Top stats to know: Tampa Bay Rays

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Evan Longoria is the Rays most valuable offensive player.With Baseball Tonight at Tampa Bay Rays spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about the team that just missed the playoffs despite winning 90 games last season.

More with Less

Over the last three seasons, the Rays have won 277 games. Only three teams have won more--the New York Yankees (287), Philadelphia Phillies (280) and Texas Rangers (279).

The three teams ahead of them combined to spend more than $1 billion on their Opening Day payrolls in that span. The Rays total commitment was approximately $178.6 million.

The Longoria Impact

Much of the Rays success is predicated on the health of third baseman Evan Longoria .

Tampa Bay Rays – 2012 Season

When Longoria played last season, the Rays went 47-27. When he didn’t, the Rays were 43-45. As the chart on the right shows (provided by the Elias Sports Bureau), his presence made a major difference in the team’s offensive success.

Longoria posted an .896 OPS in his 74 games last season, the best mark of his career. But he only played 50 games at third base (he was a designated hitter on other days).

With Longoria's health an issue, the Rays were forced to give 263 at-bats at the hot corner to Sean Rodriguez, Will Rhymes, Elliot Johnson, Drew Sutton, Ryan Roberts, and Reid Brignac. They combined to hit .198 with five home runs.

Wil Myers Watch

The Rays figure to count on rookie outfielder Wil Myers, whom they obtained in the trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals, to add power to their lineup.

Only two Rays rookies have had more than 13 home runs in a season--Evan Longoria, who hit 27 in 2008, and Jonny Gomes, who had 21 in 2005.

Shift in Approach

The Rays led the majors in defensive shifts used last season and those produced a net effect of 10 Defensive Runs Saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

Pitcher to Watch: Matt Moore

Matt Moore went through his share of ups and downs in his first full season in the major leagues, but his performance after the All-Star Break (3.01 ERA) gave Rays fans significant reason for optimism.

Matt Moore

MooreParticularly impressive were Moore’s first nine starts out of the break, in which he posted a 2.08 ERA and held opponents to two home runs and a .591 OPS in 56 1/3 innings pitched.

Key to that was Moore’s ability to keep his fastball down. He upped the percentage of fastballs he threw in the lower half of the strike zone from 41 percent in the first half to 50 percent during his successful run.

With that, the number of home runs hit against his heater dropped from 12 (one every 96.5 pitches) to one (on 568 pitches).

Cost-Efficient Relief

The Rays had one of the best bullpens in the majors last season, posting a bullpen ERA of 2.88 (third in MLB). With four of their expected top six relievers returning from 2012, many believe they can do it again this season—and do it on the cheap.

Collectively, Rays relievers are guaranteed approximately $11 million this season. For the sake of context, Nationals closer Rafael Soriano ($14M) and the Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon ($13M) are each guaranteed more than that by themselves in 2013.