Are the Rays one of the top statistical organizations in baseball? Probably, but can you prove it?
Well over at ESPN, they tried to quantify just how well teams in all four major American sports used analytics, and how that translated to wins. The Rays ranked fourth overall and second among MLB teams, behind the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Astros and Houston Rockets (Keeping with the tradition: "Stats departments are bigger in Texas.")
The Rays ranked so high because of their low cost of winning. ESPN put their average roster cost per win at $700,000 — the lowest for baseball teams with a record better than .500 since 2008. For comparison, the Yankees were the highest at $2.4 million per win.
ESPN attributes this success to the Rays's R&D team, who they say have helped the organization keep salaries low (citing the fact that Tampa has had only four players make more than $10 million in a season in the last six years).
A big part of this, as ESPN correctly states, was the Stuart Sternberg-Matt Silverman-Andrew Friedman group, who took a team ESPN ranked as second-to-last in "sabermetric intensity" from 2003-07 to having the highest intensity for the next five years.
The Rays have been a testament to how well sabermetrics do work, going from a perennial cellar-dweller to a team that competes for division titles year in and year out. Despite Friedman going to Hollywood (ESPN ranks the Dodgers as analytics "believers" — one level below the Rays, who are "all in."), the backbone of the Rays' analytics program remains, and they should — and will likely — remain on the same course.
- Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin has a couple quality articles today. In one, Chris Archer says he thinks the Rays have the best rotation in baseball. I may not necessarily agree, but it's a testament to the Rays' organization that that type of statement could exist and not be laughed at less than a year after dealing a pitcher like David Price.
In another article, newly acquired Asdrubal Cabrera is looking for a home, figuratively. In the article, Cabrera says he's fine with playing either middle infield position, but he would like to stick with one.
"I would like to stay in one position," Cabrera said. "I think it's hard for anyone to play short or second; it's not the same. You have to be ready for one of those two positions."
- In the same article, Topkin touches on a few other notes. Video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez was forced to wear Joe Maddon's old No. 70 jersey on the field Monday, being teased for being so close to the former Rays skipper. Nonroster invitee Ronald Belisario and Alex Colome have not reported to camp yet. They are still in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
Also, Kevin Cash apparently is still figuring out what to do with this whole managing thing.
"I didn't know what field I was supposed to be on, so I just kind of lingered around the catchers."
- MLB.com's Bill Chastain effectively previews the Rays' camp in his article. Fun fact that I learned from it: The Rays have three Grapefruit League "titles." Can we get some banners for those in the Trop, or no?
- Pitcher Drew Smyly clarified his tweet about Yoan Mocada's contract this morning. Smyly said originally that it was "not right" that there's effectively an open market for international free agents, whereas players subject to the draft basically have to sacrifice their value. He's not wrong.
- The Hardball Times' Matthew Murphy riffs on whether groundball pitchers are really more valuable than flyball pitchers. As a devoted fan of Chien-Ming Wang, I'll stick with my sinkerballers, but Murphy makes a compelling argument. Also, remember Chien-Ming Wang? He was fun to watch. It's a shame his career turned out the way it did.
- Rockies reporter Thomas Harding has a feature on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki that's a good read. It's crazy looking at Tulo's numbers from last season, which was effectively a half-year for him. If he's healthy, he's going to be an MVP candidate this season.
- Speaking of injured players in spring training, D-backs reporter Steve Gilbert has a story on Daniel Hudson up online about how Hudson is welcoming having his first "normal" camp after a pair of of Tommy John surgeries. I got a chance to cover Hudson last summer and he always seemed like a really good guy, so I'm glad he's getting a shot to revamp his career.