Last weekend, VSiN studied key indicator categories for bettors to evaluate the chances that the Boston Red Sox might catch the New York Yankees in the American League East race. That now seems like a moot point. With a four-game series in Tampa Bay beginning Thursday night, let’s do the same with the Yanks and Rays.
Tampa Bay has plenty of time with just under half a season to go. The Rays would really be in striking distance if they can win three or four of this weekend’s battles. That said, Tampa Bay would have to lift its recent level of play and sustain it to have any chance of stealing the East.
Tampa Bay enters the series having played three more games than New York. Let’s equalize the sample size by looking at run differentials at exactly the 81-game mark. Those will be easy to mentally “double” to visualize a full season.
New York sat at plus 101 runs after jetting back from London, representing its 2019 midpoint. Tampa Bay was a math-convenient plus 81 after game #81. Both are clearly playing “playoff caliber” baseball. Last season, the Yankees won 100 games with a run differential of plus 182. Tampa Bay missed the postseason with 90 wins, but impressed with a plus 70 differential.
Worth noting that “recent form” paints a prettier picture for the Yanks. In the month of June, New York was plus 28, compared to a disappointing -2 for plateauing Tampa Bay.
Records vs. Teams over .500
New York thrived in this category even before tacking on two more wins overseas. Tampa Bay has been close to .500 vs. quality all season, doing the bulk of its damage against non-contenders (granting that winning half your games vs. good teams usually means you qualify as a good team yourself).
A reminder that VSiN believes focusing on “road-only” hitting stats provide the cleanest read for evaluating offenses. The Yankees entered the Boston series at six runs per game, then lifted that average a half-run higher because of two outings in a hitting paradise. Tampa Bay has been winning with pitching this season rather than hitting (with a stunning road ERA of 3.13!). The Rays will carry a mediocre 4.5 road scoring average into the All-Star Break.
New York has been much more injury-riddled, yet still has more impressive season-to-date stats.
Tampa Bay may be better than Boston, but the Rays aren’t likely to surpass the Yankees given respected indicators. That’s why the Yankees are near 90% to win the division given futures prices at global sports books, Tampa Bay near 12%. Boston has sunk to 9% after last weekend (sports books build universes larger than 100% to create a house edge).
There are no sure things in sports betting. But Tampa Bay and Boston appear to be playing for wildcard spots behind the heavily favored Yanks.