Not With Their Bats

In 2007, Tampa Bay scored 782 runs and finished 8th in the league in scoring, scoring 98.6% as many runs as the average AL team.
In 2008, Tampa Bay scored 774 runs and finished 7th in the league in scoring, scoring exactly as many runs as the average AL team (the AL average dropped from 4.83/game to 4.78/game).
What changed, obviously, was all the pitching and defense. The Rays reduced their runs allowed from 944 runs, the highest in MLB, to 671 runs, a staggering 28.9% reduction in a single year.
Bleg – I’m thinking of looking for historical comparisons to see what precedents there are for a team reducing its runs allowed so dramatically in one season (I had looked briefly before the season while scoffing, obviously prematurely, at Baseball Prospectus’ notion that the Rays would do just that, but now we have a genuine point of comparison). Can anyone tell me if a study has been done on that? I may have missed it if somebody looked at this already and don’t want to reinvent the wheel if it’s already been done somewhere else.
Anyway, if you boil that down even further you see how much of their success is pure glove:

Year HR/9 BB/9 K/9 ERA UERA DER F%
2007 1.25 3.58 7.52 5.53 0.41 .650 .980
2008 1.02 3.25 7.06 3.82 0.33 .708 .985

Rays pitchers reduced their homers buy a good chunk this year and cut their walks, and those are certainly steps forward, but they also struck out fewer batters – but the dropoff of 300 fewer hits allowed and 27 fewer errors is mainly attributable to radically improved defense, as they went from the MLB-worst .650 Defensive Efficiency Rating on balls in play to an MLB-leading .708. The dropoff in unearned runs reflects that.

2 thoughts on “Not With Their Bats”

  1. An unbelievable turn-around on defense. Bartlett seems to get a lot of the credit, but apparently his defensive stats aren’t that great.
    I guess it’s multiple factors, one of which is replacing a shoddy SS with areal one, even if he wasn’t quite Ozzie.
    Also replacing Upton at 2B with Iwamura and then moving BJ to CF, where he’s a huge improvement over Dukes, Delmon Young, etc.

  2. That’s exactly right; the pear-shaped Bartlett replaced a guy at shortstop who had no business starting at all.
    Iwamura deserves a ton of credit for making a seamless transition to second base. Shades of Ryan Sandberg, only with about one half the stick.
    I’m guessing that simply getting Dukes out of the clubhouse was worth a few wins for Tampa Bay. What an amalgamated creep.

Comments are closed.