Rays on a Rampage

The hottest team out of the gate in the new season are the Tampa Bay Rays. How hot? Find out after the jump.

To be sure, the Rays benefited from a soft spot in their schedule to start the year (their first four opponents were a combined 259-389, .400 last season). Nevertheless, their 13-0 start is historically good, tying the modern era record for the longest winning streak to start a season.

Longest Winning Streaks to Start Season, since 1901
Rk Team Season W L W-L% ERA

Run Differential

SHO HR BB SO Errors
1 TBR 2023 13 0 1.000 2.23 71 4 6 31 122 4
2 MIL 1987 13 0 1.000 3.68 38 1 12 41 81 9
3 ATL 1982 13 0 1.000 2.14 32 2 2 47 69 10
4 OAK 1981 11 0 1.000 1.27 49 3 1 34 56 5
5 CLE 1966 10 0 1.000 1.53 23 3 5 38 98 9
6 PIT 1962 10 0 1.000 2.70 30 1 6 31 51 9
7 BRO 1955 10 0 1.000 2.60 39 1 6 36 36 9
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2023.

So, among these 7 teams, the Rays recorded the most team shutouts, had the lowest walk rate and were a close second to the ’66 Indians in strikeout rate. They also had the tightest defense, and won their games by an average margin of almost 5½ runs, a full run better than the next best result by the ’81 A’s. That massive run advantage is borne out by Tampa’s equally impressive offensive performance.

Rk Team Season W L W-L% R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
1 TBR 2023 13 0 1.000 101 124 29 0 32 99 9 46 94 .287 .364 .576 .941 249
2 MIL 1987 13 0 1.000 91 138 32 1 21 88 16 52 89 .302 .378 .514 .892 235
3 ATL 1982 13 0 1.000 66 114 24 5 10 59 9 66 58 .273 .371 .426 .797 178
4 OAK 1981 11 0 1.000 63 100 13 3 11 58 8 45 55 .267 .350 .405 .755 152
5 CLE 1966 10 0 1.000 42 91 11 1 8 36 7 36 50 .277 .349 .389 .738 128
6 PIT 1962 10 0 1.000 61 102 15 7 11 56 3 40 42 .299 .373 .481 .854 164
7 BRO 1955 10 0 1.000 70 100 22 2 19 65 3 42 44 .290 .374 .530 .905 183
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2023.

Of these 7 teams, the Rays had the most runs and home runs per game, and posted the leading SLG and OPS marks, largely due to that huge home run total. For the record, the Rays also recorded the lowest walk rate in the group, with a ridiculous 1.44 walk to home run ratio (barely half of the major league average last season of 2.86).

The Rays’ run differential was the largest for any team over the first 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 games of a season, with a margin of at least 10 runs over the second best team in all but the first and last of those periods. Similarly, Tampa’s home run total was tied for the most over the first 11 and 14 games of a season, ranked second (to the 2000 Cardinals) for the first 8, 9, and 10 games, and third (to the 2000 Cardinals and 2019 Mariners) for the first 12 and 13 contests.

Despite the hot starts by these 7 clubs, only the world champion ’55 Dodgers were pennant winners. The ’81 A’s and ’82 Braves were division champs, but the rest were also rans: the ’66 Indians managing only a .500 record and a 5th place finish; the ’62 Pirates posting a seemingly impressive 93-68 record, but one which was good only for a 4th place finish in an expansion season; and the ’87 Brewers finishing 3rd with a 91-71 record, 7 games back in a tight 3-way division chase with the Tigers and Blue Jays.

Leaving streaks aside and expanding the pool of teams to those with the best records over the first 10 to 15 games of a season yields the post-season success results shown below (the Rays, with a 13-2 start, are the only 2023 team represented in the table, and have been excluded from the post-season success results shown).

No More Than 2 Lossesno. of Teams (since 1901)World Series champsLeague champsDivision champs (since 1969)Post-season qualifierAlso rans%World Series Champs% League Champs% Post-season qualifiers
over first 10 games177264942809614.8%27.8%45.5%
over first 11 games118213830576017.9%32.5%48.7%
over first 12 games73112221353715.3%30.6%48.7%
over first 13 games5191515252518%30%50%
over first 14 games30789151424.1%27.6%51.7%
over first 15 games194569922.2%27.8%50%

There is a notable jump in post-season success based on a 9-2 (or better) start compared to 8-2. Similarly, chances of winning the World Series are considerably better after a 12-2 (or better) start compared to 11-2. Note also that pennant winning teams that started 12-2 or better posted a 7-1 record in the World Series.

While the Rays’ 13-2 start is not a guarantee of anything, it has to encouraging to their fans to realize that, based on historical precedent, the team’s chances of winning it all have shot up to almost 1 in 4.

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Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 year ago

Thanks, Doug. It’s been fun to see their continued success. Since dropping three out of four games after their 13-0 start, the Rays have won another six in a row. Back-to-back walkoff victories were sandwiched between several more blowouts, and their run differential now stands at +93 (157-64). Their 14 consecutive wins at home to start the season is a new modern record, and only the aforementioned ‘55 Dodgers and 1911 Tigers (both at 21-2) had a better record after 23 games than the Rays’ 20-3. A win tonight would put them (at 21-3) on pace to match the 1984… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Tuna,
I think you answered all my questions….. That 157-64 pythagorean just about matches their W-L after 23 games and on pace for 140 wins. It’s an absolute shame that MLB has adopted an NHL/NBA style playoff approach after teams like this win 105+ games and have to prove it all over again. But, I guess that’s my problem and not Manfred’s 🙁
As dominant (and balanced) as that 1984 Tigers team was, they never won anything more than the AL East (1987) for quite a while

Tom
Tom
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

There were a few 80s teams that didn’t seem to live up to their potential— the 83 Orioles, 84 Tigers. 86 Mets, 89 A’s all seemed to be on a verge of greater things.
They had stars, aces, young cores, solid pitching, sluggers, solid role players, dependable backups, and promising youngsters
.

Last edited 11 months ago by Tom
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

In 28 years of the expanded postseason era, seven wild card teams have prevailed as world champions (‘97 Marlins, ‘02 Angels, ‘03 Marlins, ‘04 Red Sox, ‘11 Cardinals, ‘14 Giants, and ‘19 Nationals), while another seven won their league’s pennant before losing the World Series. There have been some fun stories in those playoff runs. Yet like you, Paul, I enjoyed when MLB distinguished itself among professional sports by requiring teams win their division to qualify for the postseason. Shoot, I might be the only person who feels this way, but I even miss the simplicity of the World Series… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Tuna, Yes, they play 162 games. Is that not enough to indicate the superiority of a pennant winer? When there were 24 teams, we had 18 in-division games (90) and 12 out-of-division games (72) – a nice balance and a real opportunity, typically, to make hay in September intra-division games. Intra-league? IMO? BS….particularly in this day and age where if you live in KC, you could always travel to St. Louis to see an NL game. This “phenomena” exists all over the US. I dunno….As far as “news”, I see a lot of grammatical errors in online news stories of… Read more »

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

While the Rays have suffered their first shutout of the season, they’ve already inflicted that punishment on their opponents no fewer than 6 times in their first 19 games (tied for the most over that period), including three in a row against the A’s and Red Sox, and back-to-back against the Reds. Of note is that four of those shutouts were blowouts, a pair of 11-0 spankings of the A’s, and 8-0 and 10-0 against the Reds. No team has recorded three straight games with a 7-0 or worse shutout of their opponent, so Tampa has already tied that record… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
Is it safe to say that the disparity between the “rich/haves” and the “poor/have nots” is playing itself out in MLB like never before? The A’s, for example, are headed to Las Vegas; however, Birmingham or Huntsville might be more appropriate. 🙁

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

While there is some significant disparity, at the moment all the other teams chasing the Rays and Pirates in the standings.

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Or maybe the poor haves, in the case of the Rays. And, the Pirates too?

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, Tuna,
I’ve never understood the TBR phenomena, particularly in a division with the NYY and Red Sox. As for “me buccos”, coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons, anything above .500 would be a great achievement

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Fifteen more games have gone by since this post, and the Rays are still rolling, at 24-6. Tampa’s +106 run differential through 30 games is the highest since the Pirates were +112 way back in 1902. At the other end of the spectrum are the A’s, with -118 run differential through 30 games, a record low since 1901, and 23 runs worse than the previous mark of -95 by the 1938 Phillies. Oakland’s 6-24 record compares to the 11-19 mark of the 1962 Mets (those Mets followed a 3-16 start with their only hot streak of the season, going 9-3… Read more »

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

With tonight’s 20-1 loss to the Jays, the Rays (+107) have relinquished the MLB lead in run differential to the Rangers (+111). Their injury-riddled pitching staff didn’t suffer too much damage, though, with the final ten runs being surrendered by position players in mop-up relief duty.

Tampa Bay still holds the best record at 35-15, but the equally surprising Orioles (31-16) are now just 2-1/2 games behind [pending the outcome of tonight’s contest with the Yankees – currently tied at five in the 10th inning]. The Rays and Orioles are on pace for 113 and 107 wins, respectively.

Paul E
Paul E
10 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Tuna,
A 162-game schedule will tend to do that. The Pirates are returning to earth as well. A couple of years ago, somehow the SFG won 107 games when the Las Vegas pre-season over/under was about 78! That happens about once in everyone’s lifetime…. reversion to the norm kind of stuff. The following season they went 81-81 🙁

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Andrew McCutchen collected the 1000th walk of his career on Sunday. Other milestones he should pass this season include 2000 games, 2000 hits, 300 HR, 400 doubles and, possibly, 50 triples (he needs only one more, but didn’t get it last year). He also just missed getting his 1000th RBI this season, starting the year with 1002.

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
Yes, and despite Cutch’s heroics, the Bucs have dropped 7 in a row and only one of those losses was close (a 3-2 loss to TBR on 5/4/23). Yes, Pythagoras doesn’t lie and the A’s are really that bad. Regardless of the very successful influx of Asian and Latin talent, I miss 24-team major league baseball. Thirty teams are too many (IMO) and there just aren’t enough ML-caliber ballplayers to go around. But, I’m sure we’ll round up to 32 within the next 10 years 🙁

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

The Blue Jays tonight (Fri, May 12) broke their record streak of games without a 9 inning complete game, with Chris Bassitt twirling a 2-hit shutout against the Braves. It was Toronto’s first such CG since Apr 25, 2017. The next longest current streak belongs to the Twins, who are without a 9 IP CG since Jun 7, 2018. The Rays are the only other team to go 5+ years between such CG, from May 14, 2016 to Jun 3, 2021. Pitching for Atlanta in the same game was Spencer Strider, who whiffed 12 in a losing effort. It was… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
That is incredible. I initially thought you were implying 9-inning CG shutouts but, as it turns out, just plain old complete games. Geeze…and I’m old enough to remember Lolich throwing 350+ innings and guys like Gibson, Koufax, Jenkins, Perry completing 70% of their starts.

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

In those days, it was probably noteworthy if a team went a couple of weeks without one of its starters logging a CG. Now, … well, times have changed.

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
I’d almost be curious to know what the longest stretch without a CG by any staff was prior to 1980. I would think it might be less than 7 games – even for bad Phillies teams in the late 1920’s or those original Mets of the 1960’s. Seemed like every staff had at least one “someone/ace/#1” who was reliable or capable of 9 IP?

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

THAT is a lot of information – Thanks, Doug !

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Joe Ryan shut out the Red Sox on three hits today, ending the Twins’ streak of bullpen use at 724 games. It was also the first complete game shutout for the Twins since José Berríos on Apr 1, 2018. And it was the first time in Rocco Baldelli’s managerial career (622 games) that his starting pitcher was allowed to finish.

Doug
Doug
10 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Ryan’s 90 game score is the highest by a Twin since Ervin Santana’s 92 in 2017.

It is just the 11th time a Twin has reached 90 since 1978, after 10 such games from 1970 to 1977. The franchise record is 120 by Walter Johnson, with an 18 inning shutout on 1918-05-15 (that was completed in under 3 hours).

Last edited 10 months ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
9 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Go figure. Last night Pablo López threw the Twins’ second complete game shutout in 12 games, with a 91 game score.