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.
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.
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 Losses||no. of Teams (since 1901)||World Series champs||League champs||Division champs (since 1969)||Post-season qualifier||Also rans||%World Series Champs||% League Champs||% Post-season qualifiers|
|over first 10 games||177||26||49||42||80||96||14.8%||27.8%||45.5%|
|over first 11 games||118||21||38||30||57||60||17.9%||32.5%||48.7%|
|over first 12 games||73||11||22||21||35||37||15.3%||30.6%||48.7%|
|over first 13 games||51||9||15||15||25||25||18%||30%||50%|
|over first 14 games||30||7||8||9||15||14||24.1%||27.6%||51.7%|
|over first 15 games||19||4||5||6||9||9||22.2%||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.