Evan Longoria’s Protection is Overstated | The Process Report

Evan Longoria’s Protection is Overstated

Last night, I looked at the most anemic five-game stretches in franchise history and discovered a common connection between the two worst slumps –that being the absence of Evan Longoria. Twitter bred a discussion earlier today other whether Dan Johnson (and others) were exposed in Longoria’s wake. I am not sure whether this theory is based on the idea of pitchers approaching the batters differently or if the idea is that Johnson (and others) has an added mental burden while at the dish. Either way, only B.J. Upton seems removed from the Longoria-less effect.

If that sounds similar to the age-old protection theory, it’s because it probably is. Luckily –or rather, unluckily— the Rays have endured periods without Longoria due to injury before. These stretches include 52 games over the last three seasons, giving us a sample size just over a quarter of a full season. The numbers should spell out that the other hitters in the lineup suffer as a result of Longoria’s absence, and yet, they don’t:

In 2008 and 2009, the other Rays “stepped up” in Longoria’s absence, while quite a few of those same players remained in 2010, they collectively struggled as the season winded down. Interestingly, the 2008-2009 totals account for more than 80 percent of the Rays Longoria-less games, and yet, the lineup’s OPS improved. Did the players really step up because he was gone? Probably not, more likely, it was a figment of random fluctuation, as was the 2010 and (so far) 2011 struggles.

Taking one of the best players in baseball out of any team’s lineup is going to have a mostly negative effect, but to assume it carries over on heavily into other player’s at-bats or that the others are dead ducks without Evan Almighty’s protection is silly.

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