Line all 26 Rays seasons side by side, and this one may stand out as the most eventful.
If not the most chaotic, confounding, historic and heart palpitating.
From unprecedented starts (13-0) to unforeseen scandals (Wander Franco) to a smorgasbord of injuries, the last six months have consistently remained high on drama and low on drab. And in a sport conducive to numbers, it has provided some of the most improbable ones in this organization’s quarter-century existence.
As the postseason commences, Tuesday at home against the Rangers in the Wild Card Series, consider some of these hard-to-fathom facts about your 2023 Rays.
Their leadoff guy has no steals
Somewhere, Rickey Henderson recoils — and the Rays couldn’t care less. Freshly minted American League batting champ Yandy Diaz, leadoff man in 133 games, reaches base more often than any other Ray (.410 on-base percentage) and typically finds his way around the bags (team-best 274 total bases). He just doesn’t steal any. It’s a blissful baseball paradox that has served this club gloriously.
Starting rotation never surfaced
The most well-chronicled — and preposterous — factoid surrounding this club. As Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano recently noted, there wasn’t a single moment in the regular season when the entire projected 2023 starting rotation was intact. The misfortune began with Tyler Glasnow’s oblique strain in February and concluded with Shane McClanahan opting for his second Tommy John surgery in August. Sandwiched in between were season-ending elbow injuries to Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen.
Jose Siri has surged
The long-ball potential Tampa Bay saw in Siri — a lanky package of power, fleetness and arm strength — didn’t manifest itself during his first two big-league seasons (including 56 games with the Rays in 2022), but it has blossomed this year. Siri, whose 25 home runs rank second on the team, has collected more than twice as many homers this year as he did in 2021 and 2022 combined (11). For further context, Siri has one homer for every 14.6 plate appearances this season. His first two years, it was one for every 34.
They have gone 28-15 without Wander
The Rays have drawn universal praise for somehow shaking off attrition as routinely as they kick clay off their spikes. Nonetheless, their performance in the wake of All-Star defensive cornerstone Wander Franco’s sudden mid-August departure has been especially notable. After dropping two of their first three without Franco (still on an MLB-imposed administrative leave), the Rays won 10 of their last 12 in August, and were 17-11 the rest of the way, employing six different starting shortstops in that span.
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They have used 37 pitchers
That’s one pitcher shy of the club record established in 2021. The number actually climbs to 40 if counting the position players (Luke Raley, Christian Bethancourt, Rene Pinto) who took the mound in blowout defeats. By contrast, no other American League playoff team used more than 31; three used 29 or fewer. Even more astounding: This sprawling patchwork has produced baseball’s fifth-best team ERA (3.86) and second-lowest opponent’s batting average (.231).
Ramirez has prospered in a pinch
As the team’s most frequently-used pinch-hitter, Harold Ramirez has sped past reliable and overtaken remarkable. In 21 pinch-hit appearances, the 29-year-old has collected 11 hits (.524 average) with a home run (a three-run blast in a 7-1 win against the Orioles two weeks ago) and 10 RBIs. For context, the other pinch-hitters are a combined 17-for-73 (.233) this season.
They have been shut out only 7 times
Excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, that’s the second-fewest shutout defeats of the Kevin Cash era. After consecutive shutout losses to the Astros in late April, the Rays have been blanked only five times in the last five months. Moreover, six of those seven losses have come against teams (Astros, Mariners, Orioles, Cubs, Padres) that finished with a winning record.
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