I loved Joe Maddon when he managed the Rays but one thing about him drove me nuts. He could never admit how bad certain players really were. Luke Scott was a perfect example. In his two years with the Rays, Scott was terrible on offense and defense but to listen to Maddon, Scott was always one at bat away from turning into Mark Teixeira. Kevin Cash has been much the same way. Despite the fact that the team is only playing .500 baseball and half the team is underachieving , everything has seemed to be rosy with the Rays.
It all seems to be part of the modern trend in managers. Most everyone is a “player’s manager” and players need to be terrible before the manager might even think about criticizing them. The way the Rays are playing, particularly on offense, several players need to be told to step up their game or move on. Let’s take a look at the underachievers and the odds of them turning their season around.
Starting pitching has been an unusual disappointment. The rotation of Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly is a combined 4 wins and 11 losses over 26 starts. Of further concern is that they are still not pitching deep into ballgames with an average of 5.9 innings per start. Smyly and Odorizzi have decent era’s but both Archer and Moore have an era’s of over 4 runs per game. To their credit, they all are among the lead leaders in strikeouts with 167 over the 26 starts. This group will still be the heart of the team but they need to find more consistency and pitch deeper into games.
Overall, the important front end of the bullpen has been good. Closer Alex Colome has 9 saves and a 2.08 era. Erasmo Ramirez is 6-1 with a 1.32 era as the team’s primary setup man and overall most valuable player. He needs to stay in the bullpen. Xavier Cedeno has had to be used too often as a setup man as opposed to a lefty specialist and that has hurt his effectiveness. Enny Romero is a real talent but when he is off, he is terrible. Steve Geltz is steady but gives up too many home runs. Overall, I think this group is strong but they need Boxberger to avoid the front end guys being used too often.
Now we get to the heart of the problem and as usual, it’s the offense. With the exception of Logan Forsythe, the offense is terrible. We were told that with the return of Desmond Jennings and the addition of Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison and Brad Miller, we had so much firepower that we could dump James Loney. However, these four have a combined .173 batting average with 11 home runs and 28 rbi’s. Morrison, the reason we dumped Loney, has eight hits in 70 at bats and no rbi’s. Loney could put up better numbers blindfolded!
What does the future hold for this group? I’m willing to cut Dickerson a little slack. A new league, no Coors Field hitters advantage and asked to be a dh have not helped him. The move to dh was a huge mistake in my estimation. Miller seems to be coming around and might put up Astrubal Cabrera kind of numbers. I’m pessimistic about the other two. Jennings has been only average for most of his career and Morrison hasn’t been much of a threat over the last two years. Even if they find their stride, I can’t see either one contributing more than ten home runs and fifty rbi’s. Overall, this group hasn’t been much of an improvement over last year.
This leaves Cash with two choices. He can leave this group of four in the lineup and hope they eventually come around or he can go with the hot bats and get Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer into the lineup until they cool off. More work for Tim Beckham might also be in the cards. Early on it seemed that Cash would live and die with Dickerson, Morrison, Jennings and Miller. However you can only lose so many close, low scoring games and slowly Cash has begun to go with the hot bats.
There is also only so long before you decide to make roster changes. If Jennings and Morrison continue to falter and Mikie Mahtook and Richie Shaffer continue to shine at Durham, it might be time for the Rays to cut their losses and go with the up and coming stars. Mahtook and Shaffer are doing well and it’s not like Jennings and Morrison are the long term answer to the issues with the Rays offense.
The Rays set out this off season to find some power and they accomplished that task. This season they have a club record 38 home runs in 29 games. Unfortunately, power alone does not always translate to enough runs to win and the Rays 28th in rbi’s, 29th in runs and 30th in batting average. That’s not good enough and if the team is to make the playoff, Matt Silverman and Kevin Cash are going to have to continue to be bold with their lineup and roster moves.