Bartlett remains Rays' most clutch hitter
Hitting with runners in scoring position continued focus
DETROIT -- Getting runners home is the main object for any baseball team, and the Rays have Jason Bartlett, who entered Sunday afternoon's action leading the Major Leagues with a .404 average with runners in scoring position.
Since becoming Tampa Bay's manager, Maddon has harped on the idea of having better hitting with runners in scoring position. Bartlett obviously is the best on the team, and Maddon offered his opinion for why.
"Part of it, I believe, is that he is rooted in the Twins' system," said Maddon, citing the fact Bartlett went through the Minor Leagues and broke into the Major Leagues with Minnesota. "The Twins have been really good at doing those types of things."
In addition, Maddon noted that Bartlett "plays to the middle of the field a lot during those circumstances" and hits a lot of line drives and ground balls in such instances.
"He's more on the line, more on the ground and he doesn't strike out that much," Maddon said. "So he gives himself the best chance to do those sorts of things by the way he hits under those circumstances."
Maddon also touted Carl Crawford for being a tough out with runners in scoring position, even though Crawford is hitting just .258 in said situation.
"Carl hits a lot of ground balls and line drives, too," Maddon said. "And that's why I like him in those moments, too. He's not a big strikeout guy either. Guys like that, runner on third less than two outs, have a better chance, I think, of being efficient than the higher-strikeout guys.
"The higher-strikeout guys can put up the points at any time, where [in situations with runners in scoring position] the contact line-drive hitter has a better chance at bringing home that run from third under those conditions."
Maddon believes his team has improved some in the area, but next spring, he intends to keep harping on the importance of hitting with runners in scoring position.
"We have spoken a lot about this since 2006," Maddon said. "And we just have to keep after it until it's a part of what we do. It's not for a lack of work, communication, or effort. It just hasn't taken root yet. And we just have to keep watering it until it does. ... We've got to do a better job of moving the ball."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.