Even though the Rays been sitting seven or eight games back in the Wild Card race for a while now, many continued to point to the all the games remaining with the Yankees and Red Sox and the opportunity that lay ahead if the Rays could just knock the lead down to four or five games.
But to get back in the race, what the Rays really needed is the one thing they are not built to do: go on a sustained winning streak. To knock off three or four games from the lead, the Rays really needed to rattle off a solid 6- or 7-game winning streak, and that hasn’t happened.
The Rays longest winning streak this season is five games, accomplished four times.
Their downfall ironically, is their greatest strength, their pitching. Or more specifically, the downfall has been building a team with strong pitching and a lack of offensive firepower.
The Rays have the top pitching staff in the American League, giving up just 3.79 runs per game. But at the same time, the Rays are only scoring 4.24 runs per game, ranking just eighth in the AL.
Let’s compare the top pitching teams in the AL to the top hitting teams. We took the top three scoring teams in the AL with a winning record (Red Sox, Rangers, Tigers) and the three top pitching teams with a winning record (Rays, Angels, White Sox). We left out the Yankees since they appeared on both lists.
Here are the number of winning streaks and losing streaks of at least 6-games by each group…
The top pitching teams in the AL have combined for one winning streak of at least six games. Meanwhile, the top scoring teams have combined for 7 such streaks.
In other words, great pitching without great hitting can be good, but it is difficult to be dominant. But great hitting without great pitching can be both good and dominant.
The Rays have proven they can win with this formula. But without the ability to be dominant, there was no way they were overcoming a large deficit in the standings this season. Rather, they are a team that needs to have a lead or at least be within a couple of games of the lead if they want to make the playoffs.