The Tampa Bay Rays are in a place they haven’t been at for years: at the bottom of the American League East. A division where everyone now contends, there’s no time to relax on building on your win total. Not a whole lot has changed since 2013, so why are the 2014 Rays not looking so good?
The Rays are not a team that will necessarily beat you with the bats. The last time they had a player finish the season with over 100 RBIs was in 2010 when third baseman Evan Longoria did it. Their most consistent hitter, Longoria is the straw that stirs the drink. So far in 2014 he has been nothing more than an average hitting third baseman.
Youngster Wil Myers is finally getting his average to around the .250 mark while James Loney and Matt Joyce have cooled off from hot starts. An important injury to Ben Zobrist will hurt the offense dearly as they have no one to immediately step in to produce as well as he can. The Rays’ offense this season is made up of guys on pace to hit 15 home runs with a .265 batting average. An apparent weakness seems to be a lack of range between the players where no clear roles via the talents are set.
Unquestioned ace David Price is coming off a bit of a down year. However in 2014 things don’t appear back to the way they once were. Price has not pitched poorly, but seems to suffer from giving up too many home runs which is never something a pitcher looks forward to.
The rest of the pitching staff has been similar; not pitching terribly yet still giving up far too many runs. Starter Matt Moore’s season-ending injury might be more painful to the team than it will be for him. Even the success some of the pitchers have had, such as Erik Bedard and Alex Cobb, are likely to level-out and look less impressive the more batters they face. Finally the new closer, Grant Balfour, has been far less reliable than Fernando Rodney was. Unfortunately a resolution isn’t as simple as having him turn his hat sideways.
There’s no real explanation as to why the Rays have struggled in 2014 other than all of the players have not performed up to expectations. Perhaps not adding any necessary pieces in the offseason kept things dry and a step back in the standings was inevitable. Whatever the reason is, if they want to make 2014 worthwhile the bats need to get hot and the pitchers need to get back to dominating.