Let’s get right to the elephant in the room. The Rays have been awful to watch the last two weeks. Wait, let me rephrase that. The OFFENSE has been awful to watch the last two last weeks.
The pitching has been great as of late, sporting an MLB best 3.18 ERA through the last 11 games. The Rays went 3-8 in that stretch, a telling stat for whom to point blame at (hint: it’s the offense).
So don’t blame the pitchers.
Before the 12-game stretch, the Rays were a half game back of the second wild card spot. Today, they sit 1.5 games back, and have to leapfrog the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals in order to make their first postseason appearance since 2013.
Do they have what it takes?
Only if the offense wakes up, and soon
They snapped out of their funk — for at least one night — in yesterday’s 6-4 win at Toronto. A struggling Marco Estrada and sloppy Blue Jay defense helped.
But the Rays lineup that was dynamite pre All-Star break (4th best offense at 108 wRC+ and .329 wOBA) has been in a slump post All-Star break (73 wRC+ and wOBA of .278 in last 30 days).
If the club would be hitting like they did pre All-Star break, they could have gone 8-3 in their last 11 instead of 3-8. There’s a very real chance the Rays would be leading the AL East if the offense had regressed only slightly.
The Tim Beckham trade was bad, and the Rays should feel bad. As a result, Adeiny Hechavarria (34 wRC+ in last 30 days) has been exposed as an every day player. But it’s not just him. If you look at the last 30 days, the guys you are relying on have hit met expectations: Souza 135 wRC+, Duda 133 wRC+, Longoria 108 wRC+. We might want more from Morrison (83 wRC+) and Miller (78 wRC+), but probably can’t hope for more from Sucre (83 wRC+).
But everyone else has been awful: Mallex 46 wRC+, Plouffe 27 wRC+, Hechavarria 34 wRC+, Ramos 24 wRC+.
Take underperformance at the back end of your line up, throw in some bad cluster luck, and you get a historically bad slump. If the offense can come back to scoring at a league-average level, this team is going to find success again.
Kudos to the starting pitching and bullpen for keeping this team somewhat afloat during a trying time. Given the complete dearth of offense they’ve been fortunate to win even six games this month.
Scouting the competition
The only reason we have been able to stay somewhat positive at DRaysBay is because the Rays cannot play this badly forever and nobody is running away with that second wild card spot. Baltimore’s pitching is dreadful, the Mariners have four of their five starting pitchers injured, the Twins and Rangers sold at the deadline, and the Royals are just kind of in the Rays boat.
This team can stay in the wild card race for the remainder of the season. With seven games against Baltimore (3H, 4A) six games against New York (3H, 3A), three games versus Seattle (H), Kansas City (A), and Minnesota (A), the Rays have plenty of opportunities to make up ground against their main competitors.
The Rays are in a position where they control their own destiny. If they have the best record throughout the last month and a half of the season, they’re pretty much a lock to get in. It’s their job to make that happen.