When B.J. Upton left the Rays, not only did the Rays lose an amazing center-fielder and a playoff hitter, they lost a speedster. Upton was one of the fastest runners on the team; he and Desmond Jennings (or Carl Crawford) were known for getting on base, stealing bases, and scoring when the power hitters were up at-bat. Now that Upton is gone, Jennings remains at the top of the batting order, but the Rays haven’t decided who will be batter number two.
According to Wikipedia, the leadoff hitter is the fastest baserunner on the team and its his job to get on base and to score when the powerful hitters come up to bat – Jennings is the fastest player on the team and one of the most consistent batters on the team so it makes sense that he is the leadoff hitter. The second batter should be a “contact hitter with the ability to bunt a baserunner over or get a hit.” These baserunners should be quick to avoid batting into double plays and managers prefer left-handed batters because of the “gap in the infield cause by the first baseman holding the leadoff batter”.
Out of the nine games played so far this year, Sam Fuld (4), Matt Joyce (3), and Sean Rodriquez (2) have been in the two-hole.
- Sam Fuld: Fuld is known for his speed and his batting average (BA) is .111 – the lowest on the team – with a on-base-percentage (OBP) of .241. His average BA is .241 and OBP is .322.
- Matt Joyce: Joyce is a lefty and is batting .174 with a OBP of .240. His average BA is .253 and OBP is .342.
- Sean Rodriquez: Rodriquez is able to run and is batting .143. with a OBP of .250. His average BA is .225 and OMP is .301.
So far this season, none of the three have been impressive; but most of the Rays have not been hitting or getting on base. Fuld and Rodriquez are both fast baserunners and capable of bunting, while Joyce is more likely to get a hit and is a left-handed batter. Since Fuld and Rodriquez are utility players and Joyce only plays when the pitcher is a right-handed pitcher, this could mean the Rays may not have a permanent two-hole batter this season.
I mainly use Twitter for the latest sports news, especially Tampa Bay Rays baseball news. Here are the players/coaches to follow on Twitter.
@RaysBaseball Official Twitter of the Tampa Bay Rays
@SunSportsFOXFL Fox Sports Florida Television Station: Covers Florida Teams
@RaysJoeMaddon Rays Coach Joe Maddon
@jamesloney_7 First Baseman James Loney
@TheZobrists Second baseman Ben Zobrist (shares account with his wife)
@Evan3Longoria Third baseman Evan Longoria
@d_jennings8 Center Fielder Desmond Jennings
@sweetswingin20 Right Fielder Matt Joyce
@DAVIDprice14 Cy Young Pitcher David Price
@JHell58 Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson
@mattymoe55 Pitcher Matt Moore
@Acobb53 Pitcher Alex Cobb
@Joeycatch8 Catcher Jose Molina
@SamFuld5 Outfielder Sam Fuld
@Alex21Torres Pitcher Alex Torres
@ChrisArcher42 Pitcher Chris Archer
@wilmyers Outfielder Wil Myers
@SVogt1229 Utility Player Stephen Vogt
@SeanJRodriguez1 Utility Player Sean Rodriguez
@robinson28ch Catcher Robinson Chirinos
@rroberts19 Ryan Roberts Utility Player
@ChrisGimenez5 Catcher Chris Gimenez
@JLobaton21 Catcher Jose Lobaton
@BrandonGuyer Outfielder Brandon Guyer
@Josh_Lueke Pitcher Josh Lueke
Twitter of Past Rays:
@BJUPTON2 Centerfielder BJ Upton
@reidbrignac Shortstop Reid Brignac
@ElliotJohnson9 Utility Player Elliot Johnson
@Gdeuceswild Pitcher Matt Garza
@JKeppinger Third Baseman Jeff Keppinger
@AdamRussell36 Pitcher Adam Russell
@ShopHouse10 Kelly Shoppach
After an ugly road series that involved losses to the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays are heading back to Tampa with a sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays. In the 1st inning, Matt Joyce reached first on a bunt single and error by pitcher Henderson Alvarez; a relief to know that a no-hitter would not be an issue tonight. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rays’ defense committed its first error of the game when Brett Lawre stole second. The ball thrown by Jose Molina did not reach Elliot Johnson in time, resulting in the ball landing in the centerfield and Lawre reaching third base. The error was charged to Molina. Luckily, David Price was able to get the next two batters out. In the 3rd inning, Ben Zobrist doubled and tried to score on BJ Upton’s single, but was thrown out at home by Rajai Davis. It was a beautiful throw.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Davis reached on an infield single, but managed to make his way to second due to a throwing error by Elliot Johnson. The Rays’ defense was starting to look like it had been this previous road trip: crappy. Davis then stole third and scored on Jose Bautista’s single. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, then hit a 2-run homer, making the score 3-0 in favor of the Jays.
In the bottom of the third, Davis hit an infield single that Elliot Johnson. Davis then stole third and Jose Bautista drives him. Edwin Encarnacion then hits a homerun; Jays now winning 3-0. The Rays scored a run in the 5th inning when Will Rhymes singled and then scored when Zobrist doubled. In the 7th inning, Sean Rodriquez hit a leadoff homerun to make it 2-3. Rhymes reached first on a single, as did Molina when Yunel Escobar committed an error. Elliot Johnson singled, allowing Rhymes to score when Davis committed an error. Johnson is currently on a 7-game hitting streak. Pitcher Alvarez (who just turned 22) threw a wild pitch, allowing the base runners to move to the next base. Zobrist once again reached base, loading the bases. BJ Upton hit into a double play, thus only Molina scored. Rays now led 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, Lawre was up to bat. After several balls thrown by Fernando Rodney, Lawre attempted to walk to first but was called back due to strike two. A few seconds later, Lawre tried walking again, but was called out on strike three. (In his defense, he should of walked, those looked like balls to me and they were out of the strike zone on Fox Tracks). Lawre was upset and threw his helmet down on the ground; the helmet bounced and hit the homeplate umpire – Lawre will be fined for that. Lawre and Jays’ manager John Farrell were later ejected after arguing with the umpires. Rays won the game 4-3.
What I Liked:
- David Price: Price only had one bad inning (which included pitching around an error), but he kept his cool after giving up a homerun and managed to pitch seven innings.
- Bullpen: Peralta hasn’t been too sharp lately, but today he managed to retire all three batters in the 8th inning. He did a great job getting the middle of the lineup out. Fernando Rodney once again retired all three batters (with some help from the ump). He now has 11 saves on the season.
- Rays Batters: Rays took advantage of the Jays’ four errors and scored four runs. Always a good sign when they score at least four runs, though the average number of runs scored in the AL East is five.
What I Didn’t like:
- There were two errors committed by the Rays, one became a run and made the inning last too long. Luckily, the Jays committed four errors, allowing the Rays to win.
- Red Sox played an early game today, meaning that they will get to Tampa and be able to sleep before the Rays do.
Today began Interleague Play. I personally hate interleague play because certain A.L. teams get to play easy N.L. teams (Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago Cubs) and A.L. pitchers can’t hit so the line-up gets switched around. Today, the Tampa Bay Rays played the Florida Marlins in the Citrus Series. After arriving in Miami at about 5 a.m. in the morning, the Rays were expected to win in order to keep their lead in the A.L. East; but, they didn’t.
Jaso: Why is Jaso batting in the lead-off spot? Jaso is only batting .221 and has been a disappointment so far this season. Though I am thankful for him scoring a run in this game, I just don’t think he should be batting first. Zobrist has some how reached first base in (I believe) the last 26 games.
Shoppach: Shoppach replaced Jaso toward the end of the game. I don’t know why, he’s only batting .164. Since the game was tied, the Rays needed offense, not a defensive move to protect their lead. Shoppach ended up striking out (surprise!); Jaso should have stayed in the game and bunted Rodriquez over to third in the 8th inning.
Zobrist: Zobrist made an error today playing 2nd base. Luckily it did not lead to a run.
Damon: Played left field since he could not DH. In the first, he missed a catch that I believe Fuld could have made. But, it’s not his fault he hasn’t played outfield since Spring Training.
Longoria: Longo is batting .221. Maybe him being in all these commercials is going to his head because he has not played Hall-of-Famer baseball in a while. He seems to be jumping at bad pitches, ending in pop-ups.
Joyce: Joyce is the only Ray doing anything in every game in the past week. He had two triples today, scored a run, and is batting .358.
Upton: Upton left early because his ass was hurting.
Ruggiano: Ruggiano arrived from the minors today. He drew a walk today, but no hits.
Kotchman: Kotchman had 2 hits today and is batting .340, which explains why Dan Johnson was sent down to the minors.
Johnson: Played shortstop today.
S-Rod: replaced the pitcher in batting and hit a double, though the Rays failed to get him in. Glad to see him hitting and being a useful utility player.
Sonnanstine: Though he only gave up 3 runs, which isn’t bad, I’m always nervous when he plays. Sonnanstine has just not shown amazing pitches at all this year. Niemann has not even begun to throw in rehab so I don’t know how long the Rays can go with Sonnanstine pitching. Maybe call up Alex Torres?
Howell: Howell was back in the majors for the first time since 2009. He had to pitch around an error by Zobrist, but was able to get 3 outs. He has alot of hair on his head and face.
Gomes: Gomes got 2 easy outs before Maddon got all fancy and replaced him with Peralta. Peralta purposely walked someone to get to Coghlan (because the Marlins’ Coghlan is hitting .187 against lefties). Maddon taking out pitchers, who are pitching well, to match-up other pitchers with batters just annoys the hell out of me. Peralta pitching had me on the edge of my seat b/c he almost walked Coghlan.
So the Rays lost 5-3 to the Marlins. I think putting in Shoppach and expecting him to hit was a big mistake. I’m also curious as to why all the Rays’ bats (except Joyce’s) have gone cold. They look like they did last year, which is missing the fast-balls-down-the-middle while swinging at balls. Its 1-2-3 STRIKEOUT! They also FAIL at hitting sac flys. All they do it hit pop-ups. Is Maddon telling them to watch the pitches like he did last year? I know Damon told the Rays earlier this season to be more aggressive. They just seem to eager and swing at everything.
In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop was Jason Bartlett and the second baseman was Akinori Iwamura. The two of them had high batting performances and outstanding defense and helped the Rays make it to the World Series for the first time in the Rays’ history. In 2009, both players were injured by the Florida Marlins; Bartlett suffered from a sprain that put him on the DL and allowed Reid Brignac to play in the majors for a few weeks while Aki suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. After the 2009 season, Aki was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In spring 2010, Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriquez, a player acquired by the Rays in the Scott Kazmir trade, began competing against each other for the opening day spot left vacant by Aki. Though Brignac had major league experience, Rodriquez could play any position. The problem was solved when the right fielder Matt Joyce, who was acquired from the Edwin Jackson trade, injured his elbow and started opening day on the DL. Though the second base position was shared by Rodriquez and Ben Zobrist while shortstop was shared by Brignac and Bartlett, Rodriquez and Brignac continued to bat well (Brignac batted .256 and Rodriquez batted .251, both averages were considered high for the 2010 Rays) and play outstanding defense. Due to a decrease in payroll, the Rays were forced to trade Bartlett to the San Diego Padres since they had Brignac or Rodriquez to play shortstop.
In spring 2011, there was a new question that was brought up; where was Zobrist going to play? Zobrist had just signed a $14.5 million contract that would keep him with the Rays until 2015, but he was coming off a sluggish year. Though Joyce was finally healed and ready to play right field, but his batting average was just .200 during spring training. It looked as though Brignac would be the starting short stop while Rodriquez and Joyce would share their positions with Zobrist; Joyce, being left handed, would bat against left-handed pitchers. This plan changed after the Rays 0-6 start. Joyce seemed a waste of space in the batters’ box and Joe Maddon benched him one game so he could clear his head.
After being benched, Joyce was never the same again. At the moment, Joyce is batting .365, an average that is second only to Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. Joyce has hit seven homeruns, driven in 21 runs, and has been intentionally walked four times this season. Joyce’s hot streak has caused him to be the everyday right fielder; Joyce no longer has to share his position with Zobrist. Zobrist’s 2011 season has also started off great; his batting average is currently .282 and he has driven in 28 runs. Zobrist quickly became the starting second baseman since Rodriquez’s current batting average is .200 and he has shown sloppy defense this year.
Back at shortstop, Brignac has also been underperforming this year. He is currently batting .179; batting just .102 in the past 14 games he’s played in. Joe Maddon recently told Brignac that Elliot Johnson would be taking over shortstop for a while. After all, Johnson is batting .283 with two homeruns and seven runs batted in; he batted .375 on the Rays’ last homestead. Johnson had been with the Triple-A Durham Bulls and was recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Player by the Rays Baseball Operations. On Tuesday against the Yankees, Johnson hit a homerun, scoring the only run for the Rays.
Tonight (May 19th) against the Blue Jays, Brignac and Rodriquez will be in the starting line-up. Hopefully, they’ll be able to prove tonight that they are just experiencing a slump and that last year was no fluke.
Tampa Bay Rays Official Website of the Tampa Bay Rays
The fact that ALOT of the Rays players were lost this past off-season due to money (or lack of) issues has many Rays Fans betting on who is going to make it on the roster and who is going to be starting. Hopefully Maddon doesn’t have 252 different lineups and 3 different shortstops this year, since consistency is pretty important. Here are my predictions: