Athletics Rays BaseballLast week, we ran a Daily Poll listing several players as choices for MVP for the first one-third of the season. We omitted Ben Zobrist. We want a do-over. One could make an argument that Zorilla has been as valuable to the Rays as any other player and with Pat Burrell and Jason Bartlett expected back Friday, his role may soon be reduced.

Last night Zobrist collected 2 more hits, including a home run. It was his 4th home run in the last 7 games. For the season, he is now hitting .304-12-35. And his numbers are even better than that.

He has a .468 wOBA, the highest on the team. Better than Bartlett’s .453 and Evan Longoria’s .418. And so far in 2009 he has already been worth 3.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for the Rays or about $13.9 million. For comparison, Longoria has been worth 3.2 WAR or about $14.3 million, Carlos Pena is at 1.4 WAR ($6.4 million) and Burrell has been worth -0.1 WAR (-0.3 million).

Not bad for a utility player. But maybe even more impressive, is that he has maintained his strong bat despite having to play a different position on an almost nightly basis.

In fact, Zorilla has started a game at every position this season except catcher and first base. And does anybody have any doubt he could play both of those positions if needed?

On Friday, Burrell and Bartlett are expected to return to the Rays lineup and Joe Maddon has stated in the past that he prefers to use Zorilla as a part-time player. But can he justify not having one of the most valuable players in the American League in the starting lineup every night? By the name of Zorilla, we hope not.



  1. Charles says:

    Zobrist is also 3rd in the AL in OPS, behind two guys you may have heard of: Joe Mauer and Kevin Youkilis. He's already set or tied career highs in just about every offensive category you can think of. And probably the single most important thing on this team: he walks as much as he strikes out. I don't ever feel like he's going to whiff in a big moment. He's good for my digestion.

    Not that I am advocating a trade (I'd rather see him as the everyday or most days right fielder in a platoon with Joyce), but can you imagine what a haul this guy could bring in right now? He can fill almost any positional need a team might have and he is stone cold ripping the ball.

  2. Dirtbag Fan says:

    chances are he'll start at 2B 5 times a week...

  3. Geoff says:

    Zorbist has been on this "torrid pace" for the last year and a half. He's hot now, yes. But he's probably still a .800-.900 OPS hitter at his base level. And you can't sit a middle infielder who can hit like that.

  4. Andy Kline says:

    Ben Zobrist

  5. Joe D. says:

    Zobrist has 24 HRs in 346 AB with the Rays last year and this year, I think that's a pretty good sample size of work to start to form opinions, and tendencies on.

    I heard on the radio, I think it was Andy Freed, I have a hard time sometimes telling him and Dave Wills apart, mention that it reminded him of how Jonny Gomes was hot early on in his career, then as teams got a better look at him they began to figure out how to pitch him better, and a big part of Zobrist's career is going to depend on how he adjusts to the adjustments pitchers make to him.

    I'd have to say that I agree quite a bit that thought, but so far so good, it seems that Zobrist can handle just about everything thrown his way these days...and it's fun to watch!

    • i understand what you are saying and it is a good point, but i dont think Gomes is a fair comparison. Zobrist has actually always been a good hitter. He has always shown very good command of the strikezone. Solid OBPs and solid strikeout to walk ratios. those players tend to adjust well as they move up the ladder and pitchers have a hard time adjusting to those types of hitters.

      the difference with Zobrist is that now that he has matured both mentally and physically to life in the big leagues, he has now made an adjustment and is no longer slapping the ball. he has learned how to drive the ball. It is something that is not really a fluke. many players at this stage are still learning to hit. zobrist knows how to hit, so the small adjustment to driving the ball may have been fairly easy.

      Gomes was never a very good hitter. he just had a lot of power and some big holes in his swing.

      • bobrittner says:

        I think you are right Professor. It seems to me that pitchers are mixing up their pitches to Zobrist more, giving him more off-speed stuff-and he seems to be adjusting. He has always had a good idea and was never a big strikeout hitter (unlike Gomes).

        It was interesting to see how Weaver approached Zobrist and Joyce and how each responded. I saw only one fastball to Joyce, low and away I think, and he had a very hard time figuring out the curves and changeups. Zobrist fouled some off and hung in very well, although he was fooled enough on one to hit a half swing grounder back to the pitcher. But another he hit for a solid single.

      • Joe D. says:

        Yeah, I agree that the Gomes analogy wasn't the best, but the point I think he was getting at is making the adjustments at the plate as pitchers are adjusting to him, which he seems to be doing.

        It seems like a lot of young players take 2,3,4 years to develop power, it's really not only a credit to him but to the Rays also hold onto him and allow him that opportunity to develop. I know that opportunity wouldn't have been there had he been in the Yankees system, and a good job to get him in a trade with Talbot.

  6. Mark says:

    Even with those guys returning, who plays second? I think that Maddon calling him a part-time player should have gone out the window when Akinori went down. That's why part-time players are on the roster - to fill in when the starters can't go.

    • Maddon said about a week ago that Brignac is mist likely the regular second baseman and Zorilla will be back to his super-utility role. Maddon just seems to like that makeup. I am sure he will still be in the lineup more often than not, but he wont be the regular at any position.

  7. Don says:

    Ben singing this song all along.... Zobrist is NOT a utility player!
    We have two "weak" positions now ..2nd & right field...
    He should (must) take one, if not both (rotate), of these spots on a REGULAR basis...a blind man... that has been watching ..can see this!


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