So now we know the Red Sox will face the Rays in the American League Division Series starting Friday. The Red Sox are rested and the Rays, over 4 days having to win 3 straight on the road, have got to be fatigued but exhilarated, too. So let’s have a look at how these two teams match up for the big series.
In 2013 the two teams faced off 19 times with Boston going 12-7 vs Tampa Bay. Here’s an overview of the games broken down into series. In the following table the shaded rows are away games. Red text indicates series and individual game wins for Boston. All games were of regulation length unless indicated differently in the Innings column.
In all, Red Sox were 6-4 vs the Rays at Fenway, 6-3 at Tropicana Field.
Despite the outcome of the 2013 season, the Red Sox and Rays are remarkably close in a number of ways.
For the 2013 season, the Red Sox scored 197 more runs than they allowed, what’s referred to as their run differential (in 2012 Boston’s run differential was -72, they allowed 72 more than they scored). The 2013 total for Boston is more than any other team in baseball, with the Cardinals 2nd at +187. The Rays run differential was +58 for the season. But against the Rays, the Red Sox scored just 14 more than they allowed, their 6th best tally of the 20 teams they faced in 2013:
As a team, the Red Sox batted .208 vs the Rays in the regular season, their lowest batting average vs any other team in baseball. Their on-base percentage, a miserable .280, was their lowest vs any American League opponent. That said, against the Rays they scored their 4th most home runs (13), 3rd most doubles (33), 4th most RBI (69), 2nd most triples (3), and 4th most total bases (208).
The Rays, meanwhile, batted .232 as a team vs the Red Sox in the regular season, their 4th lowest batting average vs any other team in baseball. Their on-base percentage of .312 ranked 16th of the 20 teams they faced this season. Against the Red Sox the Rays scored their 4th most home runs (17), 4th most doubles (30), 4th most RBI (56), and 4th most total bases (234).
Interestingly, both clubs stole the most bases against each other with the Red Sox swiping 18 and the Rays grabbing 16 (their next highest stolen base tally was 7 vs the Astros). Boston stopped 6 attempted steals by Tampa Bay. They caught 2 of ours.
As fans already know, the Red Sox have scored early and often in 2013, averaging an MLB-best 2.66 runs in the first four innings of a game, and an AL-best 0.86 runs in the last 2 innings. This compares favorably for Boston vs the Rays’ 2.1 and 0.74 runs, which ranked 9th and 11th, respectively for all of baseball. In all, Boston ended the regular season with an MLB-best average of 5.27 runs scored per game. The Rays ranked near the middle of the pack with an average of 4.29 runs per game.
Overall, 36.5% of all Red Sox hits were for extra bases (2nd best in AL to Athletics) while the Rays finished 7th in the AL with 34.0% of their hits going for more than one base.
Over the past 3 seasons vs the Rays, Red Sox Mike Carp is a club best .429 (6-for-14) with a home run. Jacoby Ellsbury’s next with a .290 batting average (47-for-162) with a club-best 7 home runs and 18 RBI in that time. David Ortiz has batted .272 (40-for-147) with 4 home runs and a club-best 26 RBI and a club-best 30 walks in that time. Pedroia (.226), Napoli (.217), and Victorino (.191) follow.
For the Rays vs Red Sox since 2011 (minimum 10 at-bats), Jose Molina is .381 (24-for-63) with 0 home runs and 7 RBI, followed by Wil Myers (.303 with 1 home run and 8 RBI), Sam Fuld (.273), Ben Zobrist (.244 with 3 home runs and a club-best 31 walks and a club-best 29 RBI), Desmond Jennings (.243, with a club-best 10 steals), and Evan Longoria (.237, with a club-best 8 home runs).
The Rays allowed an AL-best 8.09 hits per 9.0 innings on average in 2013. Only the Pirates and the Reds were better, tied at 7.94. The Red Sox pitching staff ranked 5th in the AL with an average of 8.46 hits per 9.0 innings pitched.
When it comes to strikeouts the Rays and the Red Sox have been mutually destructive. No team in baseball struck out more Rays (159) than the Red Sox, and no other club struck out more Boston batters than Tampa Bay (165). At 2.93, however, Boston’s team ERA vs the Rays was their lowest vs any other American League club. The Rays team ERA vs the Red Sox was 3.54, ranked 12th best of the 20 clubs they faced in the regular season.
Some other 2013 regular season pitching-related stats to consider:
- BOS allowed 73 TBR walks, their most allowed to any club.
- TBR allowed 59 BOS walks, tied for their 2nd most to any club.
- BOS struck out 8.2 batters/9.0 innings, 8th best of the 20 teams they faced.
- TBR struck out 8.6 batters/9.0 innings, 7th best of the 20 teams they faced.
- BOS induced 18 TBR double plays in 2013, tied for their most vs any other club.
- TBR held BOS to a .210 batting average at Fenway and .229 at Tropicana Field.
- TBR ERA vs BOS at Fenway: 2.63, at Tropicana Field: 3.49.
- BOS held TBR to a .243 batting average at Fenway and .242 at the Trop
- BOS ERA vs TBR at Fenway: 3.57, at Tropicana Field: 3.64.
Over the longer term
Since the start of the 2009 season, the Red Sox trail the Rays 43-48 (going 21-25 at Fenway). Only the Athletics and Rangers have a better record vs Boston over those five seasons. The Red Sox are 101-83 (59-34 at Fenway) if you look out over the past 10 seasons, though few believe the Rays of today are anything much like the club in those years.
It’s why we play the games
The Red Sox are a fundamentally sound team, but Tampa Bay is a strong competitor. Boston comes into the ALDS tied for the best record in the MLB, but the Rays have momentum, having won 10 of their last 12.
Stats and probabilities are fun and a wonderful element of enjoying baseball, but, at the end of the day, we play the games because no mathematical formula substitutes for real life. When Friday afternoon rolls around we’ll see how this important series unfolds.
The Boston Globe is predicting the Red Sox win this series in 4 games. What’s your prediction?