Joe Lemire of SI.com has noticed an unusual trend in Major League Baseball this season. It is early, but so far, home runs, strikeouts, and walks are up. Way up.

These three plays are called the Three True Outcomes (TTO) because they are three most common results of an at bat in which the defense has no impact. In other words, it is just pitcher versus hitter.

This is important for the Rays, because if TTO is up, the number of plays involving the defense is down…

…so far this young baseball season has seen as few balls in play as in any year of its history….The 2012 season is in a dead heat with 2000 and 2009 for king of defensive inaction with each team having an average of 11.4 plate appearances per game that result in one of the TTOs.

If there are fewer defensive plays, then defense becomes less important. And the Rays are one team that places a lot of value on good defense.

But how has the increase in TTOs impacted the Rays this season? Actually, not very much…

As you can see, the percentage of at bats resulting in a TTO is up for the Rays in 2012, but only slightly. So, for the Rays at least, defense remains as important as in years past.

Of course, this table emphasizes another disturbing factor that we have highlighted this week. That is, strikeouts are down for the Rays pitchers, and walks are way up.

The result is an AL-worst 1.40 strikeouts-to-walk ratio. Last year, the ratio was 2.27, the fifth best in the AL.

As far as the TTO. It is certainly something to keep an eye on as we move forward. If the inflation starts to be seen with the Rays pitching staff, it could hurt the Rays in the long run.

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