The Rays just capped off a four game series with the Toronto Blue Jays, where they nearly floundered on offnese through the first two games and then rallied for victories during the final two.
The games featured everything, good pitching, timely hitting, massive home runs, stellar defensive plays, everything...that is, except an Evan Longoria base on balls.
Longoria has only come up the plate 17 times and so far is 5-for-17, with two doubles and zero walks.
That's good for a .294 average, and an identical .294 on-base percentage. For some reason, Evan just hasn't drawn a walk, and upon further examination, he didn't walk much during the spring either. Longo took only four pitches outside the zone once during 39 plate appearances. That makes one walk in all of 2016.
Walk rates stabilize at 120 PA, so we do not know if 2016 Longoria is a new creation just yet, but if we go back to include last year's plate appearances, Longoria has taken only ten walks in his last 119 PA, and that includes two intentional walks.
Unintentionally, that's a 6.7% walk rate since Sept. 5th, 2015, almost half his normal rate, and half of those walks came between Sept. 5-9.
It's possible this is an aberration, and that Longoria will resume taking walks again shortly, but there could be other factors.
The Rays implemented a new-found focus on being aggressive that went in full swing during the second half of last season. However, Longoria's number actually got worse as the offense improved around him as his 1st and 2nd half splits, which may display a significant change in two areas: his walk rate and his home run rate.
Over his first 319 plate appearances, Longoria slashed .276/.350/.414 with 9 home runs, then over the next 285 plate appearances, he slashed .263/.303/.460 with 12 homers, thus displaying a massive change in power output as his slugging percentage soared. So while that area soared, his walk rate diminished as it was nearly cut in half from 9.6% to 5.2% while his strikeout rate stayed relatively the same.
Last year, Grantland (R.I.P) looked into the disappearance of Longoria's power stroke, and although he did slug .460 over that final stretch of the season, that's still over 20 points below his career rate.
Interestingly enough, pitchers were actually staying further away from Longoria during the second half of the season, but the Rays third baseman decided to offer at more pitches, but he was still able drop his strikeout rate while raising his power output...so I'm stumped.
Whatever the case, it still remains to be seen if Longoria truly has permanently changed his approached, or if pitchers have working a new way to attack him.
Over the course of the season, these questions will be answered, but also more will be raised, like in a case if Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza emerge and are able to give Longoria some protection.
Evan Longoria's days as the top tier third baseman in the league are plausibly behind him, but he still has the potential do damage and punish mistakes when they are made. He will still have to prove that he's capable of that though as the season drudges on.