Once again, the Rays are poised to make a run at the postseason – and few people in Tampa seem to care (worst attendance in all of baseball). But, hey, I’ve been hoping Charlotte would get a baseball team for years, and at this rate it looks like it’ll be the Rays. I’m okay with that. Anyway, back to the playoffs. The Rays have many of the needed elements to make up a quality playoff team. But, can they finally get over the hump of just making the playoffs, and come out on top in the end?
3 Reasons Why
- Run Creation – while they might not be a slugging team (middle-of-the-pack .410 team SLG), they know how to push runs across in other ways. The Rays possess the 3rd best wRC+ in all of baseball at 109. They are finding ways to produce runs at a rate 9% higher than league average, which is partially supported by their . . .
- Base Running – no, they aren’t stealing bases left and right (in fact, they rank 19th in baseball in total SB). But, what they are doing is pushing the limit when they are on the basepaths – and they’re doing a fine job of it. This is evidenced by their team 6.7 UBR rating, which is the 2nd best in the AL, and 3rd best in baseball. Stretching singles into doubles, going first to third on a single, scoring from second, advancing on sacrifice flies – these are the kinds of things that the Rays are doing exceptionally well. And, these come in quite handy in the postseason.
- Good Eyes – the Rays swing at fewer pitches outside the strike zone than any other team in baseball. As a result, they also possess the highest walk-rate in baseball, leading to the 3rd best OBP in baseball (.332). A lineup willing to take more pitches can be a nuisance to opposing pitching staffs in a postseason series.
3 Why Not
- Major Slump – on July 30th, the Rays were in 1st place in the AL East, and possessed the best record in the AL. Since then, they’ve gone 14-22, are now 8.5 games behind division leading Boston, and are only 1.5 games ahead of Baltimore & Cleveland for the 2nd Wild Card spot. Their team ERA went from 2.54 to 4.04 between July & August; their team OPS went from .763 in July (5th in baseball) to .707 in August (20th in baseball) – all with no significant injuries to speak of. If they don’t find a way to turn things around in the next couple weeks, they could be on the outside looking in, come October.
- Road Pitching – while their offense remains fairly consistent regardless of whether they’re at home or on the road, the Rays’ pitching takes a significant dip away from “The Trop.” When traveling, the Rays’ pitching staff has a 4.18 ERA (3.52 at home), and allows an opponents OPS of .731 (.658 at home). Unfortunately, not all playoff games will be played in Tampa.
- Bullpen Consistency – the Rays bullpen has a 3.73 ERA – 9th in the AL, and 20th in MLB. They have only saved 37 games, which is middle-of-the-pack. You can’t count on your starters to pitch 7 or 8 innings every game in the postseason. And, when your bullpen is giving up that many runs, it’s difficult to see how you can win many games in the playoffs.
Where do you think the Rays will finish in 2013? Vote now!