Tampa Bay Rays' Offensive Struggles a Concern in Winless Start

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIApril 8, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 01:  Outfielder Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox have taken all the panic stricken headlines the last few days, but it is surprising to see the reigning AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays receiving very little headlines after a poor start to the season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays have not led in any of their six losses to start the season, and they are only the second team since 1900 to begin a season without having a lead in six consecutive games.

The blame can be solely placed on the Rays struggling lineup and the absence of Evan Longoria.  

The Rays' offense ranks last in baseball in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, slugging, WAR, wOBA (weighted on base average) and strikeout percentage.

A casual fan and sabermetricians can both agree that the Rays offensive start is one of the worst in baseball history. The Rays average 6.8 wRC, weighted runs created which measures how many runs created a player averages, which is last 7.2 runs behind the second worst wRC.

Of course, the Rays' lowly team batting average of .145 is affected by an insanely low batting average of balls in play of .177.

But what else could we learn about the Rays offensive struggles?

The offense has the highest swinging strike percentage at 11.1 percent, and they have the second highest first strike percentage at 64 percent. The Rays are taking too many strikes and the entire lineup, besides BJ Upton, needs to be more aggressive early in the count. In addition, the Rays have recorded the second lowest amount of line drives.  

These numbers are compounded with the Rays inability to make consistent contact over the first six games.

These numbers are the heart of the problem, because the BABIP number will not remain at .177. The Rays struck out 23.8 percent of all plate appearances in 2010, but the current rate of 28 percent is unsustainable. The first pitch strikes are a problem, but the team is swinging and missing at an 11 percent rate.

A six game sample size is too small to panic, but new acquisitions Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are showing their age.

Damon is striking out close to 37 percent of his plate appearances compared to his usual 17 percent career rate. Manny Ramirez has only reached base one time, and he has displayed a stunning lack of bat speed where 73 percent of his outs of have been recorded on strikeouts or infield flyballs. 

The Rays have plenty of time to turn things around, but the numbers show that the Rays just have not been making enough contact or hitting the ball hard enough to score any runs.

Obviously, the lineup misses Longoria and the offensive productions should improve with his return. However, the Rays will need more production from the rest of the lineup if they are going to make a run in the AL East or the Wild Card.