The Tampa Bay Rays are, once again, defying expectations and playing fantastic baseball.
They have a unique formula that guarantees they will be competitive enough to fight for the title.
Here are three reasons why they can win with their small payroll.
3. A Clear Preference To Analytics
The Rays have been good for a while now, but they took the next step last year by running away with the American League East division with a 40-20 record.
They proved their regular season dominance by topping the New York Yankees in a hotly contested Division Series and later made it to the World Series, where they pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers but eventually fell short.
Tampa is, once again, dominating in 2021, leading the division with a 38-23 record, the second-best in MLB.
They have done it by relying heavily on analytics to succeed.
By embracing this approach, Tampa doesn’t bunt because it means they are gifting an out, they don’t let their starters face the opposing lineup for a third time because it’s not smart statistically, and other things backed by the numbers.
Using this approach, they took out Snell in last year’s World Series when he was dealing after just 73 pitches.
It didn’t work out that time because the pitcher they put in, Nick Anderson, wasn’t in his best moment, but it has worked for them for at least a few years now.
I'd like to remind people, even though it happened a month ago, the Tampa Bay Rays did not lose because of analytics. And even if that were true, they lost to a team that uses just as much information and data as they do. Saying "get rid of the nerd stats" does nothing.
— Max Greenfield (@GreenfieldMax18) November 20, 2020
It’s working again this year, so there is no reason Tampa can’t fight for the title.
2. Excellent Player Development Staff
Tampa Bay is known for its fantastic player development staff.
They took a struggling Tyler Glasnow and turned him into an ace, they helped Austin Meadows take the next step, they frequently work their magic with no-name relievers, and they get the best out of their hitters.
This player development prowess allows them to have lots of options to just plug into the lineup whenever they need.
And, of course, it’s also reflected in the quality of the prospects that the Rays produce.
Some of them, like McClanahan and Walls, are already contributing to the big league team.
The Rays will always have quality players of all positions, ready to contribute.
1. Fantastic Pitching
The 41-year-old Rich Hill is currently showing a 3.05 ERA in 65 innings, which should tell you everything you need to know about the Rays ability to get the best out of their pitchers.
Rich Hill is the first 41+ year old pitcher with multiple 10-strikeout games in a season since Randy Johnson had 3 in 2008
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 26, 2021
Glasnow, McClanahan, Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Fleming, Michael Wacha, Andrew Kittredge, J.P. Feyereisen, Jeffrey Springs, Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, plus other talented hurlers can get outs wherever and whenever the team needs them to do so.
The Rays have the sixth-best ERA among all pitching staffs, at 3.33.
The starters have a good 3.41 ERA, while the relievers have been even better with a 3.24 ERA, the fourth-best in MLB.
Tampa’s pitching staff can compete with anybody, flashy names or not.