Why the Tampa Rays are in 1st place


Why the Rays are in 1st place

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Record vs AL East

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As you can see, every other team in the AL East has a below .500 record against the division except the Rays.

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Inside the numbers we see that Tampa has enjoyed beating up on the Orioles, with an 8 – 3 record so far. They have also had their way with the Jays, going 5 for 6. Outside of this they are 5 – 5 vs the Yanks and 3-3 vs the Red Sox. Even with the slow start, the head to heads vs the Red Sox and Yankees may be the deciding factor for the Rays divisional hopes in 2008.

Oddly enough the Orioles are .500 or better vs the rest of the AL East field.

Home/Road Splits

Tampa has also played surprisingly well on the Road this season. In 2007 they were 29-52 away from the Trop. In 2008 they are only a game below .500 at 11 – 12. Sample size aside, perhaps the maturation of many players on this young club has helped ease the road woes. Any team that can stay close to .500 of the road will be in good shape, so this is an additional factor to watch as the season unfolds.

Defense

I’d be remised if I didn’t mention one of, if not the key factors in the Rays 2008 success, that being the improved defense. With essentially a new middle of the diamond set-up (Bartlett at SS, Iwamura at 2nd and a full season of Upton in center) the Rays have gone from worst to first. Last season the Rays had by far the worst DER (Defensive Efficiency Ratio) in the AL at a unbelievably bad .657 rate. This season they rank first in the AL with a .718 mark.



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has written for mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Matthias on Twitter, Facebook and Google +

  • Do you foresee a fade factor for a young team, if so, to which extent?

  • What happened to your boy Zobrist?

  • One telling stat is the vs Baltimore vs the rest of the division. When they run out of games against the O’s I think the heads up play against the Red Sox & Yankees will be key for the Rays.

    Zobrist had a good stint with a .753 OPS, which is above the AL average of .726 in 2008. He was used mostly as a utility player, playing in RF, CF, SS & 2nd base, all in 7 games. He still has something to offer in the way of OBP (.400+ OBP via patience shown last season in his AAA stint) & flexible D to a ballclub. I wouldn’t write him off as a useful player at this point (27). No HOF or all-star accolades but a solid 3rd infielder that could fill in for DL stints.

  • That’s a good point Kman. I have noticed that in most cases. In the past. For example Cleveland is 17-2 vs the KC Royals and .500 agaisnt the rest of the AL and finish in first place.

    If Baltimore is going to be the walkover in the AL East it will come down to the Bos, TB and Tor record vs them. I don’t think the Yanks have the pitching to make a come back this year. Both Toronto and Boston have only played the O’s twice so far.

  • Rays have played almost 20% more of their games at home to this point. Seeing they have played killer ball at home this might see fit for a decrease in winning.

    Then again I am just searching for logic for the Jays will be able to catch them and Boston.

  • Hey that’s sound logic. The Cubs are in the same boat as they’ve played the majority of their games at home as well. The Rays were (off the top of my head) only three games under .500 at home last year, even though they only won 66 games! So this is certainly an issue.