Jamal has been a writer for Bleacher Report since 2010 focused strictly on the Rays. He has had his work featured on websites such as Forbes, USA Today, CBS Sports, Houston Chronicle and the LA Times. Jamal is a special correspondent for 620wdae.com covering the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays biggest problem is not offense. Their problem is they need to figure out how to prevent teams from scoring six or more runs.
Monday night, the Rays lost 10-5 to the Toronto Blue Jays despite getting back-to-back home runs from Desmond Jennings and James Loney. With the loss, the Rays have dropped to 0-18 in games they allowed at least six runs. In contrast, they have a 23-11 record when they hold opponents to five runs or fewer.
Of all the contributing factors to the Rays losing high-scoring games, single-inning implosions are the greatest. They have allowed at least four runs in an inning 17 times this season.
In comparison, the Rays have scored four runs or more in an inning only eight times so far this year.
The simple solution would be to suggest that the Rays hitters increase their productivity in order to match the results of their opponents. The problem with that thought process is they do not have the personnel to compete in and win that way.
Offensive slugfests are not the type of games the Rays are built to win. Their model of success requires consistently great pitching and defense. In other words run prevention is more important than runs production.
Run prevention efforts are supposed to begin with the starting pitchers. The more quality starts (at least six innings pitched and no more than three earned runs) the staff can put together, the greater the odds the Rays will win. They are 16-1 this year when they get a quality start.
Quality starts should limit the probability of teams reaching that insurmountable six-run mark based on the caliber of arms in the rotation.
However, David Price leads the rotation with five quality starts but is also the only starting pitcher on the team to have opposing teams score six runs in a game three times while he is on the mound.
If the ace isn’t right, there is a problem.
The return of Alex Cobb should provide immediate assistance to the Rays. In his four starts this year, he has three quality starts. The additional quality starts would also help take the burden off of the bullpen that has pitched more innings that any other team in MLB.
Defensively, the Rays have to limit errors, which will also limit unearned runs. Opposing teams have scored 13 of the 16 unearned runs the Rays have given up this season as part of the 18 six-run games this year.
There is still plenty of baseball on the schedule for the Rays to overcome the early season challenges. In order to get this train back on the tracks, they will need to find a way to get back to being a run prevention team.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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