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Rays run differential better than their 2016 record

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Runs Above Average suggests the Rays were much closer to a .500 team.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

StatCorner has a page that ranks teams by “runs above average.” They measure a team’s total offense, defense on fielding ground balls and fly balls, the starting rotation, and the bullpen. One win is usually seen as equivalent to 9-10 runs, depending on the total production in a particular season.

Here is how the AL East stacked up against each other in 2016:

AL East Runs Above Average

Team Batting RAA Fielding GBs RAA Fielding FBs RAA SP RAA Bullpen RAA Total RAA
Team Batting RAA Fielding GBs RAA Fielding FBs RAA SP RAA Bullpen RAA Total RAA
Blue Jays -2.9 24.8 10.2 45.3 17 94.4
Orioles -17.8 25 -35.2 -7.2 2.3 -33
Rays -34.1 -29.8 15.6 52.8 -22.7 -18.2
Red Sox 96.8 5.4 64.1 42.1 2.6 211
Yankees -96.7 7 -25.2 27 29.7 -58.2

So here we see that by RAA (and most other accounts), the Rays outfield defense was above average and their starting pitching rotation was elite. Their offense, infield defense, and bullpen components were well below average.

If we assume 9 runs is one win, this method suggests the -18.2 RAA Rays performed like a 79 win team. Ending the season with a 68-94 record, that means they under performed their true talent.

Here’s a table that shows what each team’s true talent was according to RAA, what their actual record was, and how much they over or under performed:

AL East Win Differential

Team RAA Record Actual Record Win Difference
Team RAA Record Actual Record Win Difference
Blue Jays 91-71 89-73 -2
Orioles 77-85 89-73 12
Rays 79-83 68-94 -11
Red Sox 104-58 93-69 -11
Yankees 75-87 84-78 9

Based on this table we can see the Red Sox were equally as unlucky in the way their runs turned into wins as the Rays. That is shocking considering their record. The Yankees over performed their true talent by 9 runs, the Orioles over performed by 12 runs, and the Blue Jays were the only team that ended near their true talent level at -2 wins.

If the season shook out perfectly according to RAA, the Rays would have ended up 3rd in the AL East instead of last. They still, however, would have been well out of playoff contention. Under the circumstances perhaps they were better off under-performing and landing the better draft pick.