Before we get into the specifics of the Tampa Bay Rays Series 2 victory in Wednesday’s 2 Series, let’s throw away the all-time standings. These are the teams with the best win rates in a given season (including playoffs) in matches decided by two or fewer tracks:
2020 Tampa Bay Rays (.714)
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (.707)
1954 Cleveland Indians (.706)
1907 Chicago Cubs (.701)
This list tells you what you think he’s doing. After keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 in Game 2, Races have the best payout percentage ever in close games if you define close games as those that are decided by one or two tracks. They climbed to the top of that list by winning Wednesday, but if they have to lose a close in Game 3 on Friday, they will lag behind Honus Wagner-Fred Clarke Pirates, Bob Lemon-Early Wynn-Larry Doby Indians and the little ones of the era of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. This is an intoxicating company.
Success in nearby games comes from a combination of skill and luck. For so much, we can agree. For most of the history of baseball, skills have been given more subjective weight in proportion to this formula. Then, as baseball research accumulated in recent decades, luck began to be seen as a predominant but not exclusive factor. What is the correct answer?
During the early playoffs, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was asked about this over and over again, with the Rays’ single-player record (currently 16-7, after dropping his last two one-time games against Astros in the American Championship Championship Series) reached hard-to-believe levels. Cash, an analyst like him, is also quite rah-ra, and he rightly insisted that by repeating so many close games, Reyes had developed the trait of “knowing how to win.”
With Reiss’s three championship wins, who will prove Cash wrong?