Yesterday afternoon, R.J. Anderson wrote a nice – albeit depressing – piece about the Rays’ playoff odds. Despite the Rays’ early season success, Baseball Prospectus’ complex-sounding projection system still gives the Rays only a 1-in-5 shot at the postseason.
R.J. sets out the reasons that prediction makes sense but it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that has been half paying attention. This team’s flaws have been on full display during this brutal 1-4 stretch and I think, based on a solid body of work, that we can expect many more hot and cold stretches throughout the season. (Although, I have to disagree with RJ when he says that this team’s talent level “feels” lower than the 2008-2010 teams. The 2008 team felt exactly like this: a bunch of guys playing out of their minds who I always worried were going to remember they were journeymen.).
I think the Rays’ front office also understands the reality of the situation. If the Stus thought they had better than a 1-in-5 shot at October baseball, we’d see the hot hitting Desmond Jennings (now featuring 7 dingers!) and Brandon Guyer in the clubhouse instead of the suddenly unimportant Sam Fuld and Crash Ruggiano. The club’s reluctance to turn Guyer and Jennings into Super 2 players tells me that they are hoping for the best but not willing to auction the long term plan.
All of this doom and gloom begs an interesting question: so what? Let’s say we all agree the Rays are, at best, a longshot to hold off New York and a suddenly-surging Boston. Does that change anything? It certainly doesn’t for me.
Baseball’s playoff system is among its best attributes. As I wrote this winter, baseball is the last bastion where playoff participation still means something. This isn’t the NBA or NHL where a playoff appearance means you had a pretty good year (or even means you were almost a .500 team). In baseball, a playoff appearance is a great year.
If the Rays play the kind of streaky ball they are playing, I will still watch every minute. I want them to make the playoffs. I want them to make a run (because this pitching staff will be formidable in October). But, I don’t enjoy watching them just because they might finish first or second. That is a College Football mentality.