The Tampa Bay Rays are off to a very uneven start in the 2015 season. With thirteen games in the books, the team is one game under .500 with five wins and six losses. To make things worse, they are coming off a three game sweep by the less-than-powerful New York Yankees.
Much of this slow start can be blamed on the fact that sixty percent of the projected 2015 starting rotation is on the disabled list, not to mention Matt Moore, who is still out from Tommy John Surgery. Add to that the fact that each of the four current starters has had one bad outing and a 6-7 record is fairly predictable. Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Alex Colome should return in May and that will be a big help.
More of a mystery is what is wrong with the middle of the Rays batting order. Asdrubal Cabrera, Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings have been a disaster through the first thirteen games. Batting three through five, the trio is 27 hits for 136 at bats for a .198 batting average. Add to that, they only have one home run and nine RBIs between them. This group is hardly Murderers’ Row!
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By contrast, rookie Steven Souza Jr. is hitting .289 with three home runs and ten RBIs. Further, it’s not as if they haven’t been protected in the order. The three hitters ahead of them for most of the season, David DeJesus, Souza, and Kevin Kiermaier are the three hottest hitters on the team. One small piece of encouragement is that Longoria does have a .360 OBP, a .375 slugging percentage, and the group’s only home run. He’s seeing the ball well but has only a .200 batting average and 2 RBI to show for it.
It’s easy to say that Cabrera, Longoria and Jennings all have better career numbers and will snap out of it. After all, we are only thirteen games into the season. They all had good spring training numbers and Longoria and Jennings looked like they had smoothed out their swing and were really driving the ball. Jennings was moved down in the order so he could better use his speed and power. However, these are not necessarily three up-and-coming sluggers.
The numbers show that Cabrera’s production has gone down since his All-Star year of 2012 and Longoria still needs to prove that he can rebound from his rough 2014. Jennings has never had more than an average year in his three full seasons in the majors, and the Rays need him to finally break out as he bats in the middle of their lineup. Can they hit their strides or will the Rays offense continue to struggle?
The 2014 Tampa Bay Rays were a disappointment because of injuries to their pitching staff and the failure of the bats to score runs. The team seems to be off to the same start this year. The injured pitchers will come back and probably perform well. Whether the offense will produce depends a lot on whether Cabrera, Longoria, and Jennings find their grove. Let’s hope that will be the case.