There has been a notable lack of activity here at DRaysBay mid-week, and I would like to formally apologize to our constant readers. Ian and I have been weathering job requirements from hell over the last month, and the United States Men's Nation Team had sapped all of my free time for sports interests (I'm still not ready to talk about yesterday's loss). Now, our attention turns back to baseball.
During the season, I have one tab that I look to on a daily basis: Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds.
I'm a huge fan or forecasting data, something inherent to the culture not only of our site, but also to life as well. It helps with expectations. If you'd projected the Rays to have a 99% chance of not being the last place team in the American League this season, that means recognizing that if the season were played 100 times over, you would expect the Rays to be the worst team in at least one scenario. For a while this season, we were all living that nightmare.
Rotation injuries, poor defensive performance from gold glove nominees, broken hands and wrists, poorly timed bats, it doesn't matter what you blame. Even the odds. The team was capable of playing so much better, and in June they responded. The pitching staff recorded an MLB all-time record 287 strikeouts for a single month of play, besting the Cubs' record 286 from August, 2002.
The offense likewise responded, posting a 109 wRC+ last month, comparable to May's 88. Injuries to key players Wil Myers and David DeJesus could have stopped the surge, but Kevin Kiermaier has been on a rampage and Brandon Guyer returned from his own injury to help the outfield when it needed it most.
On the other side of the frame, the supposedly soon-to-be-traded David Price has been pitching out of his mind (54:5 strikeout to walk ratio in five games), Chris Archer (1.95 ERA, 2.64 FIP) and Jake Odorizzi (2.40 ERA, 2.60 FIP) have stepped up into their rolls in the wake of losing Matt Moore, and strong performance have come out of the 'pen in Jake McGee (1.54 ERA, 1.13 FIP, 34.8% K), new comer Kirby Yates(27.3% K, 88.2% LOB), here-to-stay Brad Boxberger (45.1% K), and Joel Peralta (2.45 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 35.7% K, 96.8% LOB)(!!!).
The Blue Jays haven't shown signs of slowing down, but the Yankees and Red Sox are lagging behind since the start of June. If the Rays can keep pace with the Orioles and wait for a slump from Baltimore and/or Toronto, suddenly the division's race is not as locked up as it used to be.
Right now, Baseball Prospectus gives the Rays a 4% chance of making the playoffs. Play the second half of the season 25 times and the Rays are a playoff team at least once. The team is riding a 7-3 hot streak. Sweep the Yankees this afternoon, and we're that much closer.