With the Rays officially eliminated from the playoffs, we’re in full look-back/look-ahead/look-anywhere-but-the-standings mode right now. Earlier this week, I tackled some of the least consistent hitters on the Rays this season. Today we’ll be looking at the more consistent hitters (for better and for worse) from 2017.
As noted in Part I, the Rays, as a team, were very consistent, never losing or winning more than five games in a row this season (commenter budman 3 noted that it has been three years since the Rays have had a win streak longer than five games) and finishing within a few games of .500 each and every month.
The five batters to follow are the player-level equivalent. A few of them have had normal in-season fluctuations, but two of them have been weirdly consistent month-after-month.
Normal Baseball-season-is-long Fluctuations
While KK’s month-by-month games played totals have fluctuated a bit due to his lengthy hip injury, his bat has gone under nothing more than the normal swings in production that most players see in an MLB season. Kiermaier started a bit slow (a not so nice wRC+ of 69 in April), but after that, he has hit between three and five homers each healthy month and seen just 70 points of BA swing from high (.340 in a 12-game August) to low (.270 in May).
Kiermaier has been more productive in the second half (139 wRC+) than he was in the first half (98 wRC+), when his poor hitting and uncharacteristically sloppy defense led to speculation about a lingering injury or illness. After his DL stint he has been back to his old tricks in the second half, reminding us that a full season of a healthy Kiermaier could be a big difference-maker. The prognosis on KK heading into 2018 should be excellent.
Sucre has been one of the most pleasant surprises to the 2017 season. For a backup catcher, he has been quite successful, posting a .260/.294/.416 slash line that looks even stronger if you ignore the middle number. He’s played in 62 games and supplied the Rays with just about one win’s worth of value, more than any backstop, starter or otherwise, did in 2016. He’s been a solid framer, decent blocker, and all-around clutch performer this season.
The “Sucre steps up in the clutch” narrative as gotten a bit blown out of proportion this season (he’s slugging .190 in FanGraphs high-leverage moments), but his 103 wRC+ with men on base this season is something no one will ever be able to take from him, and given his consistency, maybe it’s not too surprising to see him produce a little more when it matters.
Sucre is an even-keeled dude who has hit a home run in every month but one this season, something not many backup backstops can say. His numbers have improved slightly as the season has worn on, and while he is still a 29-year-old with a career wRC+ of 62, there are worse backup catchers to have on the depth chart heading into 2018 than Sucre.
Yeah, it’s not always good to be consistent. Miller started off 2017 with a noticeable dip in power from his 2016 numbers, and he never turned it around. Miller had just three home runs in the first half and has backed those up with just five more in the second half. His first half batting average has somehow dropped from .209 in the first half to .188 in the second half. His monthly wRC+ has been between 64 and 100 each month of the season. When your top monthly wRC+ is lower than your overall last season wRC+ (111), that’s never a good sign. No one is more excited for 2017 to be over than Miller, and whether 2016 Miller or 2017 Miller is more of the Real Miller will be a major storyline for the 2018 Rays.
Kings of Consistency
LoMo has slowed down a bit as of late, but he has still been among the most consistent Rays hitters in 2017. May was his most powerful month (10 homers and 17 extra-base hits), but he has had pop throughout the season, with his lowest home run total coming in July when he left the yard four times. With just two more runs this month, he’ll reach ten runs scored in each and every month, speaking not only to his consistent bat, but also his ability to stay healthy.
Morrison’s wRC+ has stayed above 100 each and every month, with his current wRC+ of 106 in September being the lowest all season. Even in his previous weakest month (July), he was 22 percent better than the average hitter.
Morrison has played in 145 of the Rays 157 games this season, and with 37 homers and a .349 OBP, it’s no surprise that this is, by far, the best season of Morrison’s career (3.1 fWAR is two wins higher than any other previous season in the bigs). Considering the Rays got Morrison back to the team for a paltry $2.5 million, LoMo has been one of the best bargains in MLB this season. It will be interesting to track him this offseason.
Another consistent bat that it would be nice to see be a bit more productive with that consistency, Longo is going to end 2017 with the least value added to the Rays since his injury-plagued 2012 season, and the lowest full-season total of his career.
In some ways this makes sense for the soon-to-be 32-year-old, and it’s another reminder that Father Time is undefeated. Now that’s not to put a wrap on Longo, but it’s telling that he didn’t put together a single month with a wRC+ over 119 this season, a total he topped for the entirety of 2016 (122). Longoria hit four homers each of the first four months of this season, but he has just three since, and his ceiling may no longer be the type of bat that can carry a lineup like it was in his prime.
Now Longoria looked like he might be fading in 2014 and 2015 before storming back with a vintage season in 2016, but he had flashes in both of the seasons, and ended both seasons stronger than he began. In 2014, he had 10 homers in August and September, and in 2015, he posted his highest home run total of the season in September.
This could certainly all be noise, but if Longo doesn’t have quite the same ceiling he once had, it will be interesting to see to whom the future Rays turn to in the future as that guy.