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Why Are the Tampa Bay Rays so Bad?

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They were many - if not most - experts' pick to win the AL East. Why are they now really bad?

After getting swept by the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park over the weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays have now lost six straight games, and their season is getting closer to already being over. They're 23-34, a .404 winning percentage, and now 10.5 games out of first place.

They have the worst record in the American League (yes, that's right, worse than the Houston Astros), and according to our nERD metrics, now have only an 11% chance of making the playoffs, and just a 0.8% chance of winning the World Series.

What is this, 2003?

It's never an easy task to figure out why "good" teams go bad. It's never easy to comprehend how a team with perhaps the best manager in the game and some of the best young talent in baseball can fumble through the first two months of the season so badly.

Well folks, here's how it's going down.

The Rays aren't hitting well, and the Rays aren't pitching well.

That's a bad combination.

Offensive Woes

OffenseAVGOBPSLGRuns/GMHRISO
Rays 2014.243 (12th).316 (11th).364 (14th)3.81 (13th)43 (T-11th).121 (13th)

Offense has been a big problem for the Rays so far. They rank near the bottom in the AL in virtually every offensive category, including 12th in batting average, 11th in on-base percentage, 14th in slugging, 13th in runs per game, and tied for 11th in home runs.

Evan Longoria is the offensive leader, and is hitting .265/.325/.372 with a wOBA of .307, 5 home runs and 23 runs batted in. However, he's walking at a career low rate of 7.7% (career average is 10.7%), and his ISO of .108 is far below his career average (.229). Ben Zobrist is hitting .253/.340/.355 with an ISO of .102 and a wOBA of .313, with just 3 home runs this year. Those numbers are all lower than his career averages as well.

When your two best hitters are performing below their career averages, you've got problems.

Not only that, the team's best young player, Wil Myers, was placed on the disabled list with a wrist injury after a nasty collision Sunday night with center fielder Desmond Jennings. Myers had been struggling, hitting just .227 with 5 home runs and 25 RBI this year. This comes after breaking through last year with a .293/.354/.478 slash, along with 13 dingers in just 335 at-bats.

Their team leader in home runs is Sean Rodriguez, who has six in 93 plate appearances. Longoria, Myers, Jennings and David DeJesus are all tied with five. Only two players with more than 85 plate appearances (Rodriguez and DeJesus) are slugging over .400 (.535 and .466, respectively).

In other words, the Rays aren't getting on base very much, aren't hitting for much power, and aren't hitting for a very high average.

That's going to be a problem, isn't it?

Starters Scuffling

PitchingTeam ERAStarter ERAReliever ERATeam SIERRATeam HR/9
Rays 20144.18 (11th)4.26 (7th)4.05 (6th)3.76 (6th)1.06 (13th)

The pitching has been a little bit better than the offense in 2014, but has still been pretty middle-of-the-pack. They rank 11th in team ERA, 7th in starters' ERA, 6th in relievers' ERA, 6th in team Skill Interactive ERA (SIERRA) and 13th in team home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9).

Obviously, the loss of starter Matt Moore is killing the Rays. Moore injured his elbow after just two starts and had Tommy John surgery, leaving a starting rotation of David Price, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Erik Bedard and Alex Cobb. Price has a high ERA (4.27) in 12 starts, but his peripherals show a much stronger pitcher than that, with a SIERRA of 2.72, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.0.

You can ball with that.

However, the rest of the staff has been shaky. Archer has a 4.00 ERA and is walking 3.71 batters per nine, although his SIERRA of 3.74 is a bit better than his ERA. Odorizzi's ERA of 5.13 is ghastly, despite striking out 10.8 per nine. He's also walking 4.3 per nine innings and giving up more than a hit per inning pitched. Bedard's 4.27 ERA is legitimately high, thanks to his 4.27 BB/9. Cobb, in just five starts, has provided some stability at the bottom of the rotation, with a 2.93 ERA and a WHIP of 1.043.

Bullpen Blues

The bullpen ERA of 4.06 is sixth-best in the American League. What's really hurting the Rays' relievers is the home run ball, giving up 1.06 HR/9, third-worst in the American League.

Jake McGee has been their best reliever thus far, with a 1.09 ERA in 24.2 innings, striking out 9.85 batters per nine. Closer Grant Balfour has struggled big time in his return to Tampa this year, with just 9 saves in 19.2 innings. He's also blown a couple of saves, and made comments critical of the few fans that actually attend Rays games for booing him after one of his blown saves. His ERA of 5.23 is better than only two other relievers, Heath Bell, who was cut by the team in early May, and Charles Riefenhauser, who has pitched two innings with the team so far this year.

Juan Oviedo has a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings, Cesar Ramos has a 3.14 ERA in 14.1 innings (despite 5.02 BB/9), and Brad Boxberger has a 1.47 ERA in 18.1 innings (although his 5.29 BB/9 are downright scary). Josh Leuke (5.22 ERA) is getting killed by the long ball, as is Joel Peralta (4.88 ERA) and Brandon Gomes (4.91 ERA). Peralta at least averages a strikeout per inning. Leuke and Gomes average just a shade over 5.00 K/9, meaning guys are going to put the ball in play against them.

The Bottom Line

With Wil Myers out of the picture for at least the next couple weeks, Matt Moore gone from the rotation, and the team seemingly buried in the standings, the Rays' chances at a playoff spot are getting slimmer by the day. If the Rays can get hot and somehow crawl their way back to .500 by the All-Star break, it's possible they could make a run in a division that isn't terribly strong.

Of course, it's not going to take much for the Rays to turn to "sell" mode, and off-load a player like David Price to the highest bidder. If that happens, the Rays will likely spend the rest of the second half in last place in the AL East.

And that's somewhere no one thought they'd be when the 2014 season began.

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In This Article

David Price
SP, Detroit Tigers

Evan Longoria
3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Grant Balfour
RP, Tampa Bay Rays

Wil Myers
RF, Tampa Bay Rays

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