ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Manager Joe Maddon has never been one to pass up a good metaphor in describing the fortunes of his Tampa Bay Rays.
And he elaborated on a fitting one Sunday in assessing the team at the halfway point of the 2012 season.
Building on previous remarks that the Rays have had to tread water amid their flood of injuries, Maddon kept the aquatic theme flowing after a rousing 7-6 comeback win over the Cleveland Indians.
We need to swim really well, he said, faced with the latest report that star third baseman and offensive leader Evan Longoria will be out longer than expected due to his torn hamstring.
We have to swim with the Olympic breaststroke, whatever. We have to swim better. We cant just be out there with the floaties on. We have to get after it a little bit. And when Longoria comes back, he comes back. And Matt (Joyce), when he comes back, he comes back. Were professionals. Were Major League Baseball people. Lets get it down regardless of whats going on. And thats got to sink in (with our guys). And we have to be that group.
Thats a message Maddon plans to reinforce when the second half of the season begins Friday with a 10-game home stand, starting with a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox. The Rays have an excellent chance to get off on good footing considering 16 of their next 25 games are at the Trop.
And theyll need to do just that, with a third-place record of 45-41 7.5 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East, a half-game in back of the second-place Baltimore Orioles and two games in front of the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
Meanwhile, heres a look back at some of the highlights, lowlights and key developments that marked the first half of the season by the numbers.
.523 That winning percentage is Tampa Bays worst at the halfway point since shedding the Devil Rays moniker for the Rays in 2008. By comparison, the Rays were 55-39 (in second place) in 2008 when they went on to the World Series; 48-41 (third) in 2009 when they didnt make the playoffs; 54-34 (second) in 2010 when they won the division, and 49-41 (third) en route to clinching the AL Wild Card on the final night of the season.
.232 Its no secret that one of their biggest problems has been the lack of any consistent offense. And the loss of so many key bats due to injuries certainly has been a contributing factor. Theyre hitting a meager .232 well beneath the previous low at the All-Star break of .245 in 2002 and 2011: But heres an even more dismal stat. The team slugging percentage is .376, worse than the previous all-time low of .377 set in the expansion season of 1998.
71 As in errors. For a team that has such a high standard for glove work under Maddon, the Rays defense has been downright offensive. Their total ranks as the second most in the majors behind Baltimores 75 and represents their highest total before the All-Star break since 2005, when they committed 72. Longorias absence has clearly hurt, forcing frequent shuffling of personnel around the infield.
But even Longoria was playing with uncharacteristic sloppiness before he got hurt May 1 (with six errors, including three in one game). That said, 22 of the Rays errors have come from third base (tied with Baltimore for most in the majors), 14 from shortstop and 11 from second base.
To put this in perspective, the team has committed 19 multi-error games so far, compared with the 2011 Rays who had only 11 the whole season along with a league low of 73 errors overall (and just 16 at third). Ouch.
8 The total of players the Rays have used at third base so far, most in the majors.
14 The number of Rays who have wound up on the disabled list so far. Thats their highest total since 1999, when 15 players were shelved at one time or another by the half. And its already the most in any Tampa Bay season other than 2008, when a total of 18 players hit the DL. The good news is that just six players are on the DL at the moment.
Standout defensive outfielder Sam Fuld, who hasnt played all season due to right wrist surgery, has already begun his rehab assignment with Port Charlotte and could be back before the end of the month. But Longoria, who tweaked his hamstring when he started his rehab assignment in Durham last month, wont resume baseball activities until after the break.
And Joyce, out for nearly three weeks with an oblique strain, left his rehab assignment in Durham last Wednesday after experiencing lower back stiffness while sliding. His timetable is uncertain.
15-8 The Rays record while Longoria (.329 with four homers and 19 RBI by May 1) was in the lineup until his injury.
6-12 Their record since losing Joyce (.279, 11 homers and 34 RBI).
8 Games the Rays have had Longoria, B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings in the lineup at the same time this season due to the timing of their respective injuries. In those eight games, the Rays posted a 7-1 record.
308 Walks the Rays have amassed, second in the majors to Clevelands 309. Leading the way for Tampa Bay in that category are Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena, with 56 and 55 respectively, the only teammates in the majors with 50 apiece. They trail Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn (68).
100 x 2 James Shields 109 strikeouts and David Prices 105 make them one of three sets of teammates in the American League with at least 100 strikeouts each. The others: Detroits Max Scherzer (126) and Justin Verlander (114), and New York's CC Sabathia (105) and Ivan Nova (100).
11 Wins for Price (11-4, 2.82 ERA), who is one of three pitchers in the majors with at least 11 victories and a sub-3.00 ERA. The others: the Mets R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.40) and the Nationals Gio Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92).
50 Points Zobrists batting average has climbed since it stood at .199 on June 6 at Yankee Stadium. Zorilla has wielded the hottest bat the lineup since then, now hitting .249 with 18 doubles (first on the team), four triples (first) and 11 homers (tied for second), along with 37 RBI (tied for second) and a slugging percentage of .500 (trailing Longorias .561 and Joyces .512).
81 The difference between Elliot Johnsons batting average of .194 last season and his current clip of .275 (80-for-207), along with seven doubles, two triples, four homers and 15 stolen bases (tied with Jennings and Upton for the team lead).
Johnson looks like a different player at the plate this season in taking advantage of his added playing time. The switch-hitting platoon shortstop has only hit .176 against righties but has been phenomenal against lefties with a .331 batting average.
His fielding hasnt been as strong, with nine errors and a .960 percentage. But all in all. Johnsons offense and speed has made him one of the teams biggest surprise stories of the season to date.
25 Fernando Rodneys number of saves in 26 attempts, trailing Baltimore closer Jim Johnsons 26 saves. Tampa Bays first-year stopper also boasts an ERA of just 0.93, second in the AL only to the Angels Ernesto Frieri (0.71) and fourth overall in the majors.
12 With Price and Rodney representing the Rays at the 83rd All-Star Game in Kansas City, thats the number of different All-Stars Tampa Bay has had since 2008 more than any other team than Boston with 16. For the record, Rodney is the 20th different Ray to make get an All-Star nod and the oldest first-time All-Star in Rays history.
76 Games remaining for the Rays to start hitting in more timely fashion, get some key players healthy and start swimming if they hope to make the postseason.