COVID-19 puts Nelson Cruz on the injured list; Will Rays miss his “bat”?

The big trading deadline addition for the Tampa Bay Rays this year was designated hitter Nelson Cruz.  His main appeal was to upgrade the performance from the Designated Hitter slot in the lineup and to improve how well the team hit against left-handed pitching.

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Nelson Cruz hits IL

Cruz has now been taken out of the Rays’ lineup due to COVID-19.  Details of his exposure to the disease are unknown, such as whether he actually as it or was exposed to someone who does.  His status for tomorrow’s game in Philadelphia is unknown. If Cruz does miss time, we have a solution for the Rays.

When Cruz was traded to the Rays on July 22, he had been hitting .294 this season for the Minnesota Twins, with 19 home runs.  Since coming to the Rays, Cruz has hit seven home runs but overall he is only batting .198. His BABIP is only .207 as a Ray.

At the time of the trade, the Rays had accrued 13 homers from their Designated Hitters, who were hitting at a .219 pace.

So even though power production from the slot has increased significantly, the overall batting production has yet to do so.

Cruz had been walking at a 10.0% pace that has dropped to 6.3% since coming to the Rays.  His wRC+ had been at 133 with Minnesota and is 87 since coming to the Rays.

(MLB.com provides the following definition of wRC+:  “wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.”

Cruz’s strikeout rate has also risen to 30.5% with the Rays from 17.9% with the Twins.

Overall, the stats consistently point to a drop in performance from Cruz since his joining Tampa Bay from Minnesota.  Such decline is very out-of-normal for Cruz, who has been remarkably consistent throughout his 17-year career.

Despite Cruz’s slumping at the plate, the Rays have still been playing winning baseball.  Since the 4th of July holiday, they have been 29-12, and are now 4.5 games in the AL East ahead of the Yankees, who have been playing at an almost-exact pace.