The first half was nowhere near ideal for the Rays. They went 45-41, leaving them 7.5 games back in the AL East. But given everything that happened, that had to be expected. Evan Longoria is out and Matt Joyce, Luke Scott, Desmond Jennings, and B.J. Upton have all missed significant time, rendering the Rays lineup without key contributors basically the entire season. Scott, Jennings, and Upton are all in the lineup with Joyce coming back soon and Longoria returning in August. The Rays hope everything can start clicking for them soon. And a 7.5-game deficit is far from insurmountable.
Here’s a chart of the Rays’ winning percentage and games back at the All-Star break since their inaugural season in 1998.
(Note that for winning percentage (blue line and left axis), higher is better while for games back (green bars and right axis), lower is better.)
Looking at this, we see that the Rays’ current situation is right around where they have been the last few seasons but is still their worst showing since 2007, even worse than the 2009 season where they missed the playoffs. But here’s the kicker- the All-Star break is pretty arbitrary as a dividing point. In 2011, the Rays were 6 back at the All-Star break but fell behind 10.5 games in the AL East after going 7-10 in July after the Break. That made things much harder for them and made winning the division nearly impossible despite an incredible August and nice finish in September. The Rays did take the Wild Card in 2011, as we all remember. But what about 2009? That year, the Rays were going fine until they fell apart in August. Their first half kept them in playoff contention, but later poor performance doomed them.
The Rays are currently just half a game out of the second wild card spot and just 3 games out of the first. They have a very good chance of making the playoffs. But don’t discount the division yet. If the Rays can get going, they are definitely within striking distance. They have never won the division after a deficit of more than 2 games at the All-Star break, but the history is limited and there’s a first time for everything. The Rays would love to be closer in the division race. But they will take the situation they are in, and with strong play in the second half, they have the ability to overtake everyone in front of them to win the AL East. Will it happen? Look forward to that question being answered in the second half of the 2012 MLB Season.