Potential positives for the Maddon-less Rays
Joe Maddon has been tabbed as one of the bright managerial minds in Major League Baseball. He brought his zen-like style of managing to the Tampa Bay Rays and it worked.
Players who played under Maddon have talked about how comfortable it was to break into the major leagues under him. He lets personalities be themselves. He understands the pressure of trying to establish yourself in this league and did all he could to alleviate that pressure so talent could prevail, and it worked. He’ll bring that same style to a young Chicago Cubs team and it’s reasonable to assume that it will work again.
But what about the 2015 Rays? Is there any chance they’ll be better without Joe Maddon?
One of the Maddon traits was his constant shifting of lineups; consistency was hardly his thing. In fact Maddon used 129 different batting lineups in 2014. Down from his 147 in 2013 and staggering 151 in 2012. On July 3 of this year, he even took it a step further when he set his order and corresponding defense to 867-5309, an homage to Tommy Tutone’s hit song ‘Jenny.’ The Rays lost that game to the Detroit Tigers 8-1.
The Rays were an offense-starved team last year, finishing last in the AL in runs scored and third–to-last in home runs while hitting .247. You can reasonably argue that Maddon had to juggle his lineup the best he could to play matchups, but you can’t help but wonder if they’ll be better off with some consistency in their lineup next year.
Budding star Kevin Kiermaier is the player who may benefit the most. Kiermaier is a plus athlete with some exciting tools. In his 108 games he hit .263/.315/.450 with 10 home runs while playing terrific defense.
Kiermaier also batted in every spot in the batting order except fourth last season. The spot he hit in most, ninth, was actually his least productive. He posted .226/.275/.376 slash line when batting last for the Rays. I remember wondering more than once throughout the season why he wasn’t batting higher in the lineup.
Players crave consistency, whether it is a position player or a pitcher. You don’t always get it and that comes with the territory of being a Major League Baseball player. I just can’t help but wonder if Tampa Bay might see more offensive production with a more consistent lineup. Assuming of course their new manager goes that route.