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John Dewan's Stat of the Week - Oakland Athletics

Rays, Athletics Have Maximized Their Rosters

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The Tampa Bay Rays clinched the AL East on Wednesday night, another remarkable accomplishment for a franchise that annually maximizes what it gets out of its MLB roster.

Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Rays ranked 28th in Opening Day payroll entering 2020, the 11th time in the last 13 seasons that they ranked among the bottom five teams. In that time, they’ve reached the postseason six times. Only three teams have made the playoffs more in that span (Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals).

The Rays are trying to advance past the ALDS for the first time since their first playoff appearance in 2008 when they went to the World Series.

The Rays rank 11th in the AL in batting average (.237) and 7th in slugging percentage (.428), but rank 5th in runs scored. They’ve helped their cause by ranking 2nd in walks and tied for 1st in stolen bases (47 on 56 attempts).

Tampa Bay's highest-paid pitcher, Charlie Morton, has a 4.64 ERA and has had minimal impact. But the team has a deep pitching staff, with the rotation headlined by Blake Snell (3.24 ERA) and bullpen depth exemplified by their MLB record-tying 12 pitchers who have recorded at least one save.

Tampa Bay also ranks second in the AL in Defensive Runs Saved. The team has saved at least three runs at first base, second base, center field, and left field. Kevin Kiermaier has saved 8 runs, most on the team, and leads all MLB players with 5 Outfield Arm Runs Saved.

There’s another team that has made the postseason six times in that span with a similar story. The Oakland Athletics ranked 25th in payroll entering 2020. An early nine-game winning streak vaulted them to a 12-4 record and five-game edge and they’ve successfully held off the Astros.

Oakland ranks 14th in the AL in batting average (.224) and 12th in slugging percentage (.393) but is 7th in runs scored. The team also ranks 12th in the American League in Defensive Runs Saved and has lost Platinum Glove-winner Matt Chapman for the season with a hip injury.

The Athletics' position-player leader in Win Shares is a classic Moneyball player, outfielder and DH Mark Canha. Canha is hitting .233 but has made himself valuable with 32 walks and 10 hit by pitches, giving him a .372 on-base percentage.

Where the Athletics have maxed out their talent is in the bullpen. Oakland relievers have a 2.43 ERA, more than a run better than the next-closest team. Liam Hendriks (1.17 ERA, 14 saves) is arguably having the best season of any closer in MLB. J.B. Wendelken, Yusmeiro Petit and Jake Diekman may not rank high in fan popularity, but they have combined for a 1.41 ERA in 64 innings.

The Rays and A’s met in last year’s AL Wild Card game. If there’s a 2020 matchup, it could be one that determines who wins the AL pennant.

For more on this topic, check out the latest edition of the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast with special guests Joe Sheehan and Wayne Randazzo.

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