Rays top offseason priority: consistent offense
Frustrating, yet also gratifying.
The Tampa Bay Rays don’t have to dig very deep to determine what
went wrong in a season that ended much earlier than manager Joe
Maddon and his players expected.
Despite superb – and in some cases historic – pitching, an
inconsistent offense undermined the team’s chances of getting back
to the playoffs.
The Rays won 12 of their final 14 games to finish with 90 wins,
joining the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers as the only clubs
with at least that many victories each of the past three
And while that’s not too shabby, finishing third in the AL East
and failing to earn their fourth postseason berth in five years was
a major disappointment for a team that played as well as any
contender down the stretch.
”I really felt like we could play with anybody right now,”
Maddon said. ”I felt that all year, but especially right now. We
just ran out of games. We ran out of time because truly we are one
of the best teams out there right now, and truly we could have
contended for the World Series title. I honestly believe that.
”It’s unfortunate it unraveled the way it did.”
Led by 20-game winner David Price, the Rays pitching staff led
the major leagues with a 3.19 ERA and .228 opponent’s batting
average, while also setting an AL record for strikeouts with 1,383.
Closer Fernando Rodney anchored the league’s best bullpen (2.88
ERA, .208 opponent’s average) with a franchise-best 48 saves. His
0.60 ERA set a major league record for a reliever working a minimum
of 50 innings.
On the flip side, three-time All-Star Evan Longoria missed 85
games with a partially torn hamstring, and the offense struggled to
do its part while he was out. The third baseman’s absence also made
a difference defensively, which is another area where Maddon felt
the team underperformed.
The Rays went 47-27 in games Longoria started. They were 43-45
when he didn’t play, including 41-44 while he was on the disabled
list from May 1 to Aug. 7.
”There’s a lot of things that went awry early in the year and a
lot of it was linked to Longo,” Maddon said.
”On the field we were not very good defensively in the first
half. We were offensively challenged for a lot of the season, but
… that’s how the major league season works,” the manager added.
”I mean, everybody can talk about the games that they thought they
would have, or should have, won had they done something
differently, or got a hit or made a play or whatever. Everybody
goes through that same moment. So as much as you can lament on that
particular thought, that doesn’t really get you anything.”
The Rays hit .240 as a team, joining the AL West champion
Oakland Athletics (.238) as the first team since the 1972 World
Series champion A’s to win at least 90 games and bat .240 or less.
They drew a major league-high 571 walks, but also struck out 1,323
times – third-highest in AL history.
Centerfielder B.J. Upton, who will become a free agent this
winter and has likely played his last game for Tampa Bay, led the
club with a career-best 28 home runs and 78 RBI’s.
But the team’s two biggest offseason acquisitions – first
baseman Carlos Pena and designated hitter Luke Scott – failed to
add much to the offense.
Pena batted .197 with 19 homers, 61 RBIs and 182 strikeouts in
160 games. Scott was slowed by injuries and spent a month on the
disabled list, finishing at .229 with 14 homers and 55 RBI’s in 96
”I’ll be honest with you. I’ve lost sleep over it. It’s
something that I have heavy heart about it,” Scott said of the
club’s offensive woes. ”It’s frustrating to put it lightly.”
The Rays went 21-27 in one-run games and lost 1-0 five times
after Aug. 1. Despite going 12-2 down the stretch, they only gained
three games in the race for a wild card playoff spot.
”Sometimes you’re not good enough. We are good enough. This
year we just didn’t win enough games. It’s unfortunate,” Maddon
said. ”Nevertheless … winning 12 of the last 14 is pretty
impressive. We did not deserve to be there this year, but it really
should serve as motivation and incentive for next year.”
In addition to Upton, the Rays could lose Pena, infielder Jeff
Keppinger and relievers J.P. Howell, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel
Peralta to free agency. The team has a $6 million option on Scott,
and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman
didn’t provide any clues Thursday on the prospects of Scott
returning in 2013.
”There definitely will be turnover,” Friedman said. ”Our goal
is to construct a better roster for next year. What that will be, I
What also remains to be seen is whether the Rays will try to
bolster the offense by parting with some of the surplus of starting
pitching in the organization.
The budget-minded Rays have one of the deepest five-man
rotations in baseball, and have at least three other young pitchers
with major league experience who have promising futures.
Friedman said what the Rays won’t do is make any deals just for
the sake of acquiring some bats.
”It was a strange year in a lot of ways, and people focused a
lot on the offense – and rightfully so,” Friedman said. ”It’s
something we’re going to spend a lot of time thinking about and
discussing and analyzing because you don’t want to have a knee-jerk
reaction and do something. … We’d love to have an elite pitching
staff and elite offense, but that’s difficult to do.”