How good a position are Rays in?
The Rays open a three-game series against the Red Sox tonight at the Trop officially in uncharted territory, as the six-game advantage they have over the Yankees is the largest AL East lead they have ever held, the high point of the 2008 season being a 5 1/2 game advantage (twice, on Aug. 23 and 31) over Boston.
Their winning percentage of .727 is 122 points higher than the next closest team, the Phillies at .605. The last time one team's advantage was that large on this date was 1984 when the Tigers were 216 points ahead of Toronto.
With a 32-12 mark, they are 20 games over .500, which also means if they just split their remaining 118 games they would still finish with 91 wins. And if they go 68-50 they would win 100.
And here's this tidbit from the ESPN stats folks:
Amog the previous AL teams with at least 32 wins in their first 44 games in the expansion era, all four teams made it to the playoffs. But only two went on to win the World Series. These are the best AL teams after 44 games since expansion in 1961:
1984 Tigers: 36-8 (Won World Series)
1998 Yankees: 34-10 (Won World Series)
1995 Indians: 33-11 (Lost World Series)
2010 Rays: 32-12 (?)
2001 Mariners: 32-12 (Lost ALCS)
Also, the ESPN Baseball Tonight crew had some interesting stats on the Rays, including some sabermetrical data that verifies what people watching the team closely already know, that rookies Reid Brignac and John Jaso have gotten a lot of big hits.
They were using a stat available on fangraphs.com called WPA, which measures situational performance. Bascially the batter gets "credit" for each plate appearance that advances his team's chances of winning and loses "credit" for each that enhances his team's chance of losing. The total of the credits and debits results in a number, with the theory being that it should measure how a ninth-inning go-ahead homer is more important than a fifth-inning homer in a 10-0 game.
On this chart, the Rays top four are Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Brignac and Jaso.