Rays News

Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez: The Rays’ “Secret Big Bat”

By David Egbert

I must confess that I have not been a fan of either Matt Joyce or Sean Rodriguez over their years with the Tampa Bay Rays. Both have power, but neither has lived up to his potential. Joyce hasn’t hit lefties and Rodriguez hasn’t hit right-handers, plus both players are streaky hitters. To top it all, neither will be a candidate for a Gold Glove any time soon. Those certainly don’t seem like the combination of traits the struggling Rays needed in 2014. But for fun, I took a look at how their combined season as a lefty/righty platoon and the results may surprise you. It sure did me!

For the purpose of comparison with other hitters in lineup, I looked the number of at-bats after 121 games and then four key statistics for each player separately and then both players combined. These are not traditional slash numbers, but they best represent what a power hitter needs to deliver.

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Those are pretty good numbers, especially when you compare them to Evan Longoria’s numbers at this point in the season.

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Yes, Longoria is having an off-year, but take a look at how Joyce’s and Rodriguez’s statistics compare with Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.

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Obviously, Joyce and Rodriguez lack Cabrera’s average and on-base skills, but they have been able to combine for a reasonable facsimile of his power production. Their numbers look particularly good when you figure in that they are being paid a combined $5.2 million compared to Cabrera’s $28.0 million.

So what do these positive numbers mean for the future of Joyce and Rodriguez with the Rays? First and foremost, they need to keep supplying power if this team going to make the playoffs. The Rays may not have that feared power hitter in their order, especially with the way Longoria has been struggling, but the hitter may actually be there, just disguised as two players turned into one. Longoria returning to form would be a major boost for the Rays, as would Ben Zobrist continuing his hot streak, but the Rays need more help than that and that is where Joyce and Rodriguez come in.

After the season ends, things become more complicated. Both Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez have one year of arbitration left, and while it’s reasonable to expect that their combined salaries will not top $7.5 million, that is still a lot of money, and the Rays may wish to divert it elsewhere. Joyce finds himself in a crowded outfield picture, especially with Wil Myers and David DeJesus returning, while Rodriguez would have more value on a team where he could play more shortstop. Joyce seems like a prime candidate to be traded and Rodriguez could be a player that will attract interest as well after his power surge this season. For now, however, let’s not worry about that. As the 2014 season concludes, all Rays fans can hope for is that Joyce and Rodriguez keep on bopping!