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Rays Are Not Taking Advantage of Pitches in the Zone

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The Tampa Bay Rays entered Thursday's contest with the Chicago White Sox as the worst offensive club in the league and possibly the unluckiest team at the plate in the Majors.

Okay, with a BABIP of .152 they are without a doubt the unluckiest team in the Majors, but I am not convinced it is all in the hands of the luck gods. The Rays also entered the game with the fourth worst strikeout rate and fifth worst line drive percentage (14.8%). That means to me that they are making a ton of weak contact when they actually do, you know, make contact.

Thursday's contest with the White Sox was no different. The Rays struck out 14 times for a strikeout rate of 43.8%, vaulting their rate for the season to a league worst 28.0%. The Rays also managed to hit 4 line-drives in the contest, all landing on solid ground for hits. The sad part is that sounds like a low number, because it is, but they put so few balls in play that those 4 line-drives will improve their LD% to 7th worst in the Majors at 15.8%. But could there have been more hard hit balls? Well, PitchFX tells us that Edwin Jackson wasn't exactly painting the corners. Take a look:


Jackson showed zero fear and attacked the zone, particularly the middle of the zone. He allowed only two line drives all day and by my count all 4 hits against Jackson were pitches left in the middle of the zone. Bravo to the few hitters that actually took advantage of hittable pitches. What makes me mad, as seen by one of my many remarks on twitter, is the amount of pitches left in the middle of the zone that were either taken for called strikes or hit with zero authority. Taking advantage of hittable pitches is just as important to plate discipline as lying off of pitches that are not in the hitter's zone and the Rays showed little discipline on this day. I count 6 outs made on pitches in the middle of the zone and too many called strikes, swinging strikes, and foul balls to count.

The Rays, continuing their lack of plate discipline, had 8 swinging strikes out of the zone. With the poor discipline the Rays are showing there is little wonder why they have only drawn one walk the past two games, lowering their BB% to 8.4 from the 10.7% they led the legue with two games ago. By comparison, the White Sox took advantage of pitches left in the middle of the zone against David Price:


Eight of the nine hits by the White Sox against Price were in the middle of the zone with the 9th hit being just below the two foot mark at the middle of the zone. Price also allowed 7 line drives on the day. By my count I also only see three pitches that were taken for strikes near the middle of the plate and one could argue that even those three would not be considered in a hitter's wheelhouse. The White Sox also only had one swinging strike on a ball outside of the zone against Price. The Rays need to take a page out of the White Sox's plate discipline book.

Bottom line is that pitchers will make mistakes and the Rays need to prove that they can attack the pitches in the zone with authority or we will continue to see pitchers show little-to-no respect to the Rays hitters and freely throw pitches in the middle of the plate knowing the consequences are minuscule at best.