By Jason Collette//
Derek Shelton was brought in after the 2009 season to be the new hitting coach. He was handed an offense that was above league average in 2009 scoring 4.96 runs per contest and was one of the five best offenses in overall runs, on base percentage, OPS, and OPS+. This season, the club has had been held to zero or one hits five times, the worst such performance since they put some life into the baseball back in 1920. After the most recent domination by Brendan Morrow, some fans are asking for Shelton’s head on a platter but is that a legitimate gripe or just another over-reaction in a very spoiled market?
In order to fairly judge Shelton’s work with the team in 2010, we need to look back at how the team did in 2009 and see how the club is performing against the league average. After all, offense is down in baseball so there should be some drop in the stats. Secondly, we have to account for younger additions such as Matt Joyce, John Jaso, Reid Brignac, and Sean Rodriguez while losing experience such as Pat Burrell, Gregg Zaun, and Gabe Gross. I took a look at several hitting splits in order to grade Shelton:
- Overall Team Offense
- Swinging at the first pitch results
- Full count results
- Three ball count results
- Two strike results
- Results when ahead in the count
- Results when behind in the count
- Results with runners in scoring position
- Results with nobody on
- Results with men on
Overall Team Results:
- 2009: .263/.343/.390
- 2010: .252/.337/.402
- 2010 league average: .262/.330/.409
The difference from last season to this season, on the whole, is negligible. The overall team batting average is down, but the on base percentage and the slugging percentage are nearly identical to last season. Of course, those results last season also got Steve Henderson dismissed. The team is not that far off the league average as far as OBP and SLG% are concerned but the drop-off in batting average is quite noticeable.
First Pitch Results:
- 2009: .345/.352/.609
- 2010: .358/.363/.533
- 2010 league average: .336/.343/.539
The team remains dangerous when swinging at first pitches as far as batting average and getting on base but the team’s slugging percentage is way down in these situations from last season but that is indicative of the entire league. The Rays’ slugging average is barely below league average while its batting average and on base percentage are above league average.
Full Count Results:
- 2009: .221/.467/.382
- 2010: .209/.483/.351
- 2010 league average: .235/.470/.385
This is a situation that has become all too familiar in 2010. A Rays batter will work a full count and become a three true outcome player: walk, strikeout, or hit into an out somewhere. Overall, the club is well below the league’s output in both batting average and slugging percentage as the Rays are stubbornly selective in counts, even with two strikes. Some teams work to protect the plate with two strikes while the Rays seem content on going for a walk and only swinging if the ball is clearly over the plate. This is further played out by the fact the club’s strikeout rate is a whopping 42% in a full count compared to a 23% overall strikeout rate on the season. Additionally, the Rays have a 35% walk rate with bases loaded which is more than three times its 11% walk rate as a club.
Three Ball Count Results:
- 2009: .239/.575/.410
- 2010: .244/.598/.393
- 2010 league average: .260/.575/.434
That on base percentage speaks to the club’s habit of working deep counts and most batters not getting a 3-0 green lights. However, the Rays’ performance in terms of batting average and slugging percentage against the league is not very strong. Getting on base nearly 60% of the time when working a three-ball count is good stuff but what the Rays do when they put balls in plays in those account leaves a lot to be desired.
Two Strikes Count Results:
- 2009: .195/.276/.312
- 2010: .159/.252/.252
- 2010 league average: .186/.259/.280
This is one area the club has taken a giant step backwards. They were not all that great in 2009 in this area but they’ve gotten much worse in 2010 to the point that the club is currently 11th in the American League in two strike count production. Meanwhile, Boston and New York are the two of the best teams in the league in this area. That kind of difference shows up in the playoffs where every bat is a crucial one. This struggle was painfully evident in the Morrow domination on Sunday when he got them to chase several pitches out of the strike zone that the club would normally take if they were ahead in the count. The further the club falls behind, the worse the end result and it was nowhere near this bad in 2009
Batter Ahead in Count Results:
- 2009: .292/.483/.498
- 2010: .295/.496/.494
- 2010 league average: .306/.474/.505
No difference here except a slight uptick in on base percentage that can be attributed to removing Navarro’s free-swinging ways and inserting John Jaso into the lineup. The club is just off the league average overall but its patience is getting them on base higher than the league average.
Batter Behind in Count Results:
- 2009: .218/.226/.341
- 2010: .194/.210/.289
- 2010 league average: .210/.218/.3o7
This goes hand-in-hand with the reduction in two strike count results. The club is in full protect mode with two strikes just trying to put the ball in play but even when they do make contact in those situations, it isn’t going anywhere. One thing you may have not known – the club is striking out less in these situations in 2010 than they did in 2009. Overall, the Rays are not far off the league average in this skill.
Results With Runners in Scoring Position:
- 2009: .269/.370/.425
- 2010: .266/.367/.413
- 2010 league average: .260/.344/.399
The entire mantra of the Derek Shelton approach was GTMI – Get The Man In. For all of the talk, there has been little action as the club is doing worse this year than they did last year. Still, the club is doing a better job of this than the league as a whole and is in the top half of the American League in overall production with runners in scoring position but has had several peaks and valleys in this category.
Results With No Men On:
- 2009: .256/.329/.442
- 2010: .235/.319/.386
- 2010 league average: .258/.322/.403
The Rays are getting men on base at league average but are doing it mostly with walks because the team batting average with nobody on base is the second worst in the American League with only Seattle being worse. Overall, the team’s sOPS+ is the fourth worst in the American League in this particular split which makes you wonder how much better they could be if they performed at league average.
Results with Men On:
- 2009: .271/.361/.436
- 2010: .269/.354/.417
- 2010 league average: .267/.340/.417
The club is exceeding league production in this split so there is very little to complain about here.
Overall, Derek Shelton’s teaching have helped the Rays meet or exceed league production in overall offense, first pitch swinging, results while ahead in the count as well as when behind in the count, hitting with men in scoring position, and hitting with men on base. The offense has struggled in hitting with a full count, hitting in three ball counts, hitting in two strike counts, and hitting with the bases empty. If you are counting up the checks and minuses, that’s six checks and four minuses. On a simple grading scale, Shelton’s instruction has done more good to this team than it has done harm. However, it does point out a theme in that the deeper the count gets for the Rays, the less successful they are compared to their peers so it might behoove them to be more aggressive earlier in the count and not be so stubbornly selective with counts to the point they are always in three ball counts or into two strike counts.
The fact that the Rays have been held to one hit or less five times is certainly frustrating but that is just five games out out 111 heading into Monday night. On the whole, Derek Shelton is doing more good than harm to this offense but there is room for improvement.