Friday, November 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Surprising Baltimore Orioles reminiscent in some ways of 2008 Tampa Bay Rays

RECOMMENDED READING


BALTIMORE — The Rays are used to the path to the playoffs going through New York. (And previously proud Boston.)

But Baltimore, where they open a pivotal three-game series tonight one game behind the upstart Orioles for second place in the American League East and the second wild-card spot?

"It doesn't surprise me," said Luke Scott, the Ray who should know best as he was in Baltimore for the last four of 14 consecutive losing seasons. "No one expected them to be maybe where they are, but it's definitely not a surprise."

The Orioles progression may be accelerated, but it was also planned.

They finished last season strong, going 22-16, including that oh-by-the-way win over the Red Sox that made the rest of Game 162 possible for the Rays. Under new general manager Dan Duquette, they made some smaller offseason additions to their underrated core led by centerfielder Adam Jones, catcher Matt Wieters and now-injured rightfielder Nick Markakis that made a big difference, and they continued to make moves throughout the season, adjusting their pitching staff seemingly week by week. And, under the driving force of manager Buck Showalter, they started, going back to Sarasota in February, believing in themselves.

"I'm just seeing a different energy out of their group," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They're showing up believing they can win, where before maybe they were just showing up. Their culture flipped."

Which actually sounds familiar.

Paging 2008

Teams having unexpected success are often compared to those that came before them, as if there is a pedigree or a diagram.

And, in this case, there just might be.

"Believe it or not, and I know it sounds cliche, but it does remind me of the '08 Rays," said Jason Hammel, the Oriole who should know best as he was a pitcher on that Tampa Bay team. "You come into spring training and everybody in the group is confident and outside are all the doubters and all that.

"We brought in some pretty integral pieces, some veteran leadership and obviously have Buck running the ship. It's just that everybody's confident. We're picking each other up. Everybody's adding something, it's not just one or two guys carrying us. It's very reminiscent of '08. And a lot of people have asked me about that."

Numbers game

The 78 in the win column is significant enough, their most since '04, and one more will match their best since 1998 (the Rays' first season).

But there are other numbers that are really interesting, and somewhat telling.

In one-run games, the Orioles are 25-7, which, at .781, would be the best such winning percentage in major-league history. (The Rays are 20-24).

And in extra innings, the O's are 12-2. (The Rays are 5-6.)

How, defying both logic and odds, are they doing that?

The answer, Duquette said, is as much what the relievers are doing on the mound as the hitters at the plate. "What happens," he said, "is our bullpen holds them down and we've been able to hit a home run in the close games."

Other numbers are mystifying.

Typically, teams with winning records score more runs than they allow. But the Orioles, after some significant improvement, are minus-29, the only team in the majors above .500 with a negative run differential. (The Rays are plus-85.)

As a result, the statistical analyses don't like them, putting their "projected" record under .500. Neither do the computer projections: Even though the O's are a game ahead of the Rays, coolstandings.com gives the O's a 39.3 percent chance to make the playoffs and the Rays 60.8.

Bye-bye, birdies?

In April and May and June and even July, the Orioles seemed like one of those nice little teams — say, the Pirates — that hangs around and gets everyone excited then goes away and finishes well out of the race like it is supposed to.

And then the Orioles went out and posted the majors' best August at 18-9. So much for going "poof."

So now it's September, and there are three weeks to play, and they're not only in the race, as of this morning they're in the playoffs.

"They're not going anywhere," Maddon said. "People that expect them to go away, they're totally wrong. They ain't going anywhere."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com

Comments
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17

Rays journal: No big deals at GM meetings, but possible groundwork laid

By MARC TOPKINLAKE BUENA VISTA — Rays officials left the GM meetings without making any big deals — such as trading Alex Colome or Chris Archer to the Cardinals — but more knowledgeable about the possibilities. "Expectations were to utilize these few...
Published: 11/15/17
Watch: Brandy Halladay’s emotional tribute to her late husband, Roy

Watch: Brandy Halladay’s emotional tribute to her late husband, Roy

For his wife, Brandy, Roy Halladay was so much more than a standout pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.During a a celebration of life ceremony Tuesday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Brandy remembered Halladay — who died Nov...
Published: 11/15/17