Can Rays figure out a formula to win?

by Gary Shelton on March 30, 2023

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Once again, it is time for the Tampa Bay Rays to show us how smart they are.

Oh, by now, we should know. The Rays are aways last in attendance, and usually near the bottom in payroll. They don't hit, and occasionally, they get lost on the basepaths.

But in baseball, the Rays are a mongoose. They keep overachieving. They have made four straight playoffs,

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and eight of the last 15, along with two World Series appearances (both losses). But if you're going to chide the Rays for not winning it all, you have to admire their successes, too.

So, yeah, they're a pretty bright bunch. They're playing with Rubik's Cubes at the same time a lot of teams are trying to figure out yo-yos.

Now, here's a simple request.

Can they do it again?

Oh, it's going to be harder this time. The Rays can't shift an opponent to death anymore (they've eased off on the shift in recent seasons). They'll be on a pitch count with fatter bases. They can't throw over to check runners (and buy time).

Oh, and they can't hit.

Which figures to be somewhat of a problem.

Remember last year? The Rays couldn't hit then, either. But this year, they're without David Peralta, without Ji-Man Choi, with Kevin Kiermaier and without Mike Zunino,

Consider this. In 1906, the Chicago White Sox were so feeble at the plate that they earned the nickname of "the Hitless Wonders). They hit .230. Last year, the Rays hit .239.

Yeah, this is where the lively ball came to die.

Despite it all, the Rays won 86 games last year. Wednesday, I saw a projection that this the team will win 85.

So how will they do it? Pitching. Matchups. Wander Franco should be better. Brandon Lowe should be better (during the regular season, that is). Randy Arozarena should be a thrill ride again.

No, they won 't hit enough. They'll lose a lot of games that the pitching shouldn't lose.

But they're smart. Not smart enough to win it all, but smart enough to win more than they lose.

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