Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports
Since entering the league in 2008, Evan Longoria has consistently been one of the best third basemen in baseball. At times, he's even been one of the best players in baseball, finishing as high as sixth in AL MVP voting in 2010 and 2013.
And this year, he has once again been one of the best third basemen in baseball. Among third basemen, only Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Todd Frazier, Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado have accumulated more wins above replacement than him this season. There are things about Longoria's season that are normal. Below, I'm going to post a bunch of numbers. The first number will be from this season, the second will be for his career.
Batting average: .276/.271
On-base percentage: .350/.351
Walk rate: 9.6%/10.4%
Strikeout rate: 20.4%/20.3%
Walk-to-strikeout ratio: 0.47/0.51
Flyball rate: 40.8%/42.4%
Hard contact rate: 33.6%/35.0%
As you can see, Longoria's doing a lot of Longoria-type things this season. That includes his defensive play, where he's posted a 0.86 dWAR, behind only Arenado, Machado, Donaldson, and Adrian Beltre among third basemen.
But one of the Longoria-type things he's not doing is hitting for power. Having started 87 of the Rays' 91 games prior to the all-star break, Longoria hit just nine home runs. That puts him on pace for about 16 this season, which would be the fewest of his career. Even in a 2012 season in which he played just 74 games due to injury, he still hit 17!
He's also on pace for just around 70-75 RBIs, which would be the second lowest total of his career, and the lowest total came when he drove in 55 in that 74-game 2012 campaign. That's largely due to a .239 average with runners in scoring position, in addition to the lack of power, of course. For his career, he's a .281 hitter with runners in scoring position.
Here's a quick rundown of Longoria's home runs per at bat since entering the league.
2008: 27/448, 6.0%
2009: 33/584, 5.7%
2010: 22/574, 3.8%
2011: 31/483, 6.4%
2012: 17/273, 6.2%
2013: 32/614, 5.2%
2014: 22/624, 3.6%
2015: 9/319, 2.8%
Career: 193/3,919, 4.9%
Longoria has a career .487 slugging percentage, and prior to last season, hadn't slugged below .495. Last year he slugged .404, and this year he's slugging .414. He has a career ISO of .216, and it hadn't been lower than .213 before last year, when it was .151. This year it's .138. After an opening-day dinger off Chris Tillman, he didn't one in his next 26 games.
Why has his power not been there the last two years? It's hard to say. Some people believe a decline in bat speed is part of the problem, and he isn't pulling the ball as much this year, doing so just 37.6% of the time. But last year he had no trouble pulling the ball, doing so 44.7% of the time (for his career he's a 43.7% pull hitter). As outlined earlier, his flyball and hard contact rates aren't down much, but his HR/FB% is just 8.8%, when it's 14.9% for his career (last year it was just 10.8%).
Kevin Cash has mentioned Longoria dealing with a wrist injury, going as far as saying he's not the same guy. And power-wise, he certainly isn't. It would be easy to credit that to his power outage this season, if not for last season, when he started all 162 games for the Rays. If Longoria was dealing with something last season, it wasn't bad enough to give him a day off here and there, which means it wasn't bad enough to blame for sapping his power.
It's easy to be discouraged and frustrated by Longoria's power decline, and absolutely, the Rays could use some of the power they'd become accustomed to seeing from him. But just because his power hasn't rebounded this season doesn't mean it never will, or that it's time to declare him a 15-20 home run guy for the rest of his career. Just look the way some of the sluggers of yesterday like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Albert Pujols have rediscovered their power strokes this year.
At the respective ages of 39 and 35, in a season not many people expected much from either of them for various reasons, Rodriguez and Teixeira are posting their highest slugging percentages since 2009. In 82 games this season, Rodriguez has already hit as many home runs (18) as he did in 122 games in 2012. Teixeira's 22 home runs through 82 games are as many as he had in 123 games last year. Prior to missing almost all of 2013, he hit 24 in 123 in 2012. Pujols is posting his highest slugging percentage since 2011, and is on pace for his first 40-home run season since 2010. He, too, is 35 years old.
It's true that, while Longoria's been a great player, he was never quite the kind of prodigious slugger that those guys were in their prime, but the point is that, being a three-time 30-home run hitter who hit 32 homers (the second highest total of his career) as recently as 2013, and being a guy who doesn't even turn 30 until October, it's far from out of the realm of possibility that he can still return to being a 25-30 home run guy. And I, for one, will be surprised if he doesn't see a power resurgence at some point.
And whether or not he does, he's still doing lots of great things for the Rays (including outperforming his salary), and is still one of the best third basemen in the game. While we can be frustrated with his current lack of power, let's still try to keep that in mind.
This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.