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The Rays’ Dominance Goes Even Deeper Than Their 13-0 Start

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.

This year, however, is different. The Rays tied the modern MLB record1884 St. Louis Maroons (who started 20-0) or the 1875 Boston Red Stockings (26-0-1).

">1 last week with their 13th consecutive win to start the season, matching the 13-0 starts of the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers and 1982 Atlanta Braves. Though they did lose two of three against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, the Rays still 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.

The Rays’ streak was ridiculously dominant

Run differentials for games within winning streaks of at least eight games to start an MLB season, since 1901

Year Team Streak Diff/G 1 Run 2 Runs 3 Runs 4 Runs 5 Runs 6+ Runs
2023 Rays 13 +5.46 1 1 0 5 2 4
1982 Braves 13 +2.46 4 4 2 1 2 0
1987 Brewers 13 +2.92 4 3 3 1 0 2
1955 Dodgers 10 +3.90 3 1 2 0 1 3
1962 Pirates 10 +3.00 4 0 1 3 1 1
1966 Indians 10 +2.30 4 3 1 1 0 1
1981 Athletics 10 +4.40 2 1 3 2 0 2
1918 Giants 9 +3.44 1 4 0 1 1 2
1940 Dodgers 9 +4.44 0 3 2 0 2 2
1944 Browns 9 +2.33 2 3 3 1 0 0
1984 Tigers 9 +3.78 2 0 0 5 1 1
1990 Reds 9 +3.78 2 1 1 2 1 2
2003 Royals 9 +2.78 2 2 3 1 0 1
1915 Phillies 8 +3.88 1 0 3 1 1 2
1980 Reds 8 +4.00 2 1 1 0 2 2
1982 White Sox 8 +2.13 3 3 0 2 0 0


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.

Yes, Tampa Bay has also faced the majors’ easiest schedule, with an average opposing Elo rating of 1470adjustments for home-field advantage and opposing starting-pitcher quality.

">2 — still 12 points worse than the second-easiest slate (that of the Los Angeles Angels, at 1482). And yes, it is still extremely early in the season. But we know that early performances 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 Rays are perfecting MLB’s roster-building game

Top MLB teams in 2023 according to youngest average age (weighted by WAR) and most WAR per 162 games produced by homegrown and externally acquired players

Team Avg. Age Team WAR/162 Team WAR/162
Guardians 26.9 Rays 43.2 Rays 51.3
Rays 27.3 Astros 40.5 Twins 42.1
Tigers 27.5 Reds 38.6 Rangers 37.2
Nationals 27.6 Braves 32.8 Giants 34.3
Reds 27.7 Dodgers 32.0 Yankees 33.1
Orioles 27.8 Angels 29.5 Brewers 31.4
D-backs 27.9 Brewers 28.6 Cubs 29.1
Brewers 28.1 D-backs 26.7 Phillies 27.5
Cardinals 28.3 Mariners 24.5 Braves 24.5
Astros 28.3 Cubs 22.5 Cardinals 22.2

A player is considered “homegrown” if he made his MLB debut with a team and has only played for them. Otherwise, he is considered “acquired.”

WAR is measured using JEFFBAGWELL (Joint Estimate Featuring FanGraphs and B-R Aggregated to Generate WAR, Equally Leveling Lists), which averages the metrics found at and FanGraphs.

Sources:, FanGraphs

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.

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  1. Since 1901 — so apologies to the 1884 St. Louis Maroons (who started 20-0) or the 1875 Boston Red Stockings (26-0-1).

  2. After making adjustments for home-field advantage and opposing starting-pitcher quality.

  3. No relation.

  4. Defined as players who debuted for a different franchise.

  5. Excluding the 1994 Kansas City Royals, who had a 14-game streak during the strike-shortened campaign and therefore didn’t play a full season.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.


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