As the Tampa Bay Rays are busy getting things in gear at spring training. Rays head to opening day for the 2013 season needing to improve and address particular areas this spring training to have a successful 2013 season.
- Fielding – Rays in 2012 Lost 16 1-Run and 10 2-Run Games – And this is a trend that will continue unless the Rays get back to its 2011 Season level of fielding only committing 73 errors (#1 MLB) to 114 errors in 2012 (26th MLB).
Not saying they need to be #1 but 85 or fewer errors should be a target getting them in Top 10 in MLB.
- 44/114 (38%) of errors were committed by S Rodriquez 18- Elliot Johnson 14- Zobrist 12. Adding Y. Escobar (12 E) and K. Johnson (11 E) will improve a glaring weakness in 2012. Another key factor and a reason there should be fewer errors Escobar and Johnson played together last year in Toronto. Familiarity is critical with both players knowing each other and a tremendous benefit on double play balls. The tandem turned 100 DP’s in 2012 while the Rays highest player to SS/2B turned 59 DP’s that is a huge difference in not just 1 and 2 run games but games that got away from poor defensive decisions.
- 2012 SS Fielding Rating – Toronto 8th (14 Errors) Tampa Bay 23rd (23 Errors)
- 2012 3B Fielding Rating – Tampa Bay Rays 30th (33 Errors) – Longoria only 8 of them in 75 games
- Offensive Fundamentals – The Rays need to improve on moving runners and bunting especially when looking at 1 and 2 runs losses. Putting these skills to proper use can drastically reverse L’s into W’s. Too many games last season the team left runners at 2B with less than 2 outs by just not executing but going into the box with no game plan. A team 1st approach for the average batter in the line-up is imperative to turn these games around. Games that can be a difference in 2013 when you look back at a team that missed 2012 playoffs by only 3 games.
- Rays -2012 Sacrifice Hits 22rd (34) – Sacrifice Flies 11th (42)
- Healthy Longoria speaks for itself with Rays record to start last season 15-8 had them on pace for a 100+ win season. Without Longoria from May 1st they were under .500 till his return August 7th where the Rays went 32-19 with him in line up when you calculate that to a full season Rays win 101 games.
- Longoria in the lineup makes everyone around him better since they will see better pitches based on teams not wanting to face Longoria with additional runners on base. This will lead to more production especially when you look at the numbers after Longoria injury – Luke Scott as of April 30th BA 266 before he was injured July 20th BA 225 – Carlos Pena April 30th 286 BA August 5th 196 BA – Matt Joyce April 30th 294 BA – Aug 5th 270 BA .
- Shields Factor – Obviously the Rays will miss his leadership in the clubhouse but at the same time Price learned a lot from Shields and will take over leadership on a young staff. Shields had a tremendous 2011- 2012 but in 2010 the Rays made the playoffs when Shields had a tough season 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA. In 2 playoff appearances for the Rays Shields had ERA 10.87. The young kids will come in and cover for his innings in Moore, Niemann, Cobb and Archer. Rays should have a solid year from its SP’s and not skip a beat at a position they are loaded with talent.
Even with the Rays coming off 3 consecutive 90 win or more seasons. There was a need for improvements made to the line-up, a focus on being healthy and improved execution on both offense and defense. With all of this coming together this team can attain not just a playoff appearance in 2013 but the ultimate goal winning the World Series.
Richard J Dudkiewicz Jr (Twitter @Rook33)