When we talk about the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s usually regarding their plucky ability to surprise the baseball world and win more games than expected despite a meager payroll, sparse attendance and imposing division rivals. But they’re seldom described as a clear-cut powerhouse dominating the league, without any of those small-market qualifiers or paeans to their canny exploitation of market inefficiencies.have the best record in baseball through the season’s first two-and-a-half weeks. And even by the standards of teams who began seasons on hot streaks, Tampa Bay absolutely demolished the competition. During the streak, they beat opponents by 5.5 runs on average, by far the most of any team that started a season at least 8-0.
|Year||Team||Streak||Diff/G||1 Run||2 Runs||3 Runs||4 Runs||5 Runs||6+ Runs|
Even now, Tampa Bay’s plus-4.5 runs per game differential is the best by a team that started 14-2 since the 1887 Detroit Wolverines. No matter how you slice it, the Rays have simply had the most dominant start to an MLB season in modern baseball history.can actually tell us a surprising amount about how a team will finish at the end of the season, between the wins they bank away and new information they provide about the team’s true talent level. And already, our forecast model has upgraded the Rays from 86 wins and a 52 percent chance of making the playoffs before the season to 94 wins and an 83 percent chance.
These streaking Rays haven’t exactly come out of nowhere. This is the same franchise that boasts MLB’s fourth-best record since 2018. But after recording 100 wins for the first time in team history in 2021, Tampa Bay won just 86 games last season — and its 2022-23 offseason drew mixed reviews at best from subjective graders, while also landing 21st in total spending and 25th in net WAR added. Add in a mid-pack ranking in MANFRED (our estimate of which teams MLB’s new rules might help or hurt), and we didn’t see a sudden Rays outburst on the horizon.
Perhaps the only hint that something special was brewing for Tampa Bay was the sheer amount of young talent on its roster. A farm system that never ranked lower than No. 5 in Baseball America’s organization rankings from 2018 to 2022 has produced a number of starters for the 2023 Rays, including Wander Franco, Shane McClanahan, Brandon Lowe and Josh Lowe.No relation.">3 And in somewhat un-Rays-like fashion, the team’s production from non-homegrown players4 has been absolutely off the charts early this season. From Drew Rasmussen and Harold Ramirez to Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes, the talent Tampa Bay has spent the past handful of years shrewdly accumulating (why won’t opposing GMs learn — never trade with the Rays!) are blossoming all at once.
The natural question now is, how much more brightly can the Rays shine? Unlike most other power rankings, which are a lot quicker to (over?) react to hot streaks at any given moment, our Elo forecast still thinks four teams — the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets — are as or more likely to win the World Series than Tampa Bay. (Some of this is due to the Rays’ schedule going forward — Elo considers it the third-most difficult in MLB.)
And perhaps there’s nothing special about winning the first 13 games of the season; we’ve seen other, longer winning streaks that just happened to occur later in the schedule. But since 1969, all teams with a winning streak of at least 13 games (at any time) averaged 94 wins over the entire season.had a 14-game streak during the strike-shortened campaign and therefore didn’t play a full season.">5 So past precedent says Tampa Bay should be a force to be reckoned with all year long — and after this record-breaking start, history is something these Rays ought to get used to being a part of.
Check out our latest MLB predictions.