For a small market team like the Tampa Bay Rays, there really was no option but to embrace sabermetrics. Just like the Oakland Athletics‘ “Moneyball” situation, the Rays have the disadvantage of being a small market team that has to compete with organizations with greater finances to spend on top-name players. And also, like the A’s, the Rays’ use of sabermetrics has really paid off.
The Rays were credited with embracing sabermetrics following the 2007 season, a year that saw them go 66-96. That following season of course, 2008, the Rays went from losing 96 games to winning 97 and reaching the first World Series in franchise history. And a big reason for this success was the use of those sabermetric stats to bring in players that the NY Yankees and Boston Red Sox weren’t looking at.
But despite reaching the postseason and evolving into a much better team, the Rays are still a small market and still can’t afford to extend players those big contracts. They lost Carlos Pena to the Chicago Cubs, BJ Upton to the Atlanta Braves and Carl Crawford to the Red Sox, all for that reason.
The success of the Rays, however, has been due to the fact that they have been able to bring in the guys nobody wanted. A perfect example of this is Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist was being paid just over $4.5 million last year and according to sabermetrics, is vastly undervalued and underpaid. Zobrist is one of the best in the entire league because he doesn’t just do one thing really well or a lot of things sort of well, but rather he seems to do everything really well. Zobrist’s WAR has been over eight twice in his career and currently is a solid 5.0.
But since WAR is the classic sabermetric stat, lets look at another reason why the Rays have been so good: DER
DER stands for defensive efficiency rating and it takes into account runs saved based on fielding metrics, specifically BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
The Rays have always been an incredible defensive team, and this is once again the case in 2013. Tampa Bay is second only to the Cincinnati Reds in DER and their pitchers’ BABIP is also very much improved and in the top-half of league stats.
They say defense wins championships and if that is the case, sabermetrics or not, the Rays are primed to bring home their first title.
Marilee Gallagher is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MGallagher17 like her page on Facebook, or join her network on Google.