Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist On A Tear, Still Looking For Power

By Thom Tsang
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Zobrist‘s bat may have finally arrived.

Or so the Tampa Bay Rays hope, anyway. After having around uncharacteristically-low .702 and .730 OPS months through April and May respectively, the veteran super-utility man may finally be starting to find his groove that’s made him arguably the team’s most valuable player over the last couple of seasons.

A 5-for-7 performance back on June 10 helps for sure, but including Sunday’s 1-for-3 performance against the New York Yankees which included his 40th RBI of the season, Zobrist now has hits in seven of his last nine contests. Now that in itself may be not be too much of a revelation, but that he’s had multi-hit performances in three out of his last five suggests that he is heating up at long last.

The .321/.402/.432 triple-slash through 92 PA in June will certainly back that assertion up, and a season-high 24.3 percent line drive rate for the month suggests that his .362 BABIP in June isn’t entirely luck either.

Now if only he can find some power to go along with it …

See, while Zobrists’ .834 OPS in June is finally back to what the Rays have expected from him over the years, much more of that has to do with the O than the S of the equation.

In fact, despite all of the hits, the 32-year old is still just sitting on one home run for the month with a week to go before the calendar turns over to July. Should he stay there, it’d give him his second-straight one-homer month, and put him on pace for what would be a six-year low nine for the season.

Now, given that his discipline numbers are steady and that he’s still on pace for a 93-run, 87-RBI season with 11 steals, you might not think of it as much of an issue, but underneath those numbers are another nagging issue that the Rays haven’t really yet seen from their Swiss Army knife: for basically the first time in his career, the switch-hitter is showing reverse lefty-righty splits.

Or to be more specific, he seems to have forgotten how to hit lefties.

This was actually his strength leading up to the 2013 season, as he still owns a career .814 OPS over 1067 PA against southpaws vs. a .782 mark over 2381 PA against righties. But, those numbers have taken a bizarro world-type spin this season, with Zobrist posting a paltry .227/.277/.295 line vs. LHP compared to his business-as-usual .293/.299/.429 line vs. RHP.

In short, the Rays have half of a fully functioning Ben Zobrist right now, and while that guy can still be pretty good as we’ve seen, getting the other half back and adding some punch certainly wouldn’t hurt this Tampa Bay team that has fallen to last place in the AL East (albeit in the tightest divisional race in the majors).

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