After the 2015 season, the Rays front office felt the team had too often failed to get players across the plate, and were on the wrong side of too many one-run games.
Accordingly, the team added offense, trusting that their traditional stellar defense and pitching would carry over into the next season.
The pitching has struggled in odd ways (Drew Smyly has a 25% homerun rate, Chris Archer has been credited with 18 losses*), while two of the team’s most important defenders (Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Forsythe) lost significant time on the disabled list.
Consequently, the Rays lost a bunch of games right before the All-Star break, sinking the season. But that does not mean the offense was not indeed improved.
With 196 home runs on the season, the Rays are only three longballs shy of the franchise record (h/t Neil Solondz). Tampa Bay has never reached 200 home runs in a season, but the team is poised to finally reach that mark this year in spite of the known constraints of Tropicana Field.
95 of the Rays 196 home runs have been hit at home this season, including 20 by Brad Miller (who set the franchise record for home runs by a short stop earlier in the season, before transitioning to first base).
The Rays have a .177 ISO at home — a remarkable home split for any team, let alone in a pitcher’s park. Only five visiting teams batted higher, but none within the division or playing more than a three game set at the Trop.
The Rays K% is also at an all time high, 24.2% for the season, three percent higher than the previous record, and the walk rate is only a blip higher than last season’s, so there is still work to be done. Perhaps that was a contributing factor in hiring a new hitting coach.
But at least there are long balls.
Editor’s Note: Digging the long ball is found across genders, research shows...
*Among qualified pitchers in the AL East, Archer (he of 18 losses) has been supported by only 4.1 runs per game, the second lowest amount in the division. By comparison, the division leader is Rick Porcello (he of 20 home wins), who has an average of 8.2 runs scored in support. This is one of the few scenarios where pitcher wins and losses seem to tell a useful story — it’s just not a story about pitching.