Randy Arozarena was a sight to behold this postseason, but the Tampa Bay Rays relied too heavily on the right-handed hitter to generate offense.
To say Arozarena had a great postseason would be an understatement: he had a historically incomprehensible postseason. Across 20 games, the outfielder hit .377, slugged .831, and totaled 10 home runs. Furthermore, he hit no worse than .321 in Tampa Bay’s four playoff series, which came against the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
This production came on the heels of Arozarena finishing the regular season in style, blasting seven home runs and posting a 1.022 OPS across the last 23 games of the season. He missed the first 37 games due to repeatedly testing positive for coronavirus.
Hitting in the top-third of manager Kevin Cash‘s order, Arozarena was the driving force of the offense. Teams attempted to pitch around him, and when they didn’t, he made them pay. He was virtually impossible to get out, found success in a bevy of situations throughout the playoffs, and became the standout hitter the Rays were in desperate need of.
The problem? He was their only offensive threat.
Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames, Joey Wendle, Austin Meadows, Mike Zunino, Yandy Diaz, Hunter Renfroe, and Yoshi Tsutsugo all hit below .300. Manuel Margot was second on the Rays in batting average among players who had at least 20 at-bats; Margot hit .276.
Arozarena had a team-high 29 hits. Margot was second with 16 hits.
It was no secret going into the playoffs that the Rays were a mediocre offensive unit. Despite their depth across the board, they were a task-oriented offense that put an onus on everyone doing their part. Early on, Lowe and Adames were the slug threats; Wendle and Margot were the scrappy hitters that moved runners across the basepaths; Diaz, Ji-Man Choi, and Mike Brosseau, among others, were the power catalysts.
The Rays finished the regular season between 11th and 21st in Major League Baseball in runs, hits, home runs, batting average, and OPS. Out of the 16 teams that competed in the postseason, the Rays finished 10th in batting average (.211) and slugging (.404). Meanwhile, they averaged four runs per game. The Dodgers, who won the World Series, averaged 5.6 runs per game.
Meadows was the Rays’ premier hitter that intimidated opposing pitching staffs last season. Unfortunately for the left-hander, he contracted COVID-19 in July, missed the first two weeks of the regular season due to the diagnosis, and he never got into a groove at the plate despite ample playing time.
Arozarena was their offensive headman this postseason, but no team wins a World Series with one player firing on all cylinders and everyone else hopping on that individual’s back.
Tampa Bay has the deepest pitching staff and is one of the best defensive units in MLB. Those strong suits were the reason why they finished with the best record in the American League (40-20). But again: they were always going to need more offensive production to win the World Series.
To their credit, they made it to Game 6 of the World Series, which is extremely impressive for any ballclub, not to mention one with a low payroll and a systematic approach to developing a roster. With that said, the Rays literally eked out games.
They accumulated a combined three runs in Games 5 and 6. The combined margin in those games was four runs. They lost the series because they didn’t hit. Their one run in Game 6 came off the bat of Arozarena. They needed others to pick up the slack to balance out the order; it didn’t happen.
Sure, they could’ve pitched better in the first three games of the World Series. At the same time, they got upright as the series went on, and their offense didn’t capitalize.
What would the Rays have done in the postseason without Arozarena? Here’s a wrinkle to his home run total: the 10 long balls were accompanied by 14 RBIs. Most of the time there was no one on base for Arozarena to drive in.
Had they gotten more runners on base prior to him coming to the plate, Tampa Bay would’ve scored more runs. Furthermore, they could’ve wrapped up the AL Championship Series sooner and maybe even forced a Game 7 in the World Series.
This was feasible.
Albeit no one was within any lightyears of Arozarena last month, the Rays had more than enough ammunition to score more runs. If you remove him from the equation, the Rays may not even make it to the ALCS. He was their lone threat from start to finish.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of Arozarena’s postseason for the Rays is the likelihood that he leaves them in free agency given their low-payroll tendencies which come with a sturdy reliance on developing young players.
Randy Arozarena was the reason the Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series. Unfortunately for the Rays, their bedrock offense was the reason why they couldn’t take advantage of his storybook postseason.