What we learned about the Rays
During the regular season, the Rays were ninth in the American League in runs per game and eighth in slugging percentage, but they were tied with the Yankees for fourth in home runs, seven dingers ahead of the Red Sox. So far in the postseason, the Rays have out-homered their competition 22 to 14, connecting for two more jacks than the White Sox (one of the three AL teams with more homers than the Rays in the regular season) in the ALDS and six more than the Red Sox in the just-completed ALCS. After 11 postseason games, the Rays are averaging two home runs per game. They're doing all of this despite the fact that just three Rays had more than 13 home runs during the regular season and team leader
The two major reasons for this home run outburst are
In addition to their 22 home runs, the Rays have stolen 17 bases this postseason. Tampa Bay led the American League in steals this year and had three players with 20 or more in Upton (44),
Joe Maddon doesn't use the sacrifice bunt very often. In fact, no team in the majors bunted less than the Rays this year, not even the A's. Playing for one run typically results in only one run and often in none because the sacrificed out gets the pitcher a third of the way closer to getting out of the inning.
Joe Maddon doesn't have a designated closer. The key at-bats of the game don't always come in the ninth inning, the last three outs aren't always the toughest to get, and the most appropriate pitcher to get the game's key outs differs from situation to situation depending on which batters are due up and whether a strikeout or a double play is what's most needed.
After Game 4 of the ALCS, Maddon was one win away from the World Series with his best starter (
Joe Maddon doesn't care what you think, nor should he. His team just won the pennant.
Before this postseason, 13 teams had built 3-1 leads in best-of-seven series only to lose Game 5 and 6. Of those 13, just three had managed to stop the skid and win Game 7. The Rays became the fourth team to accomplish that feat last night. Of the first three teams to do it -- the 1967 Cardinals, 1972 A's and 1992 Braves -- all three returned to the playoffs the following year. The A's would make the playoffs in each of the following three seasons, winning two world championships. The 1992 Braves had just one championship in their future, but would participate in the next dozen postseasons. That speaks to both the talent and the resiliency of those teams, attributes which the Rays have proved to have in abundance this season.
There are other reasons to expect the Rays to be perennial postseason participants beyond the quirk of history that joins the Rays to those A's and Braves teams. The Rays were the second-youngest team in baseball this year and are awash in young talent. Peña and veteran platoon DH