When Maddon notices a player is scuffling, he’ll shift him up/down the lineup accordingly and let that player “fix” things before giving them a few days off to get their minds right(as some managers do). Desmond Jennings, the Rays former daily leadoff guy, was lowered to 7th in the lineup and has flourished in the role. While its a small sample size and you really shouldn’t consider him a changed man…it starts to get me thinking.
“Is Desmond Jennings really the guy that we want as our leadoff man?”
Desmond’s career batting avg. is sub-.250 and his OPS is in the mid-700s. Not good for the guy at the top of your lineup whose main job is to get on base and also to use his speed to get into scoring position. Another attribute of Jennings, as pointed out to me by Jason Collette (@jasoncollette on twitter, great follow), is that Jennings has a knack for going after first-pitch fastballs that pitchers mistakingly put over the plate. Again, this isn’t something that a leadoff hitter should be doing. How does a manager like Joe Maddon go about telling Jennings(who likely has been hitting at or near the leadoff spot for his entire baseball life) that maybe he isn’t suited for leading off? He’s moved Jennings down before, so we know Jennings has been given the “let’s see how moving you down for a few games” talk…but has he been given the “let’s make this somewhat permanent” talk yet? I don’t think so, but I don’t think it would be a bad idea.
Wil Myers has always been a guy hyped to be a game-changer, due to his prodigious power coming from his insanely quick bat. Hype is always dangerous, considering how it can get into a players’ mind and effect them. While sometimes it can make the player feel like a hot streak wil never end, it also plays against them if they start out slow or get into a prolonged slump. With the Rays, they have always wanted to see how top prospects work themselves out of their slumps before bringing them up permanently. You can’t really taste success until you’ve dealt with the humbling bitterness that is failure.
While Myers wasn’t an outset failure since joining the Rays, he wasn’t an all-out success either. His batspeed wasn’t producing the blasts that they had seen while scouting him last yr in AA & AAA, more so singles and bloop hits. Wil, who has never had equal splits for his career, was also being manhandled by RHP early on and Friedman himself noted(and I’m paraphrasing here) that Myers’ thought process in ABs against righties wasn’t to the organization’s liking.
Did Friedman’s questioning do something or flip a switch in Wil’s brain? It seems to, looking at Wil’s recent string of games, have done something. His L/R splits have become to the norm, while his K rate is in line for his career and he’s improved his walk rate against LHP(h/t Collette, again). Its just a matter of time before he gets the call and from the looks of things, he’ll be “one of the guys” rather than a guy that they have to depend on from Day 1.
This year’s Rays team is a different monster than in year’s past. Different guys being the hero, but instead of being pitchers…its the hitters’ shoulders carrying the team. Whether its Longo with the longball, Loney threading the needle or Kelly Johnson making everyone forget who used wear #2 before him….its always someone different.