The Tampa Bay Rays offensive side of the roster was completely overhauled in the last year. The only position players on the 2018 Opening Day roster that were on the 2017 Opening Day roster were Kevin Kiermaeir, Mallex Smith, Daniel Robertson, and Brad Miller.
Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., and Tim Beckham had been traded. Logan Morrison, Peter Bourjos, Rickie Weeks Jr., and Derek Norris were free agents.
Opening day the Rays turned to Wilson Ramos, CJ Cron, Joey Wendle, Matt Duffy, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Denard Span, and Rob Refsndyer to fill in the holes. The Rays were in middle of transitioning to their young prospects Willy Adames and Jake Bauers sometime in the summer.
The Rays had quite a number of left-handed bats with Kiermaier, Smith, Miller, Span, and Wendle needing to see quite a few left-handed pitchers. The track record of the group against same-handed pitchers wasn’t good. Over the three previous years (2015-2017), the left-handed bats put up a combined .229/.293/.320 line and not nice 69 wRC+ against southpaws in 1,251 plate appearances. At least two were going to be expected in the lineup against left-handers, and the reason we saw more of Refsnyder and eventually Johnny Field than we would have preferred.
The platoon issues were going to be the concern entering 2018, but at least they had some left-handed bats that were expected to do some work against right-handed pitchers.
Versus Right-Handed Pitchers
This is the side the Rays were expected to do most of their damage against. Fortunately a majority of the pitchers throw right-handed.
Non Pitchers vs Right Handed Pitchers
Overall the Rays walked at a league average rate and struck out only 0.2% more often than league average. Their 106 wRC+ ranked inside the top ten at number nine.
The 4,499 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers being the sixth most in the American League is quite surprising. As was just seen in the playoffs the Boston Red Sox rotation is primarily left-handed and teams like the Blue Jays and Yankees had left handers like JA Happ and CC Sabathia throw significant innings.
Overall the Rays performed pretty well against the hand they were suppose to.
Non Pitchers RHB vs RHP
When the right-handed batters didn’t have the platoon advantage, they still performed above average. They walked 0.2% more than average and struck out 0.6% more than average. Their 101 wRC+ doesn’t seem that impressive, but the league average only a 97 in the most common matchup in the game.
The Rays 2,400 plate appearance in RHB vs RHP matchups was eighth-most in the American League. The Rays saw the platoon disadvantage in this matchup 0.4% less than average.
The trade deadline acquisition Tommy Pham did the heavy lifting with a 184 wRC+ against same-handed pitchers with a .340/.437/.604 line over 126 plate appearances.
Robertson (124 wRC+), Adames (120 wRC+), Ramos (118 wRC+), Cron (110 wRC+), and Duffy (106 wRC+) were positive contributors.
Non Pitchers LHB vs RHP
Overall, the Rays were able to get production out of their left-handed bats when they had the platoon advantage. They struck out 0.2% less often at the cost of a 0.1% less walk rate.
Ji-Man Choi was the Rays most productive left-handed bat with a .289/.387/.535 line and 153 wRC+ in 168 plate appearances with the platoon advantage.
Brandon Lowe (121 wRC+), Wendle (115 wRC+), Miller (114 wRC+), Smith (114 wRC+), Bauers (106 wRC+), and Span (105 wRC+) were all positives with the bat.
Kiermaier struggled throughout the season, and this even carried over to when he had the platoon advantage, but he wasn’t awful (89 wRC+).
Versus Left-Handed Pitchers
The track record of Rays batters vs left-handed pitching wasn’t good heading into 2018. The experienced right-handed bats the Rays brought showed reverse splits. Cron had a 95 wRC+ and Gomez had a 95 wRC+ against southpaws for their careers.
Non Pitchers vs LHP
At first glance 105 wRC+ vs left-handed pitchers might not seem that impressive, however that is tied for fourth-best rate in the majors. Only eight teams cleared 100 wRC+ vs southpaws.
Only three American League teams had fewer plate appearances vs. left-handed pitchers than the Rays (Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Tigers).
Non Pitchers RHB vs LHP
The Rays ranked seventh in the majors against left-handed pitchers as right-handed batters with a 112 wRC+.
Pham destroyed left-handed pitching with a 208 wRC+ in 48 plate appearances. Ramos (160 wRC+) and Cron (152 wRC+) brought the thunder as well.
Robertson (135 wRC+), Field (114 wRC+), Duffy (106 wRC+), and Hechavarria (100 wRC+) were positives.
Ramos has a track record of punishing left-handed pitching throughout his career with a 121 wRC+.
Bringing in Pham helps the Rays prospects of being able to replicate their 2018 results against southpaws as he has a 135 wRC+ against them in his career.
It’s always hard to expect consistent numbers against left-handed pitchers year to year as the most plate appearances a batter can realistically expect as a full timer is between 150-200.
Non Pitchers LHB vs LHP
Left-handed batters have always had trouble handling left-handed pitchers. The Rays 94 wRC+ might not look that impressive, but it is the tenth-best rate in the majors. The Rays had the ninth-most plate left vs. left plate appearances.
Span put up a 147 wRC+ in his short time here against left-handed pitchers (35 plate appearances). Smith put up a 129 wRC+ over 115 plate appearances, and Wendle put up a 121 wRC+ over 102 palte appearances.
Bauers (67 wRC+) and Kiermaier (50 wRC+) in over 100 plate appearances a piece dragged down the offensive production against southpaws.
The Rays put up solid production coming in the top ten in productivity in every split.
Tampa Bay will look to lean left-handed once again in 2019 with three outfielders (Kiermaier, Mallex, and Austin Meadows), four infielders (Wendle, Lowe, Bauers, and Choi), and two catchers (Michael Perez and Nick Ciuffo) potentially on the roster.
It would probably be optimistic to expect similar production in their left versus left matchups in 2019. The Rays need to pick up a right-handed catcher to pair with one of the young lefties, and it would be nice if they could pick up a middle of the order right-handed bat that can play almost anywhere.