Is Matt Joyce Fine?

The enthusiasm for the 2011 season was in the process of being short circuited after the Rays got off to a horrible 1-8 start and many fans were frustrated by a Rays offense which was held to 2 runs or less in 7 of the 9 games including being held to 1-run six times. One player who was being targeted for his poor offensive performance was Matt Joyce who at the time was struggling to get the results that many expected. Out of this lack of production came the tired nickname of Quad-A affixed next to Joyce's name by at least one member of DRB.  

In response to the negativity surrounding Joyce R.J. Anderson at the Process Report wrote an article titled Matt Joyce is Fine to detail why fans should be optimistic about Joyce's future regardless of his statistics at the time (.130/.259/.217 , (2) doubles in 27 PAs as of April 11th). In his article R.J. points out that Joyce was doing all the things you want from a corner outfielder with power which includes getting ahead, working counts, and  hitting balls hard. Immediately after the Process Report story was released Joyce went on a red hot tear and finished his 17 final games in April with a slash line of .400/.441/.618 including (6) doubles and 2 HR covering 59 PAs. 

Joyce carried the end of April momentum with him into May where he hit a staggering .414/.470/.759 including 7 HR, (5) doubles, and (2) triples in 100 PAs and entering action on June 1st he had produced a season slash line of .370/.430/.636 (OPS of 1.096).  He was not only establishing himself as an everyday player but he was showing superstar potential. Nobody expected Joyce to continue hitting .370 nor did anyone believe that he'd carry his .416 BABIP for an entire season (the last player with at least 400 PA and  a .400 BABIP was Jose Hernandez in 2002 at .403) but I don't believe many thought that Matt Joyce would naturally regress as far as he has over the last month plus.

Joyce opened the month of June and the natural slump seemed to be hitting him as expected. From June 1st to June 8th he put up a slash line of .167/.212/.335 with 1 HR and (2) doubles over 33 PA. Then on June 10th, the Rays announced that he had stayed behind in Los Angeles to receive a cortisone shot in his left shoulder and was going to miss a game with "post injection soreness" and that he had a similar injection in January. Joyce claimed that the shoulder had been bothering him for two weeks and did not want to call it an injury. The cortisone shot has not cured Joyce's struggles at the plate as from June 8th through July 6th, he has put up a slash  line of .152/.216/.273 with (5) doubles and 1 HR over 74 PA and from June 1st through July 6th, he has put up a slash line of .156/.215/.292 with (7) doubles and 2 HR over 107 PA (to put that into a little perspective, Reid Brignac has a higher slash line over the same June 1st to July 6th period at .210/.269/.274 with 1 HR and (1) double over 68 PAs.)

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Joyce was named to the American League All-Star team based on his full body of work in 2011, which includes a slash line of .291/.352/.510 (OPS of .862) including 10 HR and 40 RBI, but there may be much more to worry about him as the season progresses. He has struggled since his shoulder started bothering him (more here) and he has suddenly stopped drawing walks, driving the ball, and is striking out more often. Should he even be playing if he is injured? Another Rays player supposedly played with an injury of sorts and produced poorly in another city in 2010. The barbs toward that player for not removing himself from the lineup and getting the problem fixed were voiced by many who felt that the player was selfish to continue to play with the injury.  Is Matt Joyce hurting the Rays by trying to play through an injury? Is his problem simply a slump and nothing more? Or are there a combination of factors including shoulder soreness, lack of discipline, and no longer getting ahead, working counts, and hitting balls hard?  Can Matt Joyce turn around the downward spiral he has been on as noted in the table below or will he continue to live up to his new nickname "MOM" which stands for Month of May?

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