Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Time For The Rays to Fall

Doing my best to ignore the bad news streaming out of Foxboro at the speed of fingers flying across keyboards and out across the ether, I came across this bit of Red Sox glorification: after months of seeing the Sox struggle on the road, Boston's finally pulled to within three games of .500 (36 and 39) away from Fenway...the same record as our erstwhile division rivals (and I mean Tampa Bay, not New York), who seem to be undergoing the sort of timely collapse (1.5 games ahead in the AL East entering today's start of series in Boston) that's all too familiar to Red Sox teams prior to 2004.

Upon further reflection, this seachange means we really are playing the role of the Yankees: the established, dominant team coming ever closer, creeping up on the underdogs like the monster from a horror movie. I wouldn't say we deserve an AL East win, but it sure is seductive to have this kind of power.

A number of people have asked me recently when/if I think the Rays are going to break. Up until now, I had stayed pretty conservative in my answers, because I couldn't find a reason for the Rays train to fall off the tracks: they can hit, they have three excellent starting pitchers, they can field, Wheeler, Balfour, and Howell continue to pitch out of their minds, etc., etc. It's hard to deny a team that seems to have closed all of their gaps.

Then I look at their Pythagorean win/loss record. Pythagorean, for those not in the know, is a statistical luck predictor that uses runs scored and runs allowed to determine what a team's win and loss record "should" be. Any deviations from the real win/loss record mean that the team's been lucky (real win/loss record better than Pythagorean win/loss record) or unlucky (real win/loss record worse than Pythagorean win/loss record). As of today, the Red Sox have a 86 and 56 Pythagorean, two games better than their actual 84 and 58 record. They've been slightly unlucky. The Rays? Well, on the Pythagorean scale, the Rays clock in at 79 and 62, six games worse than their actual 85 and 56 record. In other words, they're due for an adjustment. Guess who's going to deliver it to them in the next three days...

Since the fashion amongst the Sox these days is to take two games and lose the third, generally under aggregious circumstances (how a team this good sustains this many blowouts is beyond me), I suspect we'll see more of the same this week...but I'm pulling for sweep anyway. Let's put this one away, boys.