As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus has the Rays odds of making the playoffs at 20.2 percent. Those odds aren’t just plucked from the air, but come after Prospectus simulates the season countless times using the PECOTA projections and on-site depth charts. It shouldn’t be a surprise that such a methodology likes the Red Sox and Yankees better, because those teams look more talented at this point in the season.
If someone told you in late March that by May 24 the Rays would have Elliot Johnson, Casey Kotchman and Andy Sonnanstine playing significant roles, and that Justin Ruggiano and Felipe Lopez would be on the roster, then I think it is safe to say nobody would expect the team to be in first place. Add in Reid Brignac and Dan Johnson hitting poorly, Manny Ramirez retiring, and Evan Longoria missing a month with an injury and it is rather incredible that the Rays are in first place.
It is at this point in these articles that Joe Maddon is credited for “holding the team together” and all that jazz, but I’m not certain any manager in the world can continue to steer this team in first place. It’s a real top-heavy unit. Look at the lineup most days, and once the top five or six bat, the offense is going to sleep. Defensively, the group is solid, like usual, and the pitching staff has done quite well too, it is just that the talent level of this roster feels below the 2008-2010 offerings.
Unless the roster gets a few upgrades along the way (and two or three could be coming in June/July), I just don’t see how the Rays hold off the Yankees and Red Sox.