Changing Philosophy?

April 1st, 2016
Is the departure of 1B James Loney part of a shift in Rays strategy?

Is the departure of James Loney part of a shift in Rays strategy?

The Rays, under Merlot Joe, were consistent in two areas: strong pitching and solid defense.

The Rays rode these two time-tested, centuries-old baseball edicts to overcome financial inability to keep talent or acquire talent via free agency. It proved to be a winning formula.

However, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times has an interesting piece in which he believes transactions by the front office over the past couple of months suggest a shift in organizational philosophies.

The key to any success the Rays have had, specifically in their run of making the playoffs four times in six years, has been based on dominant pitching and dazzling defense.

But the net result of adding those bats was trading two key pitchers, high-end reliever Jake McGee and Nathan Karns from their starting depth, then this week ditching two slick fielders, catcher Rene Rivera and first baseman James Loney.

Baseball operations president Matt Silverman said there was no change in thinking, no plan to “stray” from their pitching/defense/run prevention mantra, just “adjustments” to take advantage of opportunities. In other words, they feel the new players are good enough defenders and more productive hitters, so there is a net gain.

Joe likes Topkin’s obseravations and agrees, this seems to be a risky road the Rays are traveling.

One thing about good pitching: It often goes hand-in-hand with good defense. Bad defense often results in more base runners, and we all know what happens when that occurs. (Joe remembers reading a book penned by Whitey Herzog. The Hall of Fame manager wrote he learned as a Yankees farmhand at a spring training session in St. Petersburg from Casey Stengel that the key to winning baseball was to eliminate chances a team has to score — with the ultimate goal of only allowing an opponent 27 chances — or at-bats — a game.)

The question remains, however, do the Rays have enough offense to overcome what may be a drop in defense and pitching? On face value, that’s debatable.


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