HomeTeamsRaysAre the Rays lucky?

Are the Rays lucky?

Baseball has been described as a game of inches (except in Canada). But there is more math involved. The whole game is numbers and measurements. A pitcher’s mound is 60 feet and six inches. Bases are 90 feet apart. However, the distances of outfield fences and height of walls vary from ballpark to ballpark.

Accomplishments of players are recorded and processed into data. Data is used to create statistics, which require more math. There is a statistic for everything in baseball. Formulas can be used to calculate batter success, pitcher success, and team success. But what about luck? Can luck be measured? How many wins or losses are caused by luck?

Pythagorean Winning Percent is a formula created by Bill James. Bill James is the founder of all statistical research involving baseball. This formula estimates a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. According to MLB.com, the concept is to determine the number of game that a team should have won. So, technically, it is measuring a team’s luck. How lucky have the Rays been?

1998 Record: 63-99 Pythagorean W-L: 67-95 Four game different (Unlucky)

1999 Record: 69-93 Pythagorean W-L: 69-93 Even

2000 Record: 69-92 Pythagorean W-L: 70-91 One game difference (Unlucky)

2001 Record: 62-100 Pythagorean W-L: 61-101 One game difference (Lucky)

2002 Record: 55-106 Pythagorean W-L: 58-103 Three game difference (Unlucky)

By using the Pythagorean winning percentage to compare the first five seasons of the Rays franchise, the team was “unlucky” in 1998, 2000, and 2002. The 2001 team was “lucky” by a single game. Now imagine if the team was “lucky” by five games. That could get a team in the playoffs. The 2001 Devil Rays were better than expected. Records show that the Rays franchise were not successful in their first decade of existence. However, in the past five seasons, the Rays have been extraordinarily successful. Let us use the Pythagorean formula on successful teams.

2019 Record: 96-66 Pythagorean W-L: 93-69 Three game difference (Lucky)

Without these three wins the Rays would have the same record as the Cleveland Indians causing a one-game playoff.

*2020 Record: 40-20 Pythagorean W-L: 36-24 Four game difference (Lucky)

These four games prevented a three-way tie between the division leaders. Plus, if those four wins were to be taken away of the Rays and giving to the trailing Yankees, the Yankee would have taken the division title. The post season matchups would have been rearranged. Do the Dodgers still win the World Series?

2021 Record: 100-62 Pythagorean W-L: 101-61 One game difference (Unlucky)

2022 Record: 86-70 Pythagorean W-L: 87-75 One game difference (Unlucky)

2023 Record: 99-63 Pythagorean W-L: 100-62 One game difference (Unlucky)

If the Rays could have won an additional game over the Astros or the Rangers during the regular season, maybe the Rays would not have faced the Rangers in the first round of the playoff.

Although skills, injuries, and schedules are all factors of the game, luck is involved too. The unsuccessful Rays in the early years had a record of 1-3-1 (Lucky-Unlucky-Tie) with no playoff appearances. The Rays teams in the last five years had a record of 2-3 with five consecutive postseason appearances and reached the World Series.

Does luck influence the game?


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