When you are winning a lot of games, little things get lost in the shuffle. Weaknesses are overlooked. Trends are downplayed. But when you are tied for the best record in baseball, it's easy to focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative. That has been the case for the Bay Rays. But they have a secret that has been hidden by all the success. The secret? They don't hit very well.
As of August 31, the Bay Rays were 12th in the AL (there are only 14 teams) in team batting average and in total bases. They are only 8th in slugging. Would you have guessed that? Probably not because they seem to make the most of the base runners they do get. The run the bases well and they are patient at the plate. But yeah, they don't hit very well.
It's not a secret to anyone that the Bay Rays don't have a designated hitter. In fact, what they have most nights is a guy that probably isn't better than most pitchers in the National League. The DH has accounted for a combined line of: .237/.313/.371. In other words, the Bay Rays' DH has produced roughly a Bonifacio. But that isn't their only trouble spot in the line up. But it is certainly troublesome. When your DH bats ninth, what does that tell you?
Including the DH, five of the regulars in the Bay Rays' line up have an OPS+ under 100 (or less than league average). They have one catcher who can hit but has no power. They have another catcher who can't hit and doesn't have consistent power. They have two shortstops that aren't hitting. Bartlett is perhaps the biggest surprise in the line up as he was so good last year and so bad this year. It's hard to understand. And second base has been no picnic either. Sean Rodriguez has shown glimpses of being something special, but he doesn't walk enough and his power numbers are inconsistent. He has a 93 OPS+.
Carlos Pena is batting .214. But at least it's a productive .214. He's driven in 77 runs with his 85 hits. His OPS+ is in the plus column thanks to his OBP and Slugging Percentage. But Ben Zobrist has gone from Most Valuable Player candidate to Missing Valuable Player. Last year, Zobrist was near the top of the league in OPS+. But this year, he's sitting at 93. His power has dried up and he is not hitting for average. Again, like Bartlett, it's hard to figure.
Of course, the biggest mystery of all is B. J. Upton. When you watch the guy play, he looks like a superstar. He just can't seem to put it together though. He is batting .233 with a .320 OBP that with his slugging adds up to a 97 OPS+. You just have to feel that he is going to bust out some time. He just looks too good to be this much of a bust.
Who knows where the Rays would be without Longoria and Crawford. Longoria has good numbers. Not as good as last year, but good solid numbers that add up to a 137 OPS+. Crawford has done it all. He steals bases, he runs down balls in left. He hits for power. Crawford is going to make a lot of money next year. It won't be with the Bay Rays though.
You can't count this team out by its offense though. They play smart. They have an excellent manager. They pitch well (recent struggles by Niemann notwithstanding) and man can they fly around the bases. Pitching tends to dominate the playoffs though and the Rays offense going into the post season could be a really big problem.