MLB Midseason 2014: The TB Rays & Other Notables

We are deep enough into the 2014 season to be able to use the numbers to make sense of what’s going on in Major League Baseball. The concept of ‘fair sample size’ is important in statistical analysis.  In baseball, this means we need to wait until around June before we can positively identify significant season trends.
Before then, the sample size is often too small to be accurate.

Baseball’s two most important batting stats are OBP & SLG, in that order.
OBP & SLG are conventionally presented with batting average (AVG) as triple slash stats AVG/OBP/SLG; which tells you basically everything you need to know about a hitter in one line.


The TB Rays have the worst record in baseball.
Didn’t the experts anoint them as the best team in the AL?

Fans should not be too surprised, as the TBR have operated on a razor-thin margin for a long time now. When it collapses it quickly becomes a free-fall, because there is little depth.
TBR lineup is a least 2 bats short (at 1B & DH); the two most-important production slots.
An adaquate catching platoon would be helpful; Ryan Hanigan (.212/.299/.336) and Jose Molina (.129/.180/.129) doesn’t let you compete in the AL East.

The Rays 17th in OBP (.315) and 26th in SLG (.365).
Their once historically-great defense, is now middle-of-the-pack by most metrics.
The Rays innovations in shifting defenses & alignment have been noted by MLB, thus eroding another advantage they once held.
The Rays DER (Defensive Efficiency Ratio: the measure of converting balls-in-play into outs) is .687, 18th in MLB.

Note: NYY is 27th, BOS 28th, and TEX 30th in DER; all high-priced, veterean-heavy– under-performing teams.

TBR are 22nd in team ERA at 4.10.
#2 starter Matt Moore needed TJ surgery, and is out until next June– minimum.
Ace starter David Price is a free agent after the season, so it won’t get better.

Joe Maddon is a great field manager, but he needs some help if the Rays are ever going to seriously compete.
Rays owner, Stuart Sternberg is worth an estimated $800 million. Player payroll needs to increase by $20-30 million/season, otherwise TBR will no longer compete in this division.
Someone with nearly a billion dollars in wealth should invest in his business, and not use poor attendance as an excuse for frugality.

Rays fans don’t come to Tropicana Field because: 1) there is a jobs depression in Tampa, just like everwhere else– only it’s a bit worse there; 2) it’s located in congested traffic at the end of a penninsula; 3) it’s a dump.

The problem with the Rays in 2014 is that they were set up to fail.
They have always competed short-stacked against payroll behemoths in TEX, NYY, BOS… and every year they eventually bust to one of them.
Attrition through free agency has diminished the ranks somewhat, but few of the name players they let go (Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton) are really helpful at their free-agent contract prices.
The real problem is in Scouting & Player Development, starting with when they chose Tim Beckham over Buster Posey with the #1 overall pick in 2008.
They’ve had other drafts with multiple compensation picks, and failed to develop an impact player.
As a result there is very little help on the way from their once-fertile minor league system.

TBR are not the worst team in baseball, but they might end up with the worst record in 2014.
This is because they play in the toughest division in sports, the AL East.


TOR is the best team in the AL East as of mid-June, and they are for real.
TOR is 4th in OBP (.332) & 2nd in SLG (.446) to COL (.462).
Mark Buehrle (10-2, 2.04 ERA) anchors a decent rotation, and their team ERA is 18th (3.99), which is an improvement over recent seasons.

OAK is a MLB best in team ERA (2.91) & OBP (.336), and 2nd in DER (.717); which is why they have the best record in the AL.
If you still don’t believe in Moneyball, then you are hopeless.

The NYY are old, injured, and heading for a 4th-place finish.
Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02 ERA) is the only thing keep them afloat, at this point.

BOS has starting pitching injury issues, ERA 17th (3.89), and a completely unproductive outfield.
RF Shane Victorino (.242/.276/.352) tops the BOS outfield in SLG.

LAD have the best RF in baseball, Yasiel Puig (.333/.430/.584), and a hugely overpaid remaining lineup.
No disrespect to MIA RF Giancarlo Stanton (301/.393/.589)
Clayton Kershaw (5-2, 3.17 ERA) & Zack Grienke (8-2, 2.62 ERA) are the best 1-2 in the NL.
The MIL, SFG, & STL are all better bets to go to the WS.

MIL finally has some starting pitching (ERA 3.65, 11th in MLB) and have stabilized their defense (5th in DER at .706), so they are for real.
They can always mash; 8th in SLG (.409).
This is the good Rickie Weeks .307/.365/.443; I hope he stays healthy.
I don’t believe anything Ryan Braun (.299/.337/.529) says in front of a camera or through his spokespeople.

TEX is last in MLB in team ERA at 4.60.
They had a great lineup, until they: 1) let Nelson Cruz (.303/.374/.636) get away to BAL; and 2) traded Ian Kinsler (.287/.316/.449) to DET for Prince Fielder (.247/.360/.360 in 150 AB before neck surgery ended his season) and $30 million.
TEX gets this season and six more of Prince Fielder at $24 million/year.
I don’t know why Nolan Ryan left the front office, but I’m betting decision-making like this was part of the problem.

All part of the game, as bad trades a just part of baseball…

Enjoy the summer:)