Longo is back, depending on what "back" means to you.
If your definition of back means that he is returning to the team’s lineup, then you are correct. However, if there is an amount of productivity or expectation of success on the field, then you may find yourself disappointed in his return.
By the numbers, the Rays were a vastly greater team with Longoria than without.
The Rays started the season 15-8 with Longoria starting all 23 of those games at third base. They had a one-game lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles, and had the third-best record in baseball. The numbers also tell us that he was batting .329 with four home runs, 19 RBI, seven doubles, a .433 on-base percentage and .561 slugging percentage.
Wow, it sure sounds like he might be the magic elixir to cure the team’s offensive ailments. Although it is true that numbers never lie, they also don’t tell the whole story.
While his batting was very good earlier this year, his defense at the time was, quite frankly, offensive. His six errors still rank for the fifth most on the team, even though he has been missed the past 85 games. If he doesn’t return to his gold glove form the team will continue to hurt at third base, where they have committed 24 of their 78 errors so far this season.
Granted, the notion of Longoria in the field isn’t on the immediate horizon, with the plan for him to return in a designated hitter role. However, if these team wants to pop champagne bottles in celebration of another postseason berth this year, they will need to see their best defender in the field.
Speaking of him as a hitter, his bat alone isn’t enough to put the Rays in a position to play in October.
When the Rays were dominating in the first month of the season, Longoria’s bat wasn’t the only one firing on all cylinders. The Rays as a team finished the month of April hitting .254/.339/.429 with 28 home runs and 103 RBI. So far in August they are .198/.263/.302 with three home runs. They are currently in the middle of a pathetic 21 scoreless innings streak.
The Rays need some offense, and need it now. They cannot continue to get great pitching performances and lose because they can’t score a single run.
Longoria’s return will be more than welcome for the Rays, but one bat will not be enough. Although, right now, one bat is more than they have.
Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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