Sunday, June 01, 2014

Has Maddon Magic run out in St. Pete?

This weekend's series against Boston has been an embarrassing series for the Tampa Bay Rays. After trying to send a message to the Boston Red Sox, all that has really occurred is getting obliterated all weekend and falling further away from being relevant. Joe Maddon still does the cutesy things to motivate his team. They still have the dress up days and silly stunts in the clubhouse. But how well do they play when the team is now nine games under .500?
The Rays have fallen on hard times before and have come roaring back by the end of the season. So you have to keep sticking a fork in them to see if they are really dead. But think about this for a minute, the Rays currently have the worst record in the American League. Yup, it's true. Even Houston has a better record.
The math still works as it is early enough in the season. I still think it is going to take 90 wins to win the AL East. If that is the case, the Rays need to go 67-40 the rest of the season. That is a .626 pace and not inconceivable. They will, however, continue to batter a tough division and have to leapfrog four other teams.
So what is wrong with the Rays? Everyone knows that injuries to the starting rotation have taken what was a strength to a weakness. Jake Odorizzi has not gotten the job done. Erik Bedard is on the downside of his career and Cesar Ramos was a disaster. Alex Cobb is now back and that helps, but David Price is 4-4 and despite impressive strikeout to walk ratios and a good FIP, has turned into a homer machine.
A higher ERA than FIP is a theme for the Rays' starters. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb are the only two starting pitchers whose ERA is outperforming FIPs. For the pitching staff as a whole, once runners get on base, the Rays are having trouble preventing them from scoring.
The relief pitching rates as the worst in baseball right now, dead last of thirty teams. After years of having great years by rent-a-closers, Grant Balfour is hardly a fast and true stopper. If I were to ask you which rate per nine innings was 8.2 per nine for Balfour, would you guess his walk rate? Yeesh. His strikeout rate is only 6.4 per nine. That's not good.
The Rays have only two relievers with positive fWAR, Jake McGee and Juan Oviedo.
The offense is struggling too. As has happened all too often in recent years for the Rays, big time prospects sort of fizzle in their second years with the club. There was Upton and Jennings and so forth. Now we have Wil Myers who has an OPS of .666 and a wRC+ of 92. And he just hurt his wrist.
Even Evan (type that ten times fast) Longoria only has a 96 wRC+. The catching offense has resembled the Yankees of 2013. Yeah, it's been that bad. Jose Molina might have finally reached his shelf life after threatening to do so for years. And Ryan Hanigan hasn't been great either. They both still offer something on defense, but the offense has been a black hole.
The Rays are currently 13th in the American League in both slugging and OPS and, surprisingly, have really struggled on the road. The only offense player having a very good season is Matt Joyce and he platoons and sits against left-handed pitching.
There have been times in the past few years where it seemed the Rays were dead in the water only to pull the old rope-a-dope and end up in the thick of things. It is hard to see that kind of comeback from the Rays this season. The worst record in the American League might be more than even Joe Maddon Magic can overcome.

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