In today’s edition of Diggin’ Through Tampa Bay Rays’ History, we take a look at the top five high-leverage seasons in the franchise’s short history.
What do we mean by the top five high-leverage seasons in Tampa Bay Rays‘ history?
Fangraphs actually uses an index that measures the leverage of each situation. They take into account the score, how many runners are on base, what inning, and how many outs. Essentially, they are able to pinpoint what is and what is not a clutch situation.
We are going to take a look a the top five most clutch seasons in Rays’ history based on the leverage index.
Notes: This list was compiled based on wRC+ and a minimum of 30 high-leverage at-bats in a single season.
5. Desmond Jennings – 2013
After coming out of nowhere to represent the American League in the 2008 World Series, the Rays had averaged 92 wins per season between 2008-2012. They would hit their average in 2013. The narrative on the young franchise had officially changed.
Desmond Jennings was in his fourth season as a big-leaguer and still trying to live up to the expectations of a top prospect that followed him out of the minor leagues. He had been ranked as high as the sixth-best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2010 season.
Despite finishing the full 2013 season with a .748 OPS he posted a .996 OPS in high-leverage situations in 2013.
4. Carlos Pena – 2008
Carlos Pena holds the fourth-highest high-leverage wRC+ in a single-season for the Rays. The previous season when the Rays only won 55 games, Pena was their best player in terms of rWAR at 7.2, in the run to the World Series in 2008, he again led them in rWAR with 5.1. Pena had established himself as one of the top home run hitters in the league. He made his mark on the Rays record books with 46 homers in 2007 – a record that still stands today.
Pena made another mark in the franchise’s books but it was in clutch situations in 2008. Pena finished the 2008 season with a 1.13 OPS in high-leverage plate appearances. He had 18 extra-base hits in just 59 high-leverage at-bats.
3. Sean Rodriguez – 2012
The Rays won 90 games that season. Rodriguez was a key utility infielder for the Rays. He split his time between second, third, and shortstop that year. His flexibility with the glove was a huge part of the appeal for Rodriguez, but he also brought the bat when it mattered most.
His .345/.441/.621 slash line in high-leverage situations that season was good enough to place him third on the Rays’ all-time list with a wRC+ of 193. What’s even more interesting thing about these clutch stats for Rodriguez is that in 2012 he finished the season with just a .213 batting average.
2. Travis Lee – 2005
In 2005, Travis Lee would play his second to last season in the major leagues. That didn’t stop him from hitting .448 in clutch situations with the Rays. His 223 wRC+ that season is good for the second-highest of all-time.
1. Randy Winn – 2002
The Rays were entering their fifth full season in the major leagues in 2002. To that point, they had never won more than 69 games and would go on to lose a record-low of 55 in the ’02 season. One bright spot in such a sad campaign was Randy Winn‘s play. Winn hit .298/.360/.461 for the season and contributed 39 doubles, nine triples, and 14 homers to go with his 75 RBI and 27 steals.
Winn would earn the lone All-Star appearances of his 13-year career in 2002. According to Fangraphs, Winn had 77 high-leverage plate appearances and hit .456/.506/.735. His wRC+ in high-leverage situations was a whopping 227 which is still a franchise record.