While Louis and Francisco battle for the right to be the Saint in the World Series against Detroit, the Rays are doing their iceberg impression. You know, you can only see about a tenth of what is really going on. This is the time of year when discussions are held and decisions are made, often out of range of the media.
At this time, the club is considering adding an assistant hitting coach for current hitting coach Derek Shelton. Manager Joe Maddon consistently defended Shelton this past season, even though there were struggles throughout the year when it came to scoring runs. Several other clubs feature more than a single hitting coach.
Considering how difficult it is to hit in the first place, along with the fact that Tampa Bay resides in arguably baseball’s toughest division, it sounds like a good idea to me. I’m not about to call for a coach’s head on a platter, for several reasons. First of all, every coach in the bigs knows more than almost every baseball fan in the country. Secondly, a coach can only work with the players he has, and thirdly, he has to work around injuries. Had it not been for injuries to key players, there’s a good bet that Rays’ fans wouldn’t be questioning Shelton.
Take a look at the last fourteen games of the season, beginning with the first game of an eight-game winning streak: Tampa Bay scored eighty-four runs over that period, emerging with a 12-2 record. The common denominator? Evan Longoria was healthy and Luke Scott was available to offer lineup flexibility for Maddon. Over that time period, Longoria hit .324 with eight RBIs and four homers, and Scott batted .308 with five ribbies.
- In some very good news for the Rays, Fernando Rodney won American League Comeback Player of the Year honors. Buster Posey took the award in the National League.
- What’s so special about Rodney winning the award aside from his stunning numbers of 48/50 in save opportunities, a WHIP of 0.78, a major league record ERA of 0.60 for relievers with over fifty innings, and a batting average against of .167 and K/BB ratio of 76/15? What’s so special is what the Rays are able to do when it comes to the position of closer. In 2008, six pitchers combined for 52 saves. In 2009, NINE pitchers combined for 42 saves. The 2010 season saw a dominant Rafael Soriano save 45 of the club’s 51 total. In 2011, Kyle Farnsworth came out of nowhere to save twenty-five games in a season that saw only thirty-two total saves for the team. And this year, we have Rodney. The point is, no matter whether the Rays have had a dominant closer, or closed by committee, the organization, Joe Maddon, and pitching coach Jim Hickey have found a way to get the job done. Farnsworth had never totaled more than sixteen saves in a season Soriano’s high had been twenty-seven before 2010, and Rodney had saved a total of seventeen games over the 2010/2011 seasons.