Maddon, Rays searching for new offensive edge

After leading the way on defense, club brainstorming creative strategies

Maddon, Rays searching for new offensive edge

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Joe Maddon, Andrew Friedman and company joined the Rays prior to the 2006 season, they brought a wealth of ideas along with an eagerness to try them out in an untapped frontier.

Among those ideas were advanced metrics and shifting on defense. Primarily, the ideas helped thwart the offenses of opposing teams. Since that beginning, the Rays have seen their ideas pay off with unprecedented winning by the franchise and the purest form of flattery -- imitation.

The imitation has been particularly obvious where defensive shifts are concerned. Now, the Rays are getting bit by some of the ideas they came up with, leaving them to look for the next great idea to help them win.

Maddon doesn't know what the next great idea is or from where it will derive, but he knows that the thinking needs to be directed toward offense.

"It's becoming an industry-wide situation," Maddon said. "Offenses. It's gone backwards. The next big frontier is to figure that out. How do you generate offense in 2015 like you did several years ago, when we were able to combine pitching and defense with victories because we got up one-run plus as opposed to one-run minus.

"Already talked to the guys. The biggest offseason exercise for me is to come up with ideas for how you garner that one extra run, that two extra runs that we were unable to come up with this year."

Maddon posed the question: "What do you do to where the hitter gains an advantage?"

"The hitter's at a total disadvantage right now," Maddon said. "And there's no advantages on the horizon. I don't see it. That's why it's going to take a lot of creative thinking.

"It could be just going back maybe to something that had been done before. I'm not sure. But right now, offense is going south, and it's going to continue going south based on pitching and defense. Everything, data, video, all the information benefits them over offense."

Maddon pointed at the state of relief pitching as a major contributing factor to the lack of offense.

"It's really at an all-time physical high," Maddon said. "You get guys out of the bullpen. You're able to match up at a high velocity. It's really unusual. So I think game in progress you used to always want to get the starter out of the game to get to the bullpen. I think it's almost going to where you better beat up on that starter before you get to the bullpen.

"And I've always talked about winning the seven-inning game. You have to try and score first and score last. Try to win it in seven. You might have to win it in six. We're at the point now where teams have three or four good backside guys. So all those things are becoming more prominent or important. Win the game early then just hold on."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.