Monday, March 27, 2023

What to Do About Baseball Season?

Well, they've made a bunch more changes to Major League Baseball.  This year, they've changed the schedule, added a pitch clock, banned the shift, limited the number of pickoffs, and made the bases larger.  In my opinion, none of these changes reaches the real problem -- the fact that the great majority of MLB games are literally meaningless.  With the new expanded playoffs, you really only need to win about 87 games to get in, which means that any good team is sure to make it.  On the other hand, being really good doesn't make that much of a difference, because the playoffs inevitably lead to random results.  Last year, the Dodgers were much better than the Padres and the Braves were much better than the Phillies.  But these differences didn't matter -- the Padres and Phillies just had to beat their nemeses best three out of five to advance in October, and that's what they did.

So if you have a great team, there's no point in getting too excited -- you have to prove it all over again once the playoffs start.  And if you have a team that can't make the playoffs, you really have no point in getting excited -- because your team must be terrible.  Even for the teams that are in the middle, there's not much point in getting excited until the rosters get finalized at the beginning of August -- you won't know until then whether your team is really going for it or not.

So what should we fans do about this?  I still don't know.  Last year, I watched fewer games than ever, because I was overcome by the fact that regular season games just don't matter, and because I can't watch any game that goes to extra innings, because I can't abide the ghost runners.  I haven't decided what I'll do this year.  My guess is that until the end of June, I'll mainly watch golf and college baseball -- and maybe the last few rounds of the NBA playoffs.  Then I can decide what to do next.

In the meantime, here is my MLB preview.  For each league, I've ranked all teams by how many games they are expected to win, according to the over/under line in Vegas.  Teams in Bold are almost certainly going to the playoffs, and teams in italics are basically tanking.  So the regular season will have meaning only for the teams in the middle:

NATIONAL LEAGUE (over/under wins):
Atlanta:  96 1/2
Los Angeles:  96 1/2
New York:  94 1/2
San Diego:  93 1/2
Philadelphia:  89 1/2
St. Louis:  88 1/2
Milwaukee:  86 1/2
San Francisco:  81 1/2
Chicago:  76 1/2
Miami:  75 1/2
Arizona:  74 1/2
Pittsburgh:  67 1/2
Colorado:  65 1/2
Cincinnati:  65 1/2
Washington:  59 1/2

Houston:  97 1/2
New York:  94 1/2
Toronto:  90 1/2
Tampa Bay:  89 1/2
Cleveland:  86 1/2
Seattle:  86 1/2
Minnesota:  84 1/2
Chicago:  83 1/2
Texas:  81 1/2
Los Angeles:  81 1/2
Boston:  78 1/2
Baltimore:  76 1/2
Detroit:  68 1/2
Kansas City:  68 1/2
Oakland:  59 1/2


  1. Excellent summary. Excellent! My guess is that I'm going to love the pitch clock, that it won't do anything to improve any ratings and that the next move will be to get rid of the pitch clock and include more teams in the playoffs.

    1. The media LOVES the pitch clock. If the games are consistently being played in 2 1/2 hours, expect a blizzard of stories about how the pitch clock saved baseball.

  2. I was talking to dad yesterday about the 1954 Indians. That was fun. Let's face it baseball died in 1994 and it will never come back. They hoped that doping would save it but that just tarnished the sport more and they have done nothing to make it better. There has been a simple fix, (dead ball) for all these problems around how the game is played, but they refuse to implement that fix. Until the game is more than strike outs, walks, and home runs; it will never be the game it once was.

    1. I would pay good money for a well-researched book on what Bud Selig and the owners thought they accomplished with the changes they imposed in the early 1990's.

    2. Having said that, there has been a lot of great baseball played since 1994. I'm glad I saw the playoffs in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2016, and 2019. I'm glad I got to see Derek Jeter and A-Rod play baseball. I'm glad I got to see the Red Sox teams of the 2000's and the Nats teams of the 2010's. And I think there will be great baseball again. I have to find a way to identify the games that are meaningful to me, given all the changes they've made since 2019.

  3. The good news is that I have big plans to dig into my 1976 Topps baseball cards next week while on vacation.

  4. Nats got crushed at home on Opening Day, 7-2 by the Braves. They really did look like the worst team in baseball.

  5. Sparked by the defense and then offense of rookie-of-the-year Esteury Ruiz, a 24-year-old center-fielder from Azua, Dominican Republic, the A's beat the Angels, 2-1, on opening day. Shohei Ohtani (0-0) threw five scoreless innings and had a hit and walk (and two strikeouts) in four trips to the plate, but Oakland persevered!