ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have always prided themselves on defense, but the 2013 team may be good enough to be headed for the record books.
Through 131 games, Tampa Bay's 48 errors are the second fewest in Major League history -- behind the Orioles, who have just 39. Both teams are on pace to break the all-time record set by the 2003 Mariners, who had just 65 errors.
"Everybody is always going to focus on the team's offense because it's cool to do that, but we're only here because of our pitching and defense," manager Joe Maddon said. "You can't separate one from the other. They're good at the same time, and they help one another. That's who we are. We hit the jackpot regarding our acquisitions at shorstop and first base. [Ben] Zobrist has played his best second base, and [Evan Longoria] has been really good. We're pitching well because our defense has been outstanding."
Maddon has managed some impressive fielding teams since taking over in 2006, but he thinks this could be his best yet, and the numbers agree. The franchise record of 73 errors in a season was set in 2011. The Rays are on pace for just 59.
"I've seen us really good, but I have not seen us this good," Maddon said. "Part of being this good is making the routine play routinely. The spectacular play has been made, but a lot of it plays into our positioning and the work we do in advance to get the guys in the right spots. All of those things have led us to our great defensive year."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.