3 Up 3 Down (08/01/14)

By John Ewing
Three Up, Three Down - a look at the notable and disappointing teams from the month of July with updated rest of season projections for each team.

A sports rating system analyzes the results of sports competitions to provide objective ratings for each team. Rankings are then derived by sorting the team's rating and assigning an ordinal rank. A lazy analyst will add the word Power to the beginning of their ranking for added significance. An even lazier analyst will skip the whole ranking ordeal and cherry pick a few teams to talk about - which leads us to July's Three Up, Three Down column.

Three Up

Tampa Bay Rays
July: 17 Wins, 6 Losses, .739 Win Percentage
Season: 53 wins – 55 losses, 7.5 games out of 1st in the AL East

The Rays are two games under .500 and 5.5 games behind in the wild card. Not bad for a team that was 18 games under .500 on June 10th.

Tampa Bay is 9-2 since the All-Star break; the Rays have the best record in baseball since June 11th. All season, our numbers have said the Rays were better than their record indicated. At the end of June, Tampa Bay ranked 9th in our Power Rankings despite having the fewest wins in baseball.

Luck explains part of Tampa Bay's shortcomings in the standings. According to Ed Feng of the PowerRank, the Rays rank last in cluster luck, how good teams are at stringing hits together. If the Rays can bunch a few hits together, it is not hard to imagine a playoff run.

I wrote all of that before Tampa Bay traded David Price and seemingly gave up on the season. Still, you can't discount what the Rays accomplished over the last six weeks.

Los Angeles Angels
July: 19 Wins, 8 Losses, .704 Win Percentage
Season: 64 wins – 43 losses, 2 games out of 1st in the AL West

The Angels are looking like the team many expected last season. The Halos have the best offense in baseball ranking in the top five in runs, hits, and OPS (on base plus slugging).

Los Angeles' one weakness has become a strength. General Manager Jerry Dipoto added three relievers in three weeks. The Angels traded for Jason Grilli on June 27th, acquired lefty specialist Joe Thatcher on July 5th and sent four prospects to the Padres for closer Huston Street on July 19th.

The Halos have missed the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. Though that streak looks to come to an end this season with the Angels boasting the second best record in baseball, a trip to the postseason this year might be as a wild card team.

The Trade Deadline

The MLB Trade Deadline lived up to the hype. There were two blockbuster trades. Boston and Tampa Bay, two playoff teams from last year, traded their best starting pitchers. Oakland officially pushed all its chips into the pot in an attempt to win it all. Austin Jackson was actually pulled from center field in the middle of a game after the Price trade was finalized.

In all, twelve trades occurred involving 19 teams and 38 different players. The over/under for the number of trades on July 31st before the MLB Trade Deadline was set at 10.5 per Bovada.lv.

The Red Sox were the busiest team trading with four different clubs including the hated Yankees.

Three Down

Texas Rangers
July: 6 Wins, 20 Losses, .231 Win Percentage
Season: 43 wins – 65 losses, 23.5 games out of 1st in the AL West

Texas has the worst record in baseball, surprising for a team that won 91 games last season and was expected to contend for the AL West crown. The Rangers are one of just two teams (Tampa Bay is the other) that have won 90 or more games in each of the past four seasons. Both streaks will end this season.

The last team to win 40 games this season, the Rangers have dealt with numerous injuries. Nearly two dozen players have spent time on the disabled list. The pitching staff has been especially hard hit. Texas has used more than 30 pitchers this season, which ties a club record and leads the majors.

Milwaukee Brewers
July: 9 Wins, 16 Losses, .360 Win Percentage
Season: 60 wins – 49 losses, Leading NL West by 2 games

Before July, the Brewers were 51-33, had a 6.5 game lead in the NL Central and were 85 percent likely to make the playoffs. Milwaukee dropped ten of eleven games to start the month causing the club's playoff chances to drop to 68 percent.

At the trade deadline Milwaukee added Gerardo Parra. The 27 year old joins a talented outfield that includes former MVP Ryan Braun, All-Star Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis who has blasted 17 home runs this season. The Parra deal does not move the needle as the former Diamondback will serve as a defensive replacement.

Tampa Bay Rays
July: 17 Wins, 6 Losses, .739 Win Percentage
Season: 53 wins – 55 losses, 7.5 games out of 1st in the AL East

The Rays are the first team to be featured in both the Three Up and Three Down section of this article at the same time. Tampa Bay was a long shot to make the playoffs, they had to jump over five teams just to get the second wild card, but it was possible. Before the trade deadline we gave the Rays a 14.6 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. After trading their best player, Tampa Bay's odds to reach the postseason fell to 11.0 percent. Not a dramatic decrease, but not the type of move you would expect from a team in contention.

The Rays have successfully traded top tier talent (Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and James Shields) for young players in recent seasons. Even with the clubs stellar track record in trades, it is still hard to get excited about Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and Willy Adames if you are a Rays fan.