"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Color By Numbers: Stingy Rays Pitching Casts Shadow Over Yanks Lead

In what direction are the Yankees headed? (Photo: danheller.com)

Here come the Rays. A little over one month ago, the Yankees had a whole lot of daylight between their division perch and second place, but after a 15-18 stretch, the shadow of the next closest competitor has finally caught up. Since July 18, the Bronx Bombers have seen Tampa Bay close the gap from 10.5 games to only three. Is it time to panic yet?

The Yankees’ recent struggles have been somewhat enigmatic. During the team’s 33-game slump, they have actually outscored their opponents by 17 runs, but have come up just short in many close games. Considering the injuries and difficult schedule during the period, there’s every reason to believe the team will pick up the pace heading down the stretch. But, will it be enough to hold off the hard charging Rays?

When the Rays were 10.5 games behind the Yankees on July 18, they didn’t look like a team capable of going on a run because of their depleted offense. Even now, after a 22-10 stretch, the lineup still seems too thin for a contender. However, it isn’t with the bats that the Rays have jumped right back into the race. Instead, Tampa has pitched its way to within three games of the Yankees.

Since falling behind by double digits in the division, the Rays’ pitching staff has allowed an astoundingly low 67 runs, or 2.1 per game, including only five games in which the opposition scored more than three. How significant is that accomplishment? All three 30-game periods encompassed by the last 32 contests represent the lowest run totals allowed for that duration in 2012. What’s more, the 63 runs allowed by the Rays in the 30 games from July 19 to August 20 represent one of the stingiest stretches in recent baseball history.

Fewest Runs Allowed in a 30-Game Period, Post DH ERA (1973-Present)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Since 1901, there have only been 241 30-game periods (for perspective, there are 3,990 such segments in a single 162 game major league season) during which a team allowed fewer runs than the 63 recently surrendered by the Rays’ pitching staff. However, of that total, 224 occurred during the dead ball era. Since 1920, there have only been 17 periods of 30 games (13 belonging to the 1968 Indians) featuring fewer runs allowed than the Rays’ best mark this season. Adding to the impressiveness of the accomplishment, only three periods have taken place during the DH era, and all of those invovled National League teams.

Considering how historically dominant the Rays’ pitching staff has been, do the Yankees even stand a chance of holding them off? As mentioned above, the Rays, who are averaging a subpar 4.23 runs per game, remain offensively challenged. In their last 10 losses, the pitching staff has only allowed 27 runs, and in their last four defeats, the opposition only dented the plate six times combined. Apparently, the only lineup that can stop the Rays’ pitching staff is their own.

Based on run differential, the Rays’ recent stinginess should have netted about 26 wins during the last 32 games. Had they been able to meet that expectation, Tampa, and not New York, would be listed first in the standing this morning. Will the Rays eventually come to regret leaving those extra wins on the table? If the team’s pitchers can continue to mow down the American League, it probably won’t matter how much their lineup scores. However, if the rotation and bullpen regress below historic levels of run prevention, their offense may not be able to compensate.

One of the luxuries of a big lead is it allows team to withstand the hard charge of a stalker. Because of how well the Yankees played over the first 100 games, they’ve been able to remain ahead of the pack despite a stumble entering the turn at the top of the stretch. However, what had been shaping up as a victory lap in September now promises to be a thrilling race. The Rays pitching staff is doing its part to close the gap. Now, it’s up to the Yankees to find another gear as well. Luckily for the Bronx Bombers, next up on the schedule is the Cleveland Indians, who are the in the midst of allowing over 187 runs in their last 30 games (6.23 runs per game). How does that stand up to history? That’s a story for another day.

Categories:  1: Featured  Baseball

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 23, 2012 2:40 pm

C.C. and Kuroda go this weekend: Must WIn Games.

2 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 2:56 pm

It seems to me that the fact that the Rays' ERA has been historically low means we can be very confident that they won't> keep it up. They will regress. Similarly for the fact that the Yankees have had a losing record while outscoring opponents -- that should lead a sober prognosticator to predict a considerably rosier future.
In any case, I am really looking forward to the Yankee-Ray confrontations in September.

3 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 2:56 pm

Damn! Sorry. Fixed?

4 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 2:58 pm

Fixed, whew.

5 William Juliano   ~  Aug 23, 2012 3:02 pm

[2] Schedules will also turn in the Yankees' favor. Yanks have Indians and Blue Jays coming up, while Rays get Athletics and Rangers. Of course, the Yankees have to take advantage. I know it's greedy, but anything less than 5-1 over the next six would be a disappointment.

6 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 3:12 pm

[5] Yeah, I just noticed that (when I looked to check when the Rays matchup would be).
In a way, it makes the games more nerve-wracking, since losing to the Indians will/would be such a squander.
(But I'd buy 4-2 right now if the baseball gods offered it.)

7 Chris   ~  Aug 23, 2012 3:15 pm

[2] I like it. No team with fans that bad should be that good (at pitching).

8 rbj   ~  Aug 23, 2012 3:48 pm

Per LoHud, Nova to the DL.

9 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 23, 2012 3:53 pm

Here's Carig on Nova: http://bit.ly/SZOA96

10 Chris   ~  Aug 23, 2012 4:03 pm

Looking forward to seeing Phelps, CC, and Hiro re-start our own stinginess tradition...

11 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 5:58 pm

The Red Sox have put A-Gon and Beckett on revocable trade waiver.
The rumor (but so far just a rumor) is that the Dodgers might be interested in taking both of them, returning Loney and prospects.

Yeah, I don't think so.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 23, 2012 7:34 pm

Holy crap the Sox are awful. They had a 6-0 lead in the 3rd. Inning isn't over yet and they are now down 8-6.

13 rbj   ~  Aug 23, 2012 7:36 pm

[12] Beautiful, ain't it? Can't even handle a proper run down.

14 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:00 pm

[9] The article mentions that in moving Nova to the DL, they are able to slide CC in his place and still keep Joba in the bullpen. Why? The only way that makes sense is if Andy comes back soon and they switch Joba out until Sept. callups. He's only hurting their chances of winning games at this point.

In any regard, don't you always get the feeling that Joba is rushed into situations where he and the team would be much better served if they gave him time? I don't even know what to make of that anymore.

15 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:01 pm

God, it's gruesome. I can't even enjoy it anymore.

Okay, a little.

But I think a large portion of RSN is saying, "Good, you bums, I hope you're embarrassed."

16 Ara Just Fair   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:07 pm

The Sox game is most entertaining. Did anyone catch the loooooooooong Doc Ellis piece over at the four letter network? It was quite the read. I didn't realize he pitched for they Yankees in 1976. The layout of the article is smooth as silk, too. I had not see anything like it before. If you are interested..... http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=Dock-Ellis

17 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:15 pm

What's that laughing sound I hear?

Oh, it's Bob McClure!

18 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:40 pm

And I actually want the Sox to beat the Angels--don't want to see them Angels in the playoffs. We can assume the Sox are cooked.

19 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:40 pm

Fucking Rays.

20 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:40 pm

Meanwhile, the Rays just don't lose do they?

21 RIYank   ~  Aug 23, 2012 8:40 pm

[18] Well, lucky you, they've tied it up!

22 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 23, 2012 9:41 pm

Incredible the amount of abuse they're taking with every move, itch and sneeze being scrutinized for signs of weakness and/or rebellion.

Four players and the entire front office of the organization show up for Pesky's funeral and that becomes another scandal. I don't know whose drama is deeper, the Mets or them? What as frenzy.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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