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Tampa Bay Rays: Need to Cut Down on Unproductive Outs

By David Egbert
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In 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays led the American League in strikeouts by a batter striking out 1482 times in 6046 at bats.

By striking out 1482 in just over 6000 at-bats means that 25% of the time Tampa Bay Rays batters walked back to the dugout.

A strikeout is a batter’s most unproductive out. The batter simply hangs his head and walks back to the dugout. Had the batter put the ball in play, he might have scored a runner, advanced a runner or maybe gotten on base through an error.

The strikeout leaders were not a collection of guys who should have been in Triple-A but rather some of the Tampa Bay Rays best hitters to include:
AB     K     %
Steven Souza Jr. 430 159 37
Brad Miller 548 149 27
Corey Dickerson 510 134 26
Logan Forsythe 511 127 25
Evan Longoria 633 149 23

Of course, some of the bit players contributed their fair share of strikeouts. Curt Casali went to the plate 226 times and struck out 82 times or 36% of the time.

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One could say that all of these players are power hitters and power hitters strike out a lot.

That is certainly true in the case of pure power hitters like Chris Davis of Baltimore.

But other hitters like Jose Altuve of Houston hit 24 home runs, drove in 96 runs and while only striking out 70 times .

Despite the strikeouts, you certainly aren’t going to argue with Evan Longoria’s 2016 statistics. His 41 doubles, 36 home runs and 96 RBI are a good part of the reason the Tampa Bay Rays won as many games as they did.

However, you have to ask yourself how many more games they would have won if just some of those strikeouts would at least have been a productive out.

The number one student for hitting coach Chad Mottola this off-season is going to be Souza. He can’t continue to but up modest numbers while striking out 37% of the time. Whether Mottola is going to be able to help to help the other four without messing up their power game remains to be seen.

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Another pupil may be Kevin Kiermaier who will be at the top of the order next season and needs to put the ball in play as much as possible.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Tampa Bay Rays article if we didn’t talk about the failure to get offense out of the catching position.

Last season the four Rays catchers, Curt Casali, Hank Conger, Luke Maile and Bobby Wilson, struck out a combined 186 times in 556 at bats or 34%.

Add that to the above-mentioned five players and that is 899 strikeouts from six spots in the batting order.

The Rays finished 14th in runs scored and tied for 12th in RBIs in the American League.

How many more runs would have been scored if they had put more balls in play we will never know.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Shortlist of Potential Needs for 2017

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However, we do know that without less strikeouts and better situational hitting, all the pitching and defense in the world won’t put the Rays in post season play next year.

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