Where are the Tampa Bay Rays’ RBI Men?

By David Egbert

I’m an old time stats guy, and my favorite stat over the years has been runs batted in, or RBIs. You can pitch great game, play good defense, and get loads of hits, but unless your guy drives in the game winning run, you lose the game. Coincidentally, the great teams over the years have had two or three great RBI guys. Just think back to Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and Maris of the Yankees. Or Foster and Perez of the big Red Machine. They all hit for power and drove in over a 100 runs year after year. The list goes on.

The same is true today. If you look at the teams that lead the three American League divisions, each has three solid power guys. Let’s take a look at the players and their composite home run and RBI numbers as of 5/29:

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose BautistaEdwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera    36 home runs and 109 runs batted in.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter                    28 home runs and 102 runs batted in.

Oakland Athletics: Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes      34 home runs and 114 runs batted in.

Then we take a look at the Rays and their top three power guys and their composite numbers:

Tampa Bay Rays: James LoneyEvan Longoria, Wil Myers                           13 home runs and 76 runs batted in.

Not only are these terrible numbers, but the team home run leader is Sean Rodriguez, a utility guy with 78 at-bats on the year. No wonder the Rays are sitting in last place in the American League East. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon thought they had put together the best Rays offensive team, top to bottom, that they had ever fielded. All nine guys had career numbers that wouldn’t embarrass anybody. So what happened? Very simply, David DeJesus, Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist got off to horrible starts. Ryan Hanigan had a nice run and then went into a slump. Evan Longoria seems to be a shell of his former self, and Wil Myers has not been able to avoid a sophomore slump. The team just can’t seem to click all at once.

But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that all of these hitters, with the exception of James Loney, are flawed in one way or another. Matt Joyce and DeJsus can’t hit left-handers. Myers is still a kid trying to find his was in the big leagues. Desmond Jennings can’t decide whether he is a power hitter or a leadoff man. Longoria and Zobrist look confused at the plate. Hanigan and Escobar are streaky. But most of all, there is no real power in the lineup at the present time and nobody but Loney seems to know how to be a situational hitter. All of this leads to a lack of run production and when you combine that with starting pitching issues and more than the normal defensive lapses, the result is a losing record.

Will things change over the next 108 games? Only if the Rays learn situational hitting and making every hit count with men in scoring position. Some more power out of Longoria, Zobrist, and Myers (when he returns from injury) would help as well. In the end, it’s all about runs batted in.