Well ... given the team .244 batting average in 2011 ... the paltry 707 runs scored ... and being among the AL leaders in total team strikeouts ... I'm concerned about the offensive production ... primarily in terms of improving batting averages and reducing strikeouts ... at almost EVERY position!
Zobrist, Joyce and Longoria will most likely provide all-around decent offensive stats ... and maybe Keppinger, too, even if he's not a starter ... but the rest? In my opinion ... A Big Bunch Of "IFS" ... at least at this point!
I wholeheartedly agree with you that young hitters should improve over time ... getting better and improving their BAs with increasing experience and ABs.
BUT ... that really hasn't been happening much with the Rays young guys over the last couple of seasons!
Which is, of course, why I have pretty consistently (over the past two seasons) questioned the effectiveness of the current hitting coach ... and ... maybe ... the team hitting philosophy as established by the manager.
Just in the AL, the Rays have generally trended towards the bottom of the pack among the 14 teams in most offensive categories ... winning, instead, with very good starting pitching ... near-genuis use of a so-so bullpen ... exceptionally good defense ... quite a few good breaks ... and ... last season in particular ... Johnny Damon driving in the tying run in ten games and the winning run in eight more!
Pre-last season, I expected the Rays to win 85 to 87 games; the Yanks and Red Sox unexpectedly gave them a few more ... and they won an unexpected 91 and a wild-card slot in the playoffs. This pre-season ... pre-spring training ... I'm not as optimistic.
Right now ... even if all the guys remaining from last season match their 2011 performances ... there are just too many "IFS" among the several newcomers ... not a single one of which had a good ML season last year, whether they be a position player or a pitcher.
Statistically ... offensively ... it's generally a motley crew ... except for Zobrist, Joyce, Longoria and Keppinger ... and the new bullpen guys show up as distinctly fair-to-middlin' ... if even that good! So ... at this point ... I'm not yet very confident of a whole lot of wins above 81.
How can you say that when we won 91 last year and this year will have Desmond Jennings for a whole year, Evan Longoria healthy the whole year, BJ Upton hopefully using his lower half for a whole year, and Luke Scott and Carlos Pena adding 45 home runs to the lineup?
Matt Moore too
ALL ... "hopefully"; ALL ... "IF".
Offensive newcomers, excepting Keppinger, unproven ... and coming off of poor seasons.
Bullpen newcomers ... same deal.
"Hopefully" ... and "IF" ...
Maybe an on-again-off-again "six starters" ... and ... MAYBE ... trying Davis (more likely) or Neimann (less likely) in the bull pen. So ... ?
Beyond that ... don't expect starters to be regularly serving as relievers.
Rick don't even try and reason with tkrng.....He does not like Maddon, does not like most of the players, does not like the talk of moving to Tampa, does not like the RFO (carpetbaggers!) and I am convinced he does not like baseball.....But he is one of those St. Pete archaic thinking people with his nose up Foster's you know what who has actualluy said he couldn't care less if the Rays stay or go because St. pete or the the citizens don't need them........He ll he's even squawked about e
So don't even try to reason with him he will never "get it".......He ll he has even squawked about the Grand Prix messing up "his" streets in St. Pete and wishes that would go away too!
Bottom line....The 21012 editionb of the Rays is a better team than the 2011 one that won 91 games and went to the post season.....This year's Rays have a really good shot at 95 or more and going all the way!!!.....
81 wins....maybe? Get real!!!
Art, what are you thinkin for Rays wins this year? I'm thinkin about 85 with Keppinger, Scott and Pena added on and Kotch. plus Damon deleted.
I know you didn't ask me, but why do you think the team will win less than last year? I see the team as improved. Scott is an upgrade over Damon (but I bet you'll disagree with me), Molina is an upgrade over Shoppach, the defense is still likely best in the league, the starting pitching is better than ever, as is the bullpen. With one of Neimann or Davis going to the pen, they're just getting better pitchers to go late in games. One question mark is shortstop, but with the improved offense maybe the Rays are more looking for defense there.
Why do you see 6 more losses? I actually see more wins than last year, but then again, I'm an optimist about these things.
We differ about Damon, obviously. I think he was a good choice last year, and proved he can still play. I do believe that Scott is an upgrade, but I wouldn't have been disappointed with Damon again. But Damon is going to 38, young for most of us but old for ball players.
The Rays definitely lacked power last season, and Scott and Pena should provide it. More strikeouts for sure, but if these guys can produce their average numbers it should be an upgrade.
Know what I wonder about? Which players will regress this season, and which players will step up this season. It happens every year, always to the surprise of fans. If I had to guess, I would think Shields will regress slightly, as he had a career year in 2011. I think Joyce will probably get slightly better, and if he solves the puzzle of lefties he will be an all-star. Jennings should contend for Rookie of the Year (is he eligible?). Upton will likely be Upton, meaning he'll dazzle at times (like in the field) and frustrate at others (taking strike 3). BJ was in a nice hitting groove at the end of last year, and it would good to see him continue that. He's another guy who should be hitting the ball to all fields, with that speed.
I know you will not agree, but oh well...The loss of Damon and Kotchman isn't that big a deal, with Scott and Carlos the home run total just tripled what those two did last year, plus they are both good at taking walks.....Yeah, the K's, I know,,,,,,,,But I'll take Carlos K'ing 2 times in a game but hitting a game winning 3 run homer, which he has done many times......
If there are no serious injuries, I see 95 or more wins in 2012......And if Vlady comes on board, which is looking more and more like a possibility......yep 95 or better!