If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.

On the fifth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FIVE players with at least 25 home runs…

To listen to some bandwagoneers, you would think the Tampa Bay Rays are on the verge of being the next ’27 Yankees. To be certain, there is a potential all-star in at least six spots in the lineup. But for all the talent and the offensive potential, only one player hit 25 home runs for the Rays in 2007…Carlos Pena who finished the season with 46 after being sent to the minors following spring training and playing the first few weeks as a part-time player.

Overall the Rays finished 3rd in the AL with 187 home runs, trailing only the Yankees and the White Sox, despite only two players with more than 20 home runs. However, if the Rays expect to compete in the AL East in 2008 and finally escape the cellar and make a run at the playoffs, they will need more consistent production from the middle of the lineup.

With only a single player north of the 25 home run mark in 2007, is it too much to ask that five members of the 2008 squad reach the milestone? It will not be easy, as only two players appear to be guarantees for the mark. While Pena may not be able to repeat his 2007 numbers, he should be a lock to surpass 25 home runs. BJ Upton should also be a lock to surpass the 25 home run mark if he can remain healthy.

The rest of the lineup is filled with question marks and potential. First and foremost is Carl Crawford. Already considered among the most talented players in baseball, Crawford will need to add more home runs to his resume if he is to take the next step towards superstar status and perennial all-star. In 2006, CC hit 18 home runs and appeared poised to break out in 2007. But sore wrists sapped Crawford of his power and limited him to 143 games and 11 home runs. He matched that home run total in one 30-game stretch in 2006, and at 6’2″ 220, he certainly has the strength to hit 25 home runs.

The rest of the lineup is filled with players that are capable of hitting 25 long balls. Rocco Baldelli has the pop in his bat if he can stay on the field. Regular duty at DH in 2008 may ensure 120 games for Rocco and 25+ home runs. Jonny Gomes has twice exceeded 20 home runs without ever having received 400 at bats in a season. Cliff Floyd has surpassed 25 home runs on three occasions, but he will be 35 in 2008 and has only played more than 115 games once in the past five seasons. If all three players can stay relatively healthy in 2008, one or more should reach the 25 home run mark.

Of course, the biggest question mark is Evan Longoria. Peter Gammons noted that several scouts that saw the Dirtbag play in the Arizona Fall League said he would hit at least 30 home runs if given a full season at the big league level in 2008. At this point, there is no guarantee that Longoria will open the season with the Rays, but if he did, he would certainly be a threat to reach 25 long balls.

Carlos Pena snuck up on the entire league in 2007, including the Devil Rays Brass. He won’t have the same luxury in 2008. Unless other members of the lineup step up and provide the Rays with legitimate power threats, the Rays opponents will not hesitate to pitch around Pena and the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays will have more trouble scoring runs than would one would think upon first glance.

On the fifth day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is FIVE players with at least 25 home runs, and..
FOUR winning records against AL East foes
[Day 4]
THREE AL All-Stars [Day 3]
TWO new pitchers in the rotation by the all-star break [Day 2]
ONE Evan Longoria in the opening day lineup [Day 1]

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
 
 

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    easy Prof...lets not get carried away here. What is Day 11? 11 Wins in October?

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  2. Robert Rittner says:

    I doubt the Rays have five 25 homer players, nor do I think it a critical issue. I agree Pena and Upton are good possibilities, but the others are far less likely.

    But while we want the middle of the lineup to hit homers, it is more important that the entire lineup make fewer outs per AB. That means we have to see progress on the OBP front. There I think we have real hopes in that Pena, Upton, Navarro, Iwamura, Floyd, Longoria and Gomes are all reasonably patient hitters. Crawford seemed to be making some progress but did not, although his high BA masks that flaw a bit. Baldelli remains a problem and I doubt we can expect more than mediocrity on that score from Bartlett.

    Generally research indicates that wins are far more closely correlated to OBP than to homers, so that is the area I want to see the Rays improve.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  3. Anonymous says:

    I think 5 players with 20 HR would be much more reasonable. As you mentioned, Pena and Upton should be locks for 20+ HR in 08. In the power department, the two biggest question marks are Baldelli and Longoria.

    If healthy, Baldelli should have no problem hitting 20+ HR in 08. If you remember, in the second half of 06 (364 ABs), Rocco hit 16 home runs. Projected over a full season, that would equate to roughly 30 homers. Further, before a horrible slump in May, Rocco was hitting .287 with 5 HR through April last season. So obviously the power is there.

    When it comes to Longoria, I have no doubt that he is capable of hitting 25+ HR in 08, but I just wonder whether he will even be given a chance. There is still a possibility that he could start the season at Durham. Will he have an Alex Gordon or Ryan Braun type rookie year? I guess we'll see.

    Crawford's development is just plain frustrating. While he did not regress this past season, he didn't seem to take any strides forward either. Sure the improvement in plate discipline and contact was encouraging, but there were a lot of us waiting for that power break out. Like you mentioned, he has the size and build for power. Maybe its the sore wrist, maybe its his swing, maybe its his issues with pulling the ball with authority. It could be a number of things. I still think he has the ability to hit for power, but ability will only get you so far.

    Lastly, I think the two-headed monster of Gomes and Floyd should be able to put up solid numbers and combined, could easily hit 25+ HR. With Rocco, Gomes, and Floyd all sharing times at DH and RF (with Rocco getting the majority of at bats at DH), I think its reasonable to suggest that those three players could combine for 50 HR.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  4. Sean G says:

    we would all like to see a better team OBP (which by the way should jump with the subtraction of DY and the addition of Floyd), but I dont think it is unreasonablt to "wish" that 1)Crawford would develop more power; 2) a healthy season from Rocco, which would mean 25+ home runs; and 3) Evan Longoria (as mentioned in Day 1)

    If those three wishes came true, the Rays would have 5 players with 25+ HR, or maybe just 20+ would be more reasonable.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  5. The Professor says:

    (Duplicate Comment from DRaysBay)

    AL Hitters that posted a .400 OBP in 2007 (with HR totals)...

    Ortiz .445 (35)
    Ordonez .434 (28)
    Posada .426 (20)
    ARod .422 (54)
    Pena .411 (46)
    Thome .410 (35)
    Cust .408 (26)
    Vlad .403 (27)

    7 of 8 hit 25 home runs. If a player hits more home runs, he will be pitched around more often. The more home runs a player hits, the more he will get on base, the higher the OBP. Ask yourself this: Would Carlos Pena have posted a .411 OBP if he hit only 15 home runs? No chance in H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  6. Anonymous says:

    45 players hit 25 homeruns in the bigs in 07.

    32 of those players posted OBPs greater than .350.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  7. Robert Rittner says:

    I won't pursue this any further because I do not feel competent to analyze the statistics. I am quite sure though that you are contradicting all the research into the relative significance of OBP and home runs to scoring runs. In everything I have read the analysts conclude that OBP should get more weight in diagnosing the value of a player to creating runs for a team.

    Obviously it would be wonderful to have players like Pena continue to hit home runs and also walk a lot, and almost certainly the two are connected. But there have been players who did not manage both and sabermetricians usually downgrade them. Examples are Joe Carter and Andre Dawson.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  8. The Professor says:

    I dont mean to belittle OBP at all. My point is just that power is something that changes the way ball games are played. Opposing managers and pitchers react differently. And it just so happens that there is a strong correlation between increasing power and increasing OBP.

    The best correlation to runs scored is OPS (OBP+SLG). IF a player increases his OBP, his OPS will go up. However, if a player increases his power, his SLG will go up and there is a very good chance his OBP will also go up, so the overall increase to OPS is greater.

    Barry Bonds has posted some of the best OBPs in history. Not because he has such a great eye, which certainly helps, but because pitchers will not pitch to him.

    At the other end of the spectrum is Sean Burroughs. In his only two full seasons he posted strong OBPs of .348 and .350, yet nobody wants him on their team. Why? NO POWER and a poor OPS despite his good OBPs.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  9. Robert Rittner says:

    But whenever the statisticians figure OPS as a factor in run production, they always emphasize the OBP a bit in their equations over the slugging. They weight it to increase its overall significance in whatever formulas they develop.

    I do think that power may affect OBP and the way pitchers operate, although I do not know that research has validated that at this point. There have been power hitters with ordinary and even weak OBP stats. Joe Carter and Andre Dawkins are just two, but Banks, Berra, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Don Mattingly and Jim Rice were between ordinary and poor in OBP because they walked less than one would expect.

    Dave Kingman in his biggest home run year had one of his poorest years in terms of walks. I am not sure the correlation between power and OBP is clear except that the best home run hitters probably tend to be selective. It may not be that pitchers or managers approach them differently.

    At Baseball Analysts, Lederer cites a Bill James discussion of Raines in which he asserts that game situations seem to affect OBP and slugging, with leadoff men in an inning tending to hit for more power as pitchers want to avoid walks while late in the game slugging averages decline as pitchers seek to avoid game winning home runs and so may nibble more.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Leave a Comment