The Rays' chances of winning the AL East, or sneaking into the playoffs with a Wild Card spot, are dwindling.
Injuries have certainly contributed to their division-worst record. Losing key players like Forsythe and Kiermaier has been brutal. The subsequent injuries to Brandon Guyer, Steven Souza Jr., Steve Pearce and Mikie Mahtook have left the Rays with a severely comprised offense and practically no outfield.
"We're shaking our heads," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's a frustrating time right now, there's no doubt about it."
If you combine all the injuries with the struggles of the pitching staff and bullpen, you can see why this team currently is 13 games behind the 1st place Orioles with the 2nd worst record in the American League.
At this point, a postseason appearance seems quite unlikely. They would have to play at a 91 win pace the rest of the season just to reach the .500 mark. And in order to get to 86 wins and start thinking of that coveted 2nd WC spot, they'd have to play at a 100 win pace.
But "practically no chance" still means there's a chance, right?
What if? What would it take for the Rays to put themselves in a place to compete for a playoff spot in September?
Now that there are two Wild Card slots, any team hovering around the .500 mark at the AS break has a shot. Granted, the Rays at this point are not hovering there, with a record of 32-44. But they have 12 games to play before the June 11th -14th All-Star Break. To be within shooting distance of the Wild Card, the Rays need to close in on the opposition, and the leading teams are just five wins over .500, a reachable number.
For argument's sake, lets set a surmountable goal to set this team up for Wild Card contention in the second half, which at most is something like a ten-win gap from the playoff leaders -- which if the Rays beat Boston tonight, is to say six wins below .500. In that case, the Rays would need to go 9-3 the rest of the way to sit at 41-47 and to give them a fighting chance.
In one sense, the Rays are fortunate to have both Wild Card leaders in their division (Toronto and Boston). There will be plenty of opportunities to battle it out against their playoff competition.
This is all unlikely, sure. But if you entirely give up on all postseason hopes for your favorite team this early, it's going to be a long season. The Rays are always the league's Cinderella. Some seasons, they make it to the Ball; more recently, they don't even get to that old, damp castle.
Like most Rays fans in their 20's, I've been following this organization ever since I was a child. They're creative, adaptive, unique, and have a knack for accomplishing the impossible.
In the final game of the 2011 season, they had a 0.1% chance of winning at the start of the bottom of the 8th inning. And we all know how that ended. If you've already given up on the season or are on the brink of giving up, do like Josh reminded us to do yesterday, and remember what happened in Game 162.
I'm not asking you to stick with this team until August. I'm just asking for you to give this team one more chance. Whatever the time length of that chance you are going to give is your choice. A week? Can you do two weeks, until the AS Break?
Here's what the next two weeks need to look like:
This team is still talented when they are fully healthy and as a result of their injuries they have vastly under-performed to this point in the season. But it's sports. Anything is possible. So what would it look like for the Rays to play .750 baseball, other than the simple breakdown of winning at least two games in every series until the summer classic?
Reiterating from before, the Rays have 12 games left until the break: 1 against Boston (H). 4 against Detroit (H). 4 against LAA (H). And 3 against Boston again (A).
To layout the most realistic case of the Rays climbing 6 games within .500, here's what would need to happen over the next 12 games.
- Win today vs. Boston to take the series
- Take 3 out of 4 vs. 39-38 Detroit
- Take 3 out of 4 vs. 32-46 LAA
- Take 2 out of 3 @ 42-35 Boston
Unfortunately, the most recent devastating injury of Rays closer Alex Colome will make this seemingly impossible feat even harder to accomplish. But while our playoff hopes should probably be extinguished, there's still that 0.1% number ground into our brains as a result of Game 162. And hey! According to FanGraphs, the Rays have better than a 0.1% (0.8%) chance of making the playoffs.
So hold on to that 0.8% like it's your life and hope the percentage increases by the AS break. If it doesn't, then you have the second half of the season to start thinking about what the Rays should do with their top 5 pick in the 2017 draft.