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Rays Hitters Compared To Their Projections

The Rays hitters are leaving runs on the table.

Any discussion of under-performance must include Pat Burrell.
Any discussion of under-performance must include Pat Burrell.
Jim Rogash

With the Rays offense scuffling, much of the blame has been directed at the Rays' front office due to their supposed inability to assemble a lineup with any offensive aptitude. This is simply not true; from 2008-2013, the Rays have sported a 104 wRC+, the fourth highest in the major leagues.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Moneyball was when Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, flatly told Grady Fuson, the A's scouting director at the time, that he (Fuson) did not have a crystal-ball and did not know the futures of the players. As it turns out, neither could Billy Beane. Front office's today, with all the tools and information at their disposal, cannot predict the future. However, like Billy Beane did, they can use this wealth of information to estimate or project future performance.

In my opinion, the front office is not to be blamed for the Rays hitting woes. During the off-season, Andrew Friedman and the rest of the front offense were tasked with building a playoff caliber team. They projected the performance of their targeted players, and worked from there. Input for their projections undoubtedly included statistics, scouting reports, and any other available information.

So, in other words, there is a limit to what the front office can do. They can assemble a squad of talented hitters, and every piece of available information could indicate that they should hit. However, when it comes down to it, the players still have to perform. If an offensive star entering his prime tanks for no predictable reason, is it the front office's fault?

The Rays are in a similar situation. As already mentioned, the offense during the 2008-2012 period was among the best in the majors. However, the projections expected even more out of the players. Below is a comparison between the team's OPS and the projected OPS using Zips projections. The projections were weighted based on plate appearances.

Zips has not always included wOBA, hence the usage of OPS.

2008 .762 .772
2009 .782 .765
2010 .736 .768
2011 .724 .735
2012 .711 .725

POPS stands for Projected OPS.

As the chart indicates, the Rays have significantly under-performed their projections during their five year run. Based on the amount of plate appearances received by each player, they should have hit much better than they actually did.

How significant is the difference? Since OPS does not convert to runs, I compared the Rays actual 2012 wOBA to their Zips projected wOBA. Last year, the Rays hit for a .311 wOBA. Using the same method as used to calculate their projected OPS, I found their projected wOBA to be .324. The difference between those two, over the course of the full season, came out to be 64 runs, or about 6-7 wins. In 2010, the difference cost the Rays about 15-16 wins.

What accounts for this difference? There are several possible reasons for the players failure to match their projected stats. The first, and most important, is lackluster play by the players. Coaching, especially the hitting coach, may also play a role. It is particularly interesting that the Rays actually out-performed their projected OPS before Shelton (pre-2010). Ever since, the Rays failed to even match their projected offensive stats. An organizational struggle to identify possible warning signs or red flags in a hitter may be another cause.

Regardless of the cause, the Rays hitters are not performing at the level expected of them. If the Rays plan on staying competitive and maximizing the value of their spent dollars, they need to buck this trend.