The Rays’ Name Conspiracy

By Robbie Knopf

What if the Rays had a conspiracy where they would only allow players with certain names to play for their team? Well, they don’t, but there are some interesting things regarding the Rays and certain first and last names.

We start with the surname Cobb. 6 players with the last name have been drafted since 1996, the year the Rays first entered the draft. 3 of them have been drafted by the Rays, most notably current big leaguer starter Alex Cobb. If each last name is really divided evenly among all 30 MLB teams, the probability of that occurring is 10 billion to one.

That sample size was pretty small, so let’s get to some more common names. The Rays have drafted 3 of 52 “Moore”s since 1996 including Matt Moore. That’s a 6 to 1 probability of occurring, relatively likely (but don’t let the people at the lottery tell you that). However, some of the figures for other names (since ’96) are pretty staggering. They have drafted 4 of 27 “Wade”s (first and last name), which has a 2,250 to 1 chance of happening. They have selected  4 of 25 “Price”s (most notably David Price), 4,779 to 1 odds. And finally, they have gone with 4 of 22 “Reid”s (first and last name), which has a 19,128 to 1 chance of occurring. Why have the Rays favored these relatively common names so much?

And here’s a couple more conspiracies. The Rays have also have selected 2 of 4 “Beckham”s, 9,988,048 to 1 chance. And finally, only two “Chris Mason“s have ever been drafted, both by the Rays. The odds of that happening is 76 trillion to 1.

What is really going on here? There’s a statistical concept that if you run enough tests you’ll end up with a bunch of significant results by chance alone. That’s exactly what’s happening considering we’re checking for the first and last for every player every single player ever drafted by the Rays. The Rays have drafted 936 players over their franchise history, who have a lot of different names.

There is only one actual conspiracy going on here: the Rays selected Tim Beckham number one overall in 2008 and he also wanted them to select his older brother, Jeremy Beckham, which they did in Round 17. How did that work out? Well, Tim has not been as good as the Rays have hoped, while Jeremy has been out of baseball since 2010. The lesson: don’t get involved in conspiracies. We also learn here, though, that if you have enough data and run a whole barrage of tests, you will get a few results that will make observers who don’t know what they’re talking about think that there are conspiracies going on.