This season the front office brought in many new toys on the offensive side of the ball. The results haven't followed, as the Rays have only scored 24 runs in the first 10 games of the season.
The Rays offense has failed to put up the runs that are required to win many games. Many could argue that the Rays are lucky to have won several of the games they have won. After consecutive shutouts against Cleveland and Chicago, by this weekend the Rays fan base had resigned itself to relying on the pitching to carry the team. In other words, 2016 is looking a lot like 2015.
What is wrong with the Rays offense?
The new additions haven't gotten off to a good start outside of Corey Dickerson. We are still talking very small samples as Evan Longoria leads the team with 42 plate appearances (all figures are as of 4/15/16).
It's only natural to get frustrated when you don't see any signs of improvement from last season on the scoreboard.
2015 vs 2016 Ball in Play Data:
There are a few good things that the Rays are doing compared to last year. They're hitting fewer infield flies (these are as bad as strike outs except at least strike outs require the opposing pitcher to throw more). They're hitting more effective fly balls (26% true fly ball percentage in 2015 versus 29.5% in 2016) while improving their home run rate on fly balls.
The 2016 club will need to cut down on the strikeouts. I'm looking at you, Logan Morrison (45.2% versus his career average of 17.5%). I'm not as worried about the drop in walks if they continue to hit the ball as hard as they have.
Are the Rays just getting BABIP'd?
It's easy to use the excuse of BABIP, but when you are ninth in MLB in hard contact percentage and have the lowest BABIP in the league it's worth a further look.
Last season Alex Chamberlain at Fangraphs looked to formulate an expected BABIP from balls in play data that is currently available to the public.
The Rays 2016 team has an xBABIP of .308 using this formula (adjusted the Rays speed rating to 4.2 from last season). The Rays current speed rating is the worst in the league at 1.9. The range this season is 1.9-5.9 where last season all teams fell within a 3.5-5.3 range. The Rays have likely added speed due to the dismissals of two of the slowest runners in Rene Rivera (0.4) and James Loney (1.3).
This is an increase of almost 7% of balls put in play falling for hits. If the Rays ran as expected, they would have been rewarded with 16 additional base hits. The Rays team average would rise from .196 to .247.
Room for improvement
There are ways the Rays offense can improve as the season continues, but the easiest improvement will be getting more fortunate with their balls in play. As long as the Rays continue to hit the ball hard, the results will eventually follow. Two wins against Chicago, especially Saturday night's seven run outburst, are signs of better things to come.