Rays of Light!

Nate Silver Rocks

On this day, a couple of days past midseason, Nate Silver talks about how PECOTA only projected the Rays to win 88-90 games this year, an audacious projection that now seems a little lily livered. That’s how good the Rays have been.

My goal here is to shout out about Nate’s analysis, which is excellent, but I have another objective. In Joe Sheehan’s column today he also takes on the Rays. Tucked behind the BP pay wall I can only guess at his overall point, but the tease is apologetic for not getting the Rays analysis right in the preseason.

But, and maybe Joe is being coy here, it was his analysis of the deal for Garza and Bartlett (oh so many months ago) that turned me on to what seemed like the key preseason Rays story. This was a defense that was moving from crap to good, and there would be some pitchers who would benefit. Based on that analysis, of Sheehan’s,  I made a bet on Edwin Jackson, a post-hype starter who finished fairly strongly last year, but whose historical ineptitude made him a $2 pickup in the endgame.

There is a ton we don’t know about defense and how it helps and hurts teams, but when a team like the Rays moves from the bottom of the defensive efficiency ratings to the top, and at the same time dramatically reduces the number of runs it allows, it may be time to say that we at least know what works.

Without shorting the shrift of the excellent Nate Silver, I think this defensive shift has been Sheehan’s baby the last few years (at least) and he deserves a lot of credit for seeing what was happening.