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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How The Rays Are Surprising Baseball Again

The Tampa Bay Rays are not supposed to be in first place in the AL East. Since 2008, the Rays have never ranked higher than 20th in payroll. This season, the Rays opened with a payroll $176 million less than the Red Sox and $144 million less than the Yankees. There are underdogs and then there are the Rays.

Yet, it’s a few weeks into the 2019 season, and the Rays are still in first place. And our projections predict that they’ll be a playoff team. It’s still early, of course, and the Rays’ hot start could cool as more games are played — and they did take a tumble over the weekend against the Red Sox. But they’ve been so successful — going into the weekend, their pitching staff had the lowest ERA and fielding-independent pitching in the majors and no lineup was making more quality contact, for example — that it’s worth trying to make sense of how the Rays are defying the odds. It’s not just homegrown talent and innovative strategies propelling them this year, though the defensive shifts and the reliever openers are still happening. Instead, they’ve found yet another way to win: They’re getting more out of other clubs’ players.

Their top two and three of their top six position players this season were acquired from teams via trade during the last calendar year, and the 2.5 wins above replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs’ measurement, of those three accounts for almost half of the Rays’ position player total. And their top pitcher to date, Tyler Glasnow, was acquired in the same July 31 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that brought them their best position player, Austin Meadows.1

Bit early for this sort of article, isn’t it?


QLE Posted: April 23, 2019 at 04:57 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rays

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   1. Jose is an Absurd Kahuna Posted: April 23, 2019 at 08:52 AM (#5834353)
Not only is it a bit early but are people in baseball surprised by the Rays? They won 90 games last year and they've been a really well run organization for over a decade now. Was anyone expecting them to be 72-90 this year? They are a good team, Glasnow and Meadows have made an impact (though Meadows is on the IL now) and I don't think there is any reason to expect them not to be in the mix for a playoff spot.
   2. PreservedFish Posted: April 23, 2019 at 09:27 AM (#5834368)
Meanwhile, the Rays also have used a fairly conventional pitching strategy. The Stanek-Yarborough partnership remains in effect, but otherwise it's been regular starts for Glasnow, Chirinos, Snell and Morton.

The Yandy Diaz for Jake Bauers trade continues to fascinate. Bauers was a standard well-regarded prospect. Yandy was a borderline Ken Phelps type in Cleveland, older and without the scouting pedigree, but the the Rays had to throw money in to make the swap. Yandy is a unique player with obvious potential that could be gleaned simply from a perusal of his Fangraphs, Statcast and Instagram pages: exceptional batting eye, huge bulging muscles, impressive exit velocity, and all hampered by a hilariously high GB%. There was probably no other candidate in organized baseball more likely to get a crafty organization to think "we can #launchangle this guy in 10 minutes." I don't know if they fixed him or not - he still hits way too many ground balls - but he's hitting the snot out of the ball with a superb BB/K ratio. Meanwhile, Bauers isn't doing anything.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:27 AM (#5834400)
"In case you haven't noticed, and judging by the attendance, you haven't, the Rays have managed to win a few here and there, and are in first place."

   4. Russ Posted: April 23, 2019 at 10:34 AM (#5834404)
Which under achieving Pirate prospect will the Rays turn into a star next?!
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: April 23, 2019 at 06:43 PM (#5834624)
   6. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: April 24, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5834802)
The Rays just find ways to succeed. They must have a lot of good people in the org.

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