You will recall back on June 21st, I did a post about the Rays’ struggles hitting with runners in scoring position. There is good news on that front – they’re doing much better and it is no accident that the wins are starting to roll in once again. To recap, during the first 44 games of this season, the Rays hit an astounding .297 with runners in scoring position. That number was impossible to sustain so the Rays went to the other extreme and hit .210 with runners in scoring position over their next 31 games which helped erase all of the good memories of being twenty game over .500 at one point this season and helped put the club in third place in the division late last month. That number absolutely had to improve in order for the Rays to shake out of their funk and it has, in a big way.
Since hitting rock bottom at .210, the Rays are 30 for their last 109 with runners in scoring position which computes to a .275 average. In that stretch, the club has gone 7-2 as they have rediscovered how to execute Derek Shelton’s Get the Man In mantra. Baseball-Reference.com provides some outstanding situational hitting data and it helps understand where the Rays are compared to their American League counterparts. They show a stat called Productive Outs that was developed in conjunction with ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau. They define productive outs as:
- A successful sacrifice by a pitcher with one out
- Advancing any runner with none out
- Driving in any baserunner with the second out of an inning
The American League averages a 32% success rate in these situations that are clearly more influenced by the latter two scenarios given the limited amount of time pitchers bat in this league. The Rays are 99 for 308 in such scenarios this season which computes to a league average 32%. B-R also shows how many baserunners a team has had on the season and how many teams have successfully driven in. The American League has had 28,510 runners in scoring position for batters in 2010 and 4157 of them have scored which is a 15% success rate. The Rays are above league average and tied with Boston, New York, and Texas as they have plated 16% of their runners going 345 for 2172. Where the Rays have struggled compared to the league is advancing runners.
The American League as a whole has plated 50% of the baserunners that have been on third base with less than two outs but the Rays are 12th in the league at 49%. The Rays lead all of baseball in getting baserunners to third base with two outs as they have done so 234 times this season but they have left 120 of them standing there to end the inning. The situation gets only slightly better when you look at how the team performs with a runner on second base and no outs as the club has advanced just 42% of runners in that situation (101 for 239) while the league average is 41%. Something to remember is that the Rays’ two main competitors are amongst the best in the league in getting the runner in from third with less than two outs but it is the Rays that are the best in advancing runners from second base. The Rays have excelled in getting people in scoring position but it is the Yankees and Red Sox that have excelled where it matters most in finishing the job. Ironically, the best team in baseball in advancing runners is the Kansas City Royals who lead the league in both advancing runners from second base with no outs as well as third base with less than two outs. If a Royals team that is seven games below .500 can get this job done right, certainly a play-off contending club can figure it out in the second half of the season.