The 2021 American League Leading Rays are in the playoffs with three rookie starters, and another who’s lost his rookie status in name only. Their team ace and a legitimate Cy Young candidate, Tyler Glasnow, missed half the season with an injury. And the team leader in saves — Diego Castillo with a paltry 14 — is not even on the team anymore.
Casual observers might wonder how the Rays got here, where exactly here is, and how they should feel about it.
And they should wonder, because the 2021 Rays aren’t just a weird low-budget gimmick. They’re a legitimate contender that’s an extreme version of how baseball has been played in the latter half of the 2010s, and a preview of where it’s likely to go in the 2020s.
The following is an earnest attempt to explore and explain.