Is Derek Shelton to Blame?

via www.tampabay.com

It's now August and the Rays are right in the middle of chasing down the Yankees and keeping ahead of the Red Sox.  They've been able to be so successful by great starting pitching, solid defense, a reliable bullpen, and a strong offense.  Well, it appears strong on the surface.  They are scoring a lot of runs, over 5 a game, and are near the top in all of baseball for that.  But the Rays just came off a 5-game losing streak with a set of 2-1, 2-1, 1-0 losses.  The 1-0 loss was about 6 inches away from being a third no-hitter!!! (Is it really that special now if you throw it against the 2010 Rays?)  So why are the Rays striking out so much and looking lost on a lot of days? Is it the hitters? The hitting coach or just plain old-baseball life?

Derek Shelton was hired this off-season to help improve the Rays kooky 2009 offense when half the team were MVP candidates and the other half non-existent.  So instead of the high-powered HR offense of 2009, they went with a more rounded offense with an increased emphasis on getting them on, getting them over, and getting them in aka GTMI.  GTMI has been a mixed bag for the Rays this year.  Early on it was great, working almost every night.  Then it completely went away for a stretch in June.  Granted it doesn't work when there aren't very many base runners like in a no-hitter, but it's also broken down in regular games too.

So lets see how the defense for Shelton is before passing judgement.

One of the things that was good about Shelton was the strong Indians offenses he was apart of for his 5 years in Cleveland dating back to 2005.

wOBA:

2005
.339
2006
.346
2007
.335
2008
.334
2009
.333

He's put up some above-average numbers for the Indians teams he's been apart of, nothing mind-blowing, but he was in a different era of Indians players.

So what kind of approach did the Indians hitters take while he was there?

 

BB% K%
2005 8 19.5
2006 8.8 21.4
2007 9.3 21.4
2008 8.9 21.9
2009 9.2 21.7

They drew some walks, not a high percentage, but struck out less, so they tried to put the ball into play more than the Rays have.

Indians:

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

BABIP

HR%

BUH%

0.271

0.334

0.453

0.181

0.302

13

16.4

0.28

0.349

0.457

0.186

0.324

11.8

26

0.268

0.343

0.428

0.159

0.31

9.9

28.1

0.262

0.339

0.424

0.162

0.305

9.9

20

0.264

0.339

0.417

0.15

0.308

10.1

24.7

Pretty well-rounded there. They had a decent team average and did also execute both the small ball in bunting and the long ball for HRs. So now that we know where the Indians stood with Shelton, what have the Rays done in their span of relevancy?

Rays:

Rays wOBA BB% K% BA OBP SLG ISO BABIP HR% BUH%
2008 0.336 9.9 22.1 0.26 0.34 0.422 0.162 0.302 11.4 32.4
2009 0.343 10.3 22.5 0.263 0.343 0.439 0.177 0.303 11.9 38.1
2010 0.330 10.6 23.3 0.251 0.337 0.401 0.15 0.298 9.2 46.7

The Rays have been drawing walks, and a lot of them at that, but have been also striking out a lot. They went from a lot in 2008 and an extreme amount this year. Part of that is style of play, but you don't like seeing that number keep going up, because it can make streakiness a common problem.  Because of the reduced balls in play, it's obviously hurt the team's BA and OBP and without the usual long-ball,reduced ISO, we've come to expect, the Rays do have a problem in the offense since putting together 2-3 hits can be difficult for them.

Indians:

Pitches

wFB/C wSL/C wCT/C wCB/C wCH/C wSF/C wKN/C
2005

0.59

-0.61

0.09

0.31

0

0.33

0.3

2006

0.72

-0.17

0.04

-0.21

-0.14

1.59

-2.03

2007

0.54

-0.81

0.8

0.03

-0.35

-0.95

-3.47

2008

0.52

-1.09

-1.01

-0.58

0.18

-0.49

-0.17

2009

0.59

-1.07

-0.57

-0.38

-0.57

-1.28

-0.63

Rays:

2008

0.21

-0.37

-0.13

0.25

0.42

0.38

1.68

2009

0.50

-0.21

-0.76

0.36

0.05

0.01

1.32

2010

0.14

-1.05

0.89

-0.23

0.38

4.56

1.68

One common link coming into the season was that Shelton's teams were always good fastball hitting teams, and the Rays were too, but that's not materialized this year at all. But there's also another pitch that has had a trend with Shelton's teams-the slider. Both the Indians & Rays have not been effective at all against it & it's shown in numerous games this year.

 

So is Shelton directly to blame? Partly you could say.  The decline of hitting the FB may be due to a change in off-season approach and the struggles against the slider can be attributed there also.  But it's also on the players to hit the pitches.  They're at the plate, and they have to execute.  It's too early to say how things will go.  1 year with 1 team isn't much to go on.  So to people who want to pass judgement already? Wait more until there's a more definitive data.

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