Tampa Bay Rays 2021
BAL 6-4 | BOS 7-3 | NYY 8-2 | TOR 6-4
The defending American League champs are the TB Rays. TB is one of the most Sabermetric teams in MLB. They use their analytics to get matchup advantages and build their roster to allow a variety of options. They are team deep in pitching with timely hitting, so let us see how they were the best in 2020.
- #8 OFF WAR 32.1
- #5 BsR 5.6, Base Running component of WAR, means TB was 5 runs better than average offense.
- #8 wRC+ 110
- #4 BB% 10.7%
- #6 Stolen Baes 48
- #9 ISO .187
- #1 DEF 16.8
- #5 DFS 24, Defense Runs Saved
- Starting Pitching: #4 K/9 10.08
- Starting Pitching: #9 BB/9 2.83
- Starting Pitching: #2 LOB% 81.1%
- Starting Pitching: #3 SIERA 3.92 | FIP 4.25, interesting as FIP is affected by #14 AVG. .241 where SIERA likes how TB pitched while giving up an average number of hits. SIERA like the LOB%.
- Relief Pitching: #1 3.7 WAR
- Relief Pitching: #4 FIP | # 8 SIERA
- Relief Pitching: #2 BB/9 2.90
- Relief Pitching: #2 HR/9 0.87
- Relief Pitching: #2 Wins 25, nearly half of the wins from the bullpen.
- Relief Pitching: #9 LOB% 73.6%
- Relief Pitching: #3 GB% 46.0%
- Relief Pitching: #4 WHIP 1.19
Interesting stuff in here. Offensively they are in the middle of the pack. However, their good base running and efficient led to a top 10 wRC+ 110 which means they are 10% better than an average offense. Not bad at all for a team that was 29th in K% (coming in weakness). It is fair to say they maximized their opportunities to score. Another area was starting pitching. TB ranks #16 3.7 WAR. They made teams earn their way on base with a low BB/9. Once they were on base, TB was great keeping them there (LOB 81.1%). This LOB% is not sustainable going forward. Where they sealed the deal was their #1 bullpen! Timely hitting, and quality starting pitching and a #1 defense behind them, then bring in the best bullpen was the recipe for 2020.
- #29 K% 26.9%, more than one out of every at bats as a strikeout.
- #21 AVG. .238, amazing to see how even with these detrimental to getting on base batting stats, TB was #8 wRC+ 110.
- Starting Pitching: #22 HR/9 1.53
- Starting Pitching: #26 Innings 258
- Starting Pitching: #30 HR/FB% 19.6%, nearly 1 out of every 5 flyballs were Home Runs.
- Relief Pitching: #25 K/9 8.87, again, amazing that the #1 bullpen ranked 25th.
The weaknesses on offense are a problem. It is hard to imagine the same level of productivity from ancillary data points that will allow them the same success without actually getting hits to get on base. I am not concerned about the homer runs as they are not likely to be a carryover stat.
This is a projected offense to not have one player with double digit offense WAR. 2B Brandon Lowe come the closest with 9.0 OFF WAR. He projects with 26 HRs to lead the team, 11 wRC+ and .332 wOBA. In two partial seasons, he produced 15.8 OFF WAR (82 games 2019) and 16.8 OFF WAR (56 games in 2020) so he is in a regression projection. His total WAR projection is 2.7 which is in line with his production career to date. Lowe is likely their best position player. SS Willie Adames is 2nd in WAR at 2.3 projected but his OFF WAR is 0.0. It means he contributes defensively. 2020 saw him with his best OFF WAR 8.2 and defense step back. He had a K% of 36.1%! He projects with 99 wRC+ and .315 wOBA which is a tick under average. In theory, he will be the next Ray to bait for a trade partner. The #1 prospect in all MLB could make his debut at some pint this season if he gets off to a good start in the minors. SS Wander Franco (20 yrs. old) has power and speed. He is on the way, so it is only matter of when. The Rays also have the #4 ranked prospect in Randy Arozarena. Yes, he saw action in 2020, only 23 games regular season with 7 HRs and an OFF WAR 7.9 so he is still considered a prospect. He was a postseason superstar. He played 20 games hitting 10 HRs batting .377! His projection is 24 HRs, 109 wRC+ and .330 wOBA. OF Kevin Kiermaier is a defensive asset. His offense is projected at -8.9 OFF WAR, but his DEF WAR is 7.3 (2nd in MLB of OFs). His overall WAR is 1.5 because of it which ranks 4th on the team. 1B/DH Yandy Diaz and OF Austin Meadows have 5.4 OFF WAR and 5.3 OFF WAR. Both project into double digit HRs, positive wRC+ and wOBA numbers. Diaz 110 wRC+ with .331 wOBA and Meadows 109 wRC+ with .330 wOBA. They will contribute on offense. Diaz is inline with his career production. Meadows is off a poor 2020 season, so his projection is a progression but not as good as his outlier breakout season of 2019 (31.3 OFF WAR with 33 HRs). TB could really use another great season from Meadows in this lineup. The offense fills in with OF Manuel Margot, 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi, C Mike Zunino, Utility IF Joey Wendle and OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.
The rotation will look different in 2021. Gone is Blake Snell and Charlie Morton so the ACE is Tyler Glasnow. He projects with a 3.6 WAR, 3.57 FIP and 1.20 WHIP. All particularly good numbers. He led the team in 2020 with 1.2 WAR and 57.1 innings (11 starts so an avg just over 5 innings per start). His 3.6 WAR projection would be his best season of his career. He has only thrown over 100+ innings once. He projects at 163 inning and the Rays will need that from him. TB has 3 new starters in the rotation. Newly acquired Rich Hill is a veteran with good stuff. He is 41 yrs. old yet projects with 114 innings. He made 8 starts with MIN in 2020 throwing 38.2 innings so not averaging 5 innings a start. His projection is 4.92 FIP which is almost 1 full run worse than his 2020 season and would be the highest of his career. TB is having a reunion with Chris Archer. He projects 2nd on the team with 1.7 WAR. He is now 32 yrs. old and did not pitch at all in 2020. He will be yet another pitcher that will be around 5 innings per start. His FIP projection is 4.44 above his career avg. 3.65. Michael Wacha is the 3rd ne starter. His last two seasons have not been kind with FIP of 6.61 in 2019 and 5.25 in 2020. He made 7 starts for NYM last season throwing 34 innings (yet another less than 5 innings per start guy). He does project at 4.91 FIP but he will likely throw 5th in the rotation so he might have some favorable spots. Ryan Yarbrough pitched well but did not have a good record to show for it in 2020 (1-4). His FIP was 4.33 but projects at 4.81 which is again a full run higher than his career. He should be a look to bet on pitcher in 2021. He will matchup with the 4th starter in the rotation and will not be over matched in many o f those. Look for Luis Patino to be used later in the season. He is young (acquired in the Snell deal) with great stuff! He throws 97mph with a good slider. He needs to work on command. He will be limited on innings as his highest total is 87 innings in the minors. He is the #3 prospect for TB and #10 overall!
The bullpen backend is dynamite. They have 3 potential closers in Pete Fairbanks, Nick Anderson, and Diego Castillo. This trio are flamethrowers! Each one projects into double digit K/9 with Anderson 12.15 the most. These guys allow the Rays to have multiple options based on usage to close out games. They could throw all three or more likely to see 2 working the 8th and 9th innings. The starters will struggle to get the ball past the 5th, the backend is no issue for the 8th and the 9th. They need to bridge the 6th and 7th to complete games. There is a multitude of guys at their disposal for this purpose. Ryan Thompson, Ryan Sheriff, John Curtiss, and Cody Reed will be those guys. I like their ability to get those couple of innings handled so they just need the starters to get them there. The recipe for success is there.
The Rays were the best in the AL East a season ago and showed that in their ability to beat good teams. They went 21-9 against >.500 opponents. They do not have the same offensive threats as do NYY or TOR. They do not have the depth of starting pitching NYY, but they do have an avenue of success. A 162-game season will mean TB must have someone or maybe some people have career seasons to be able to repeat what they did in 2020. They are projected to win 84 games with TOR at 86. NYY is projected as the best team in the AL but health could get them to fall back. There is a way for them to compete for the division, but if all teams play as they should, a 2nd place with a Wild Card shot is a fair assessment.
They have a 20% chance to make the playoffs. TB is not a good wager for the division due to TOR surge. Finding a make the playoffs “Yes or No” type wager might be the best choice if your odds are good. You will need to find a +184 or better line.