First of all, I would like to extend my (and the rest of the DRaysBay's staffs) appreciation for the viewership throughout the season. As part of our thanks, we are going to spend a little bit of time each week focusing on questions that our readers would like to have answered. This feature will be called the "DRaysBay Mailbag."
To have a question submitted, simply send an email with the question to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try our best to provide an informative answer either through email or on the site.
On to this week's questions...
Question: It seems to me that the Rays hit more home runs without anyone on base than I can recall happening before. Is there a statistic that confirms that?
Answer (Michael Valancius): Your suspicions are correct. Of the Rays 175 home runs this year, 59 of them have come with runners on base. That totals out to 34%. The figure was 45% in 2011 and 39% in 2010. The AL average this year was 42%.
In addition to hitting a higher than normal percentage of solo home runs, the Rays, unsurprisingly, had a smaller average amount of runners score on a home run. An average of 1.56 runs were scored per home run this year in MLB. Meanwhile, the Rays only average 1.45 runners per home run.
The impact of this extends far beyond the "cool fact" part. A majority of run production comes from home runs. This year, 37% of runs were the direct result of a home run.
The Rays issues certainly didn't stem from their ability to get on base. Though the Rays had a low batting average, they managed to get on base at a solid clip (16th out of 30 teams). The issue appears to be more situational than anything, with the Rays simply hitting fewer home runs than normal with men on base. Whether it was a certain approach that the players were taught, a failure on the player's part to produce, or just pure randomness, the Rays didn't get the job done by bringing runners on base home with home runs.
With the Rays' offensive skill set, you would ideally like to see them reach base on an average or better clip and then drive those runners in with extra base hits, especially home runs. The Rays aren't a high average team, so to score runs, they need to be more productive at hitting home runs with runners on base in the future.
Question: My question that I want to ask to the site is whether or not my proposed trade would make sense for the Rays: James Shields to the Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller, Matt Adams and Jon Jay.
Shelby Miller: As you noted earlier on the site, Andrew Friedman noted how he will not be flippant with our pitching depth this offseason. Even though we give up James Shields, we still acquire a pitcher who we will have control of for many seasons and could be very good.
Matt Adams: He did have season ending elbow surgery, but there's no denying the guy can mash. I strongly believe he will hit for solid average and power in the majors and many others do too. He would instantly become our first basemen of the future (filling a major need), and is currently blocked in St. Louis by Allen Craig.
Jon Jay: He is another guy who fills a need when the inevitable comes and B.J. Upton signs elsewhere. St. Louis has two other players capable of playing CF right now in Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers.
There is almost no financial burden that comes with these three players and we fill important cogs in the field without giving up pitching depth.
Any thoughts on my potential trade idea?
Answer (Michael Valancius): Heading into the off-season, one of the Rays primary goals will be finding a solution to the weak offense of 2012. The Rays have several options to explore when it comes to acquiring the necessary bat(s). However, the most likely scenario in which the Rays add a strong bat is through trading a starting pitcher.
As you noted, James Shields is a prime candidate to be traded, and his loss will certainly be felt. But if the Rays can afford to trade depth for needs in any area, it is starting pitching. Price, Shields, Moore, Cobb, Hellickson, Archer, Niemann, and Davis are all candidates for the five rotation spots, so it makes sense to move some of this depth to strengthen the hitting.
As far as the trade you mentioned, I would have to believe the Cardinals would pass at the Rays offer. Such a deal seems a bit one-sided in the Rays favor.
Shields is a very good starting pitcher, but (from my perception) is not viewed as an ace and will not net such a substantial return. Shelby Miller, since returning to form, is an elite starting pitching prospect who is ready to step into an MLB rotation. His starting debut for the Cardinals a few days ago was phenomenal and revealed his potential. It is hard to imagine that the Cardinals would part with Miller AND more to land Shields. Matt Adams and Jon Jay are also both solid players in their own right, so I find it doubtful St. Louis would make this move.
Essentially, St. Louis would be trading 6 years of an elite pitching prospect, 6 years of a solid first baseman prospect, and three years of a quality center fielder entering his prime for just two years of Shields. I'm going to go ahead and say that St. Louis would pass on this deal.