The Rays are currently 2nd in the entire AL in home runs. That must mean they are among the elite offenses in the league, right? Not so fast.
The amount of home runs the Rays are currently hitting is almost as exciting as watching my mom take fresh baked cookies out of the oven.
Yet the amount of runs they are scoring – even though they are hitting all those home runs – is like seeing those freshly baked cookies with a beautifully golden brown surface, but then flipping them over and seeing the bottom is burnt. Appearance, obviously, does not make a cookie good, and it doesn’t make for a good offense either.
Although the Rays limited payroll has never been able to buy big power hitters, the team has been able to muster 72 home runs in the first 50 games. This is a tremendous feat for a team with such a limited budget.
They currently have four players (Longo, Souza, Dickerson, Pierce) who have hit 8 or more home runs and eight players who have hit 5 home runs or more.
Now, you’d think that would mean the Rays boast one of the elite offenses in the league. Well, not so fast.
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Out of the 72 home runs hit, 44 have been solo shots. This makes sense considering the Rays have the 22nd lowest OBP (.309) in the MLB and are hitting a worrisome .238 average. This means they are simply doing less with their home runs then they could be.
They currently sit 23rd in the MLB in runs scored at 206 through 50 games, which means they are averaging 4.12 runs per game. That may not sound terrible on paper, but when a team only averages a little over 4 runs per game, you need your pitching to have quality starts every day in order to win games.. That may have seemed like a reasonable expectation a few years ago with David Price and James Shields leading the AL’s best pitching staff, but this year’s staff has been wildly inconsistent, leaving the Rays no option but to score more runs then they’ve had to in the past.
Last season, the Rays managed 644 runs (3.96 per game). This indicates the Rays front office this season has improved the offense slightly. The problem is that the 4.12 runs they are averaging could be much higher. Their home runs could be producing many more runs with a higher OBP.
The perceived lack of runs has more to do with their low OBP than anything, which simply means they are getting limited scoring opportunities with runners on base. Their 61.6% rate of at bats (league average is 56.9%) with the bases empty is entirely indicative of the limited scoring opportunities they are receiving.
In conclusion, it’s awesome that the Rays are crushing the ball and hitting a lot of home runs. And it is remarkable that so many (14 batters have at least 1 HR) are providing pop to the lineup. The problem is that their OBP is so low that they aren’t even scoring that many runs on each HR.
If the Rays table-setters can get on base at a higher rate, we will start to see the Rays score more runs and win more games. If they don’t, continue to expect many more solo home runs and losses as the season progresses.