Tampa Bay Rays’ Real Trouble in 2014 is Hitting

By Peter M. Gordon

It didn’t take long for the Tampa Bay Rays’ all-star rotation to fall apart. Matt Moore is scheduled for Tommy John surgery and Alex Cobb is out 4-6 weeks with a strained oblique. Chris Archer got rocked by the Baltimore Orioles and Jake Odorizzi got hit hard in his last start entering today.  Many articles have been written about who the Rays will bring up to fill Moore and Cobb’s slots in the rotation–it looks like Erik Bedard will take one slot, and there are several candidates at Durham to fill the other.  None of that will matter much, though, if the Rays don’t start hitting better.

At this writing, Wil Myers is hitting .217, James Loney .227, Ryan Hanigan .172, Yunel Escobar .191, David Dejesus .167, and Logan Forsythe .179.  The Rays rank 14th in the American League in batting average, 12th in slugging, but at least they’re 10th in the league in on base average. Only three regulars are hitting much at all: Ben Zobrist is hitting .290 with a .390 on base average and leading the team with 3 homers, Matt Joyce cooled off a little over the last couple of games, but is hitting .344 with 2 homers, and Evan Longoria is hitting .308.  The Rays have only one come-from behind-win this season.  If the other team gets a lead early, as the Orioles did on Monday night, a Rays fan might feel that the game is over.

There’s still lots of reasons for hope.  The Tampa Bay Rays are at .500 for the season and only one game out of first place.  The defense has performed up to expectations.  It’s very unlikely that the regulars will remain at this level. No one is injured on the position player front, and they all have the ability to be so much better than this. If they do continue to struggle, though there are several players at Triple-A Durham like Jerry Sands, and Wilson Betemit, that are having good years with the bat and have proven they can hit in the majors.  It’s early in the season and the Rays are in a good position to challenge for the pennant.  However, if I were Andrew Friedman, I wouldn’t be spending all my time on the rotation–I’d be looking to see if there are any hitters to acquire.