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The Rays Tank: Hernandez Strong, Bats Weak

Roberto Hernandez, in competition for fifth starter spot in the rotation, allowed one run over six innings against the Blue Jays. Will offensive woes continue to plague the Rays in 2013?

J. Meric

Despite a strong outing from Roberto Hernandez, the Tampa Bay Rays fell 3-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday at Charlotte Sports Park. Hernandez went six innings allowing only one run, a solo homerun by Colby Rasmus in the fifth. Hernandez threw 66 pitches, 42 for strikes, with two strikeouts and gave up three hits.

The Rays only run came on a one-out, bases loaded single from James Loney in the bottom of the sixth. Jose Lobaton grounded into a double play the following at-bat to end the inning. The Rays left nine men on base and were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

The general lack of offense has been a reoccurring theme with the Rays. Sure, they have had three straight seasons with 90 wins; however, there are still games in which the team struggles to string together hits, or even get on base. Felix Hernandez, Mark Buehrle and Dallas Braden have benefitted from the Rays lack of production in the past. Red Sox pitcher, John Lackey, threw six perfect innings in his outing this past Sunday against the Rays, with the no-hitter finally being broken up with one out in the top of the ninth by Jason Bourgeois against reliever Marco Duarte.

Rays hitting coach, Derek Shelton, was hired after the 2009 season. Since he has joined the team, the overall run production of the team decreased significantly.

Year Runs Scored MLB Rank Batting Avg.
2009 803 7th 0.263
2010 802 3rd 0.247
2011 707 15th 0.243
2012 697 18th 0.240

In 2012, the Rays were 21-27 in one run games, and lost five games by a score of 1-0.

Considering the lack of evidence to prove whether or not a hitting coach affects the offensive production of a team, it’s hard to place all of the blame on Shelton.

This past offseason, the Rays hired Jamie Nelson as an assistant hitting coach. This will be Nelson’s 14th season with the Rays organization and his first at the major league level. He has spent the past five seasons as the Rays minor league catching coordinator.

"Manager Joe Maddon said the move was a sign of the Rays joining the movement to add an assistant rather than a statement on what kind of job Shelton has done as the team's hitting coach," Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune wrote.

It will be interesting to see if having the additional help will rid the offensive woes this upcoming season. In spring training so far, the Rays have 114 runs, ranking 24th in the league, and a team batting average of .257.

While I know that spring training doesn’t really mean anything, it certainly is frustrating to follow along with the game and see inning recaps constantly stating "three up, three down".

Beyond The Fences:

  • Injuries Around the League- After tearing his a ligament in his left thumb during the World Baseball Classic, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez underwent surgery yesterday and is expected to be out for eight weeks. Former Rays closer, Rafael Soriano, had a root canal yesterday and is expected to pitch today for the Nationals; talk about a speedy recovery! The Yankees announced yesterday that Derek Jeter was going to be limited to minor league games for the remainder of spring training, just in case he has to start the season on the DL. The last time Derek Jeter missed an opening day game for the Yankees…2001.
  • The Reds are taking a page from Joe Maddon’s book, drama with the closer! Welcome to the life of a Rays fan. Aroldis Chapman was supposed to take a spot in the starting rotation for the Reds in 2013. However, rumors started flying yesterday that he was headed back to the bullpen. Chapman has previously said that he would like to remain as a closer for the team.
  • Get your hula on with the Rays this Saturday following the 1:05 game against the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park. For $50, you can have beer served to you by Rays players, staff and TV/Radio personalities. There will also be an auction of autographed memorabilia and all proceeds will benefit the Charlotte County Family YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity, and the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition.