The Tampa Bay Rays play in a domed stadium, but that steady breeze inside Tropicana Field is usually courtesy of the home team’s bats.
The Rays set a new franchise standard for going down on strikes in 2016 and that trend is showing back up in 2017. Last year’s 1,482 strikeouts were the third most in baseball and 158 more than the previous club high of 1,324 in 2007. After going 18 years without sniffing nine strikeouts per game, the Rays went down swinging or looking 9.15 times a day.
That average isn’t quite so bad entering Friday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Rays’ 8.75 K rate extended over a 162-game season would be significantly higher than any year in team history before 2016.
This trend isn’t unique to the Rays, obviously. Offenses across the league have decided failing to put the ball in play and striking out just isn’t a big deal anymore. The lowest and highest strikeout rates in 2007 were 5.21 (Minnesota Twins) and 8.21 (Florida Marlins). Last season, 10 years later, those figures were 6.12 (Los Angeles Angels) and 9.52 (Milwaukee Brewers).
That rise has been steady and consistent over the past decade. When the then-Devil Rays fanned 1,324 times in 2007, the team’s K rate had never reached 7.00. It was 8.14 that season and the only time it’s sunk back below 7.00 came in 2014 (6.94).
Rays batters did rank tied for 11th in baseball in slugging percentage (.426) and slam a franchise-record 216 home runs. They also struggled to get on base. Tampa Bay’s .307 on-base percentage ranked 27th, meaning a lot of those home runs (136, to be precise) came with the bases empty.
Last year’s all-or-nothing, grip-it-and-rip-it approach at the plate resulted in the seventh worst run-scoring offense in baseball – a paltry 4.15 per game.