10th, 2009. So, this streak would lead one to think that everything is fine with the Rays offense, right?

Not necessarily. Despite their nice run of power, the Rays still rank in the lower third of the majors in on base percentage and batting average. These issues have contributed to their continued problems in scoring runs, as the Rays rank 18th. Yet, the home runs, and the recent winning stretch by the Rays, have somewhat masked these apparent problems. Yet, the situation may not be as dire as it would seem. The Rays are tied for tenth in walks, so they are working the count and trying to find ways to get on base. So, where is the problem?

Simply, it appears as though the Rays have having awful luck with the batted ball. The Rays batting average on balls in play is at .273, which is 26th in baseball. Should that revert back to average, then the Rays offense would likely improve, and they may be able to score runs without having to rely as much upon the home run.

Improved health and better play can certainly help. Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have hit .318 and .417 respectively over the past week. Luke Scott made his 2013 debut last night, and is likely to help the Rays both with power and the ability to get on base, especially in place of Shelley Duncan‘s .182/.297/.309 batting line.

The Rays have had their struggles this year, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the offense. Their stretch of prolific power will come to an end, but as long as they remain healthy and their luck with the batted ball normalizes, their offense may end up being better than expected at the start of the season.