As we are now officially one week away from the beginning of pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training across baseball, ESPN started rolling our their team power rankings for the 2015 season. With a "predicted" 79-83 record, the Rays are the 19th best team in the majors, according to David Schoenfield.
After a very busy offseason, as Schoenfield noted, Tampa Bay will enter this season without their two OBP leaders in 2014: Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce. Added to the departure of Manager Joe Maddon and the poor 2014 metrics put up by Evan Longoria, this new season does not seem very exciting for us Rays fans. Although, it is worth noticing that David Schoenfield wrote that he "wanted to pick the Rays as [his] surprise team of 2015", and that Evan Longoria is definitively due for a better year, according to the Sweetspot senior writer.
Now I don't want to start an ESPN/Baseball Prospectus match up, but if we take a look at the constantly updated projections in the BP PECOTA Projected Standings, the Rays would end up with a 86-76 record and the second American League Wild Card Spot. This is a far more optimistic take, and more based on data than gut.
In his article, David Schoenfield also ranked the New York Yankees, at the 21st spot with a 78-84 record precisely. If you are as good in math as I am, this means that, according to ESPN, Tampa Bay would end the 2015 season at the 4th place in the American League East, with the Yankees just behind.
Arguing about the AL East projected standings could take an article on its own so I won't try to solve this in a few lines. Nonetheless, as far as I'm concerned, I just can't see the Rays finishing behind the Orioles this year. Toronto is more of a coin flip in my opinion, as they seem willing to re-enact their 2013 splashy off-season with Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, but they haven't added pitching. Can prospects bridge the gap at No. 4 and 5 in the rotation? Will Boston's new pitching approach take them again from worst to first?
Feel free to react about the ESPN and BP rankings, and even project your 2015 AL East standings if you feel like it!
As a side note, if you are interested about the Rays' rivals, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York wrote up a nice piece about the Yankees best-case and worst-case scenarios in 2015. Either way, you know they will finish behind Tampa Bay at the end of the season, right?
- Basball & GIS, inspired by the recent look at 30 minute drives to stadiums, ran a query to create an interactive map of 30 minute traffic-neutral drives for baseball parks in the US, based on 2010 census data. The Rays remain the lowest. The 2017 MLB All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park. The Midsummer Classic is coming to Florida for the first time ever, after a failed attempt from Miami to host this year's edition which will be held in Cincinnati. Though, this won't be the first major baseball event at Marlins Park, as the 2013 World Baseball Classic was held in the Marlins home.
- After a year-long suspension in 2014, Alex Rodriguez will come back in the majors in 2015. Preceding his return, A-Rod and the Yankees released a joint statement yesterday reading that "Alex apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years."
- Joe Maddon chimed in on the debate about pace of play. In an interview given to Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci, the former Rays manager stated that this debate was more of a "media kind of thing", while making clear that he "never cared about how long a baseball game was." But Verducci wonders if he has room to talk:
...as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays last year, he presided over a team that played the longest games in baseball with the worst offense in the league. Think about that combination; no team in the sport's history took so long to generate so little action.
- Yoan Moncada will reportedly "field offers over the two coming weeks". His agent, David Hastings, told the LA Times that he was hoping for a "much clearer picture of where he will sign" by the end of next week. According to MLB Trade Rumours, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and "possibly" the Padres must be considered as serious players in the chase of Yoan Moncada, the highly-regarded 19-year old Cuban infielder.
- How long can Clayton Kershaw stay the best pitcher in baseball? Will Carroll (injury expert, social media expert) tries to answer that tricky question in today's article from the Hardball Times on predicting injuries.
- The Jackie Robinson West little league US champs have beenstripped of their title thanks to coach they beat 43-2, based on evidence they recruited players from other districts to create a "super-team."
- Charles Barkley thinks stats are "stupid" for building competitive teams in sports.
"They say that same crap in baseball, and they put these little lightweight teams together and they never win," Barkley said. "They're always competitive to a certain degree and they don't win. It's the same thing in the NBA."
- Timothy Finnegan of Fake Teams profiled Ben Zobrist for the upcoming season. His verdict? Zorilla is "still solid, but declining."
- Ever wondered when your kid should get his very-own agent or advisor? Luckily for you, Joshua Kusnick from Baseball Prospectus gives us his insider view as a MLBPA Agent. Bonus: you get to know where he spent his honeymoon.