How Exciting Are The Tampa Bay Rays?: A Statistical Approach

In an earlier post, Steve mentioned that the Rays were one of the most exciting teams to watch. While my gut agrees with this, that isn't good enough: I need statistics to back me up. If we're going to quantify this assertion, first we need to identify what makes a team "exciting."

Here are the factors I identified:

  1. Fastball Velocity: Hard throwing pitchers are always more exciting.
  2. Swinging Strike%: The most exciting thing a pitcher can do.
  3. Stolen Bases: A lot of fun to see.
  4. Home Runs: Nothing needs to be said.
  5. Triples: Triples are even more exciting than homers because with triples, not only is there the excitement of the hit, but also the excitement when you realize the player is going for third.
  6. Ultimate Zone Rating: Awesome defensive plays are awesome.
  7. Batting Average: Hits always draw roars from the crowd.
  8. Wins: The most important thing.

In combining these elements, I think I've managed to successfully create the most useless formula in all of baseball history. Let's take a look at how the Rays grade out.

Each of the MLB teams are ranked by their ability in each category using their z-score. For those not as statistically inclined, a z-score is essentially a measure of how far above or below average a number is. A z-score of 1 basically means in the top one-sixth, while a z-score of -1 means in the bottom one-sixth. The z-scores are then added to make a composite team "excite" score.

Team  3B HR SB Fastball Velocity SwStr% UZR W Batting Average Team Score
Rays 0.6 -0.1 2.8 1.6 0.6 1.6 1.4 -0.7 7.8
Reds 0.7 0.9 -0.2 -0.1 0.1 1.4 1 1.3 5.1
Yankees 0.9 1.2 0.1 0.9 -0.4 0 1.5 0.8 5
Padres -0.1 -0.7 1.2 -0.3 1.6 2 1.3 -0.7 4.3
Rangers 0.2 0.3 0.8 0.2 -0.7 0.9 0.7 1.5 3.9
Red Sox -0.6 2 -1.1 1.3 0.1 0.2 0.9 1.1 3.9
Twins 1.1 -0.1 -1.1 0 -0.2 0.9 1 2.2 3.8
Rockies 2.1 0.5 -0.1 0.6 0.6 -0.8 0.2 0.4 3.5
White Sox -1.3 1 1.5 0.9 0.3 -0.6 0.6 0.7 3.1
Giants 0.2 -0.1 -1.1 0.2 0.9 1.6 0.8 0.1 2.6
Phillies 1.4 0.2 -0.2 -0.9 0.6 -0.3 0.8 0.1 1.7
Tigers -0.1 -0.2 -1 2.1 -1 0.3 -0.3 0.8 0.6
Mets 1.9 -0.8 1.4 -1.5 0.1 0.3 0 -1.1 0.3
Cardinals -1.3 0.1 -0.4 0.6 0.1 -0.1 0.5 0.7 0.2
Diamondbacks 0.4 1 -0.3 0 -0.5 1.5 -1.4 -0.6 0.1
Braves -0.8 -0.4 -0.8 0.5 1.1 -0.6 1.1 -0.2 -0.1
Dodgers 0.1 -1.1 0.1 0.5 1.1 -0.9 0.2 -0.1 -0.1
Blue Jays -0.8 2.6 -1.4 -1 0.9 0 0.3 -0.8 -0.2
Marlins -0.4 0 -0.3 0.3 1.3 -0.7 0 -0.4 -0.2
Athletics 0.6 -1.6 1.3 -0.9 -0.4 1 0 -0.3 -0.3
Royals 0.2 -1.3 0.3 1.3 -1.3 -1.2 -1 1.6 -1.4
Brewers 0.7 1.1 -0.6 -2 0 -0.9 -0.4 0.5 -1.6
Cubs 0.1 0.2 -1.3 -1.2 1.4 -0.3 -1.1 0 -2.2
Nationals 0.7 0 0.6 -1.8 -0.4 -0.1 -0.9 -0.4 -2.3
Angels -2 0.2 0.1 -0.1 -0.2 -0.9 0.1 -0.3 -3.1
Astros -0.6 -1.3 0 0.3 0.6 -0.7 -0.8 -1.3 -3.8
Mariners -1.5 -1.5 1.3 -0.7 -1 0.4 -1.3 -2.1 -6.4
Indians -0.8 -0.7 -0.6 0.3 -2.3 -1.4 -1.1 -1.1 -7.7
Orioles -1.1 -0.3 -0.8 -0.1 -2.5 -1.5 -1.8 -0.1 -8.2
Pirates -0.9 -1 -0.2 -1.2 -0.7 -1.3 -2.1 -1.8 -9.2

 

Well, this turned out to be a surprise. I expected the Rays to do well on the Excite-o-Meter, but certainly not to lead the league. The "excite" scores correlated fairly well with winning, giving an R-squared of 72%, showing that there's a fairly strong relationship between winning and being exciting, but there are other things that factor into it too.

The Rays graded out as above-average in all categories barring home runs and batting average. The category that really sets the Rays apart is stolen bases, simply because so many teams don't even try to steal or have just one player who's a threat on the bases. Every player contributes with the Rays, giving the Rays a whopping 2.8 z-score at stealing, the highest of any team in any category. Probably the most surprising revelation was that the Rays pitching staff as a whole has excellent fastball velocity, which David Price is probably solely responsible for. Overall, it looks like Steve was right: the Rays truly are an exciting team to watch.

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