Unkind History Facing the Rays | The Process Report

Unkind History Facing the Rays

Throughout the spring Mike Ferrin, of SiriusXM Radio’s MLB Network, is visiting Grapefruit League camps and writing entries on Baseball Prospectus. Ferrin’s latest revolves around the Rays and their attempt to retool again.

Only five teams have won 90 games in a season before losing their team leaders in home runs and innings pitched, according to Ferrin. While most of the cases involved fire sales or overhauls, there are two exceptions that provide comfort, if not burning optimism. The 2003 Braves won 101 games then lost Javy Lopez and Greg Maddux to free agency. They retooled and won 96 games in the following season before doing the whole song and dance again with J.D. Drew and Russ Ortiz. (The 2005 Braves, by the way, still won 90 games—they knew what they were doing.)

Given the shaky long-term status of David Price it’s hard to ignore a potential parallel to those Braves. Fortunately, save a prolonged absence from Evan Longoria, it doesn’t look like the Rays will lose their leading home run-hitter anytime in the near future.



One Comment

  1. buddaley wrote:

    I don’t think Ferrin’s research is particularly meaningful. First he notes that there are just 30 teams since 1961 who have lost their top innings pitcher and top home run hitter for the following year. That is out of how many teams over 51 years? (1366?) Hardly a meaningful sample. And second, of those 30 teams, 17 saw a decrease in wins the following year which means that 13 either stayed the same or got better.

    He then narrows the criteria to teams that won 90 or more games and lost their top innings pitcher and top home run hitter. That is a sample of 5 teams of which 2, while doing more poorly, still won 90 or more gamest the next season. How is any of that a meaningful history from which to draw any conclusions or even note a pattern? I really think such articles mislead readers much as announcers do when they point out a hitter is batting just .182 against a pitcher without noting the insignificance of the factoid over a sample of 11 ABs.

    It reminds me of commentary by Joe Sheehan regarding the 2008 Rays. He pointed out there was no precedent for a team improving its defense so dramatically from one year to the next. The problem with such commentary is that it fails to address the specifics of the situation. To consider an extreme hypothetical situation, suppose a team replaced a team full of Dick Stuart defensive talents with one of Ozzie Smith defenders. Would the history Sheehan notes mean anything in that circumstance?

    That was, in more realistic terms, what happened in 2008, and it is that kind of specific detail we have to consider this year. Are the replacements and the expected improvements elsewhere sufficient to maintain a 90+ win ball club? And if earlier clubs failed to maintain their status, was their situation comparable? For example, is the falloff from Upton to whomever as devastating to the Rays as was that of Bonds to Al Martin? Is the loss of Shields likely to be as damaging given the Rays rotation options as was that of Drabek to Steve Cooke?

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