Go ahead and make your plans. The Tampa Bay Rays are a playoff lock.
I know there is still three-fourths of the season left. It doesn't matter. The Rays are going to the post season.
Let's run some numbers. Tampa Bay has a record of 30-11 at the one quarter mark. That's a pace to win 120 games. Win 100 games and you are a lock to not only make the postseason, but have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. So the Rays can slack off 20 wins from their current pace and still be looking at home field advantage.
That means that the Rays can lose approximately seven more games per 40-game stretch than they did to start the season. That is a record of about 23-17. Who thinks the Rays can't go 23-17 with this pitching staff, this defense and this offense? Anybody?
23-17 three more times gives the Rays 99 wins going into the season's final game. 22-18 gives the Rays 96 wins. Anybody remember when the last time a team won 96 and missed the playoffs? I don't.
21-19 three more times puts the Rays at 93 wins. For them to miss the playoffs, both Detroit and Minnesota would have to go 70-51 the rest of the way. Either that or a sub .500 Boston or Oakland would really have to catch fire. 21-19 is barely playing .500 ball.
Now I know the Rays are not going to win 120 games. They won't have another 29-11 record across 40 games. But how bad of a slump can we expect them to have? These guys have lost two series thus far. TWO! They have not been swept, not even in a two game series. They are an eye popping 17-4 on the road. They are 6-0 combined at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
So what happens when the bats go cold? Well, it already has. They had a perfect game thrown against them in Oakland on a Sunday. This was after losing a low scoring game the night before. They went to Anaheim from there and were shut out for the first seven innings, and lost in extra for the only three-game losing streak of the year.
They bounced back from there to win the last two games in Los Angeles, then came home to play three games against Seattle. They lost on Friday night 4-3, and trailed 2-0 after seven on Saturday before a two-run rally in the eighth and a walk-off homer from Willy Aybar in the ninth gave them the win. On Sunday, the Rays won another pitcher's duel against Cliff Lee, 2-1.
Then the Indians came in for two games. On Monday, the game went 11 innings with the Rays pulling it out to win 4-3 on a squeeze bunt. In that game, the Rays went hitless from the second until the seventh. The following day the score was 1-1 going into the sixth before the Rays put four on the board.
So that's a 10 game stretch with the bats being cold, where they went 6-4. If the Rays play at a 6-4 pace the rest of the year, they will win 102 games.
The Rays play the Astros in a three game series this weekend. If they sweep the lowly 'Stros, they will be 33-11. That's .750 ball. In other words, the Rays will have won three out of every four games this year. If that pace dips down the rest of the year and they end up at a two of three pace, that's a record of 108-54.
Print the playoff tickets.