Last season the Rays outperformed their Pythagorean Record by 5 games. The Pythagorean Win Percentage (PWP) suggests how many games a team should win based on how many runs a team scores and allows.
We have argued previously that the PWP is a good starting point, but there are reasons why a team may deviate from this mark other than luck. In the case of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, they may have, in part, outperformed their PWP because of their strong bullpen. Last season, the Rays had MLB’s best record in one-run games (29-18).
So far in 2009, the Rays are at the other end of the spectrum. As a team, they have scored an MLB best 273 runs and allowed 233. That equates to a Pythagorean Record of 27-20, 4 games better than their current record of 23-24, suggesting the Rays are better than their current record. A record of 27-20 would be good for second place in the AL East, 1 game behind the Red Sox and tied with the Yankees atop the Wild Card standings.
So where have the Rays gone wrong in 2009? One need look no further than the Rays ability to win close games, something they thrived at in 2008. Last night’s implosion left the Rays at 5-9 in 1-run games. At their current pace, the Rays would finish 17-31 in 1-run games, 12.5 games behind their record in similar games last season.