MLB Player Profile: How Valuable Has Ben Zobrist Been To The Rays?
By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): Follow @chuckbooth3024
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The team was in the 8th season out of 9 years of under .500 ball. The guy he was traded for had great offensive acumen, and was the franchise leader in several career categories as he departed the door.
Zobrist had an auspicious beginning with the Rays, struggling during the 2006 – 2007 years. His OPS numbers for those years were .572 and .391 respectively.
Joe Maddon was not as worried as others were about the 6th Round Drat Pick of the Houston Astros back in 2004,because the guy would be a Maddon type of player.
Ben Zobrist 2 Part Interview
In 2008, when the Rays finally started playing the corner, it more based in the offensive output of stars like Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton on offense, plus James Shields and Scott Kazmir from the rotation, than on Zobrist.
But it was the man’s versatility that enabled him to see some significant AtBats for the 1st time in his career. Zobrist played every position except for C/1B and Pitcher during the 2008 year.
For his 3 Slash, he went .253/.339/.844 – with 12 HRs and 30 RBI in one of most Super Utility roles of the campaign in the MLB .
The Rays made it all the way to the World Series that season, and put up their 1st winning year and AL East Division crown.
In 2009, the team cleared the way for Zobrist to split time with Akinori Iwamura at 2B with 90 games, but the man originally from Eureka, IL played 70 games in the OF.
He is an above average defensive player in any position that Joe Maddon decides to play him. This has been going for years now, so the Rays skipper can maximize platoons, RHB and LHB splits on his roster that can favor the club.
For the 2009 season, it was a bit of a let down campaign for Tampa Bay, finishing with just 84 wins, however Zobrist had his best year as an MLB’er.
Not only did he finish second for the MLB in WAR (8.6), he 3 Slashed .297/.405/.948 – with 27 HRs and 91 RBI. His efforts made him an AL ALL – Star, and he finished 9th in AL MVP Voting. No doubt the MVP position would have been top 5 if the club made the playoffs.
The Rays then locked him to a 5 YR/$18 MIL deal guaranteed, but he can make over $30 MIL for the 6 years – when the team picks up his 2014 and 2015 Team Options of $7.0 MIL and $7.5 MIL.
The 2010 year was not kind to him, as Zobrist hit for a .699 OPS that year. The franchise must have been worried for his offense at that point. However, the guy was still playing stellar defense.
In 2011, Zobrist led the whole MLB in WAR (8.8) – with his 6th place offense WAR – and 2nd place defense finishes.
That year he established career highs in RBI (91), XBH (72: 46 – 2B, 6 – 3B and 20 HR) and Runs Scored with 99. The team came back from an 0 – 6 start to make the playoffs on the last day of the season.
In 2012, Zobrist fared reasonably the same as 2011, and he put forth another top 20 AL MVP Vote finish.
This latest year, Zobrist brought in his 2nd ALL – Star Game, and set a Career High for hits. His .756 OBP was the lowest it had been since his 2010 year, but all the while the team still made the playoffs, and he keeps playing different positions.
The Tampa Bay Rays have the 2nd most wins in the last 6 years to the Yankees, have made 4 playoff appearances, and they have a couple of mainstays in their offensive lineup, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria.
The club had 3 or 4 other players like him, that can play multiple positions, just with not as good defense or offensive numbers, Zobrist is jack of all offensive and defensive trades.
He is the kind of guy at your work force, who you swear is working at mach speed the second you don’t their direction, because how could a humble nice guy, always get the job done so quickly with what looks like little ease?
So what else would he be but a switch hitter? His numbers are pretty similar across the board in all facets. He is one of those guys who can do pretty much anything.
The Rays bank on players like Zobrist being able to multitask for their squad, so they can save on salaries on other players. This man takes it up another notch higher than most multi – defensive position players. ‘
Most MLB Players would not have the mental fortitude to play all of those position different spots on the grass or Infield, and be able to produce at such a high level of production of both sides of the plate.
The Rays have had 6 winning seasons in a row since they started with a 9 year losing streak. I would bet some money they will win in 2014 and 2015, with Zobrist still a big catalyst on the team.
The management was smart enough to lock him up long-term (April.2010) coming on the heels of his incredible 2009 year.
Just like the franchise have done with James Shields, Matt Moore, David Price, Evan Longoria and so many past and present players, this worked out to their benefit as the years went by, and it gave the players some security.
At age 32, he has 2 years left of contract with the Rays, at the end of the 2015 season, he will be a Free Agent. he will then be 34 years old. It is my hope Tampa Bay rides him all the way to the full conclusion of that contract.
Heading into 2016, Zobrist will spend the majority of that season as a 35 year old.
It is not like the Rays to sign players that old on multi-year contracts, as such the man will probably be playing for another team that year – and especially if he keeps his play on a high level.
The Rays fans should really celebrate him in the next 2 campaigns, and be ecstatic by the time he leaves Florida, he will have logged a decade with the same team.
Only Evan Longoria will have been the other player to put that many seasons on their resume with the Tampa Bay franchise in the history of the club.
They will also hope he can have one more shot at the World Series, for he was just breaking onto the scene in the 2008 year.
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Posted on November 22, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged 2008 world series', @chuckbooth3024 on twitter, @MLBreports on twitter, akinori iwamura, AL East, aubrey huff, ben zobrist, bj upton, carl crawford, Carlos Pena, david price, evan longoria, houston astros, james shields, Joe Maddon, matt moore, Mitch Talbot, scott kazmir, tampa bay devil rays, tampa bay rays, tropicana field. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.