We all remember Moneyball, and we all especially remember Billy Bene. What if I told you that it happened again?
The Rays were coming into 2019 with a $68.98 million payroll, which was good for 26th in the MLB. Now, how could this be moneyball if the Rays aren’t last in the MLB in payroll? Well, this is how. In 2018 they were 28th in the MLB, and in 2017 28th also.
How can this be Moneyball then? Well, Moneyball isn’t entirely descriptive of this team. This team uses lowly paid players, and they use them with a strategy. The most famous strategy is called The Opener. The opener is when a reliever starts out the game, goes 1 or 2 innings, and then the starter comes in for 6 or 7 innings. This is genius because the best hitters will be at the start of the lineup, and if you can knock out most of those hitters with someone who that is their specialty, the starter won’t have to go through those hitters. This leads to the starter being able to go longer, and ultimately, better. The only downside is that this method takes up more stamina, so it’s good for a key game.
Another strategy that the Rays are trying out is the two-way player, and they are trying it in the minors. This strategy is where the Rays are training hitters to be pitchers, or pitchers to hit.
The Rays hit a team .254 batting average, and they also hit 216 home runs. Austin Meadows hit .291 with 33 home runs and a .364 OBP. Avisail Garcia hit .282 with 20 home runs, 72 RBIs, and a .332 OBP. Ji-Man Choi hit .261 with a .363 OBP. The Rays were very good at getting on base, as they had a .325 OBP. Charlie Morton was 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA, and Yonny Chirinos went 9-5 with a 3.85 ERA. One year removed from a Cy Young winning season, Blake Snell went 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA. Tyler Glasnow went 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA, an amazing year.
Kevin Cash is a daredevil. He will do what no other coach has the guts to do. In the tough AL East, he has orchestrated a risky style of game. He is a wizard. But he has no other options. In the AL East, there are teams such as the Yankees and the Red Sox, teams that will always have a huge payroll. They just throw money at players, and that is how they build their teams. The Rays cannot keep up. They do not have the budget to throw money at players. In 2015, he was replacing Joe Madden, and he finished 80-82, not too bad. In 2016, he finished a disastrous 68-94. In 2017 he went 80-82 again, and then his mindset changed. Something had to be done. He invented the opener, and the Rays finished 90-72. In 2019, he finished 96-66, good enough for a Wild Card, and then the Rays advanced to the ALDS.
The Rays should earn your respect after a 90 win season, even if most teams won’t. Just remember, they’re the Amazing Rays.