The Tampa Bay Rays have managed to stay in second place in the AL East despite the second-smallest run differential in the division.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Remember when the Rangers seemed like a juggernaut after starting the season with 17 wins in their first 23 games? Well, 23 days later, Ron Washington’s team is now tied with the Rays for the second-best record in the American League at 27-18, tied in the loss column with the 25-18 Indians, and a game behind the 28-17 Orioles. Since the end of April, the Orioles have gone 14-8, the Indians 13-9, the Rays 12-10, and the Rangers 10-12—including a just-completed 6-7 run while facing the Angels, Royals, Athletics, Astros, and Mariners.
Think that’s confusing? Then try to figure out the American League East.
The Rays are 12-1 at home this season. Where does their home-field advantage come from?
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
What is it about Tropicana Field that makes the Rays so successful at home? Nate looked at the origins of home-field advantage and made some interesting discoveries about domes in the article reproduced below, which originally ran as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on June 29, 2008
Michael Pineda's labrum tear doesn't bode well for his future, but it's not the death sentence it used to be.
On Wednesday, the Yankees revealed that Michael Pineda had suffered a torn labrum, a devastating turn of events both for the 23-year-old righty and for the team that acquired him from the Mariners for top prospect Jesus Montero back in January. Pineda will miss the entire season and part of 2013, thinning the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching—and underscoring the fact that you can never have too much—while raising the question of whether they will ever get much value out of him.
David Freese did major damage during the postseason, but scouts still have mixed ideas about what his future holds. Joe Maddon also sits down for a chat.
The Cardinals had just won an improbable World Series championship, and the on-field celebration was barely over last October when David Freese was ushered into the media interview room at Busch Stadium. The third baseman sat on the stage with a look of disbelief on his face as he answered questions about living out a dream. The St. Louis area native was the named the Most Valuable Player of the Cardinals' win over the Rangers in the World Series, adding to the MVP trophy he won in the National League Championship Series.
Jeremy Hellickson gets hit hard and Clay Buchholz impresses in the game of the week, plus thoughts about Tampa Bay's pitching and Bobby Valentine's way with words.
The night before Saturday’s game, the Red Sox scored eight runs against the Rays to turn a relatively normal game into a 12-2 laugher. Actually, there was something abnormal about it, even before the offensive explosion: Rays starter David Price lasted only three innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks while running up an 83-pitch tab. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, suffocated Tampa Bay for eight innings, allowing just one run on five hits.
The Rays have been willing to experiment with unorthodox defensive alignments, but are they ready to move an infielder to the outfield?
In 2010, Baseball Info Solutions began recording instances of defensive shifts. In the Fielding Bible III, they presented some data from the last couple of years: the Rays emerged as the team using special alignments most frequently, with a huge margin separating them from the clubs ranked just behind them.
While watching some of the action in the Rays’ Opening Day game against the Yankees, I came to the conclusion that BIS video scouts would have an easier time if they inverted their approach and marked down the instances when Tampa Bay does not play shifted.
Which player do scouts feel is the best unknown major leaguer?
The question was posed to a dozen front-office types and scouts during the final days of spring training: Who is the best player in baseball that nobody knows about? The winner of the highly informal poll was a bit of a surprise, especially since he entered this season having played in just 43 major-league games. Yet there is a strong feeling that Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie won't be a secret much longer.
Yu Darvish makes his first big-league start, while Ian Kinsler signs an extension.
The Monday Takeaway
When Yu Darvish walked back to the Rangers’ dugout after the top of the first inning of his major-league debut, things were looking bleak for both the pitcher and his team. Darvish had allowed seven Mariners to reach base and four of them to cross the plate while throwing 42 pitches and putting Texas in an early hole.
The righty settled down after that, coughing up just one more run in the second inning, and needing only 68 pitches to complete the final 4 2/3 innings of his 5 2/3-inning debut. The four walks, hit batter, and wild pitch on Darvish’s line are a bit worrisome, but some of his early wildness can be chalked up to rookie jitters. And once the Rangers’ offense kicked into gear against Mariners starter Hector Noesi, Darvish grew more comfortable, riding 11 runs of support to his first stateside victory.