More than half of MLB teams are on pace to win or lose 100 games in 2018
The early effects of too many teams not trying to compete? Possibly
So far this season, a number of MLB teams have been accused of either outright tanking or at least not doing their level best to field the best roster possible. Given that there aren't any structural impediments to this kind of approach in the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- and given that the 2016 Cubs and 2017 Astros have acutely reminded us that such an approach can work -- it's likely not going away.
It's too early to state definitively what this pandemic is going to do to the 2018 season, but we can take note of some interesting trends. Let's take a look at the current standings prior to Wednesday's slate ...
|AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST|
|N.Y. Yankees||13||9||.591||4||135||104||31||9-5||4-4||9-8||3-0||0-0||7-3||W 4|
|Tampa Bay||8||13||.381||8½||88||108||-20||6-7||2-6||1-8||5-1||2-1||5-5||W 4|
|AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL|
|Chi. White Sox||5||15||.250||6½||74||125||-51||2-9||3-6||2-4||2-4||1-7||2-8||L 1|
|Kansas City||5||16||.238||7||70||117||-47||1-8||4-8||0-3||4-7||1-5||2-8||L 1|
|AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST|
|L.A. Angels||16||8||.667||-||123||104||19||5-7||11-1||0-3||5-1||10-2||5-5||W 2|
|NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST|
|N.Y. Mets||15||6||.714||-||102||85||17||7-4||8-2||10-4||5-2||0-0||5-5||W 1|
|NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL|
|St. Louis||13||9||.591||1||106||80||26||5-5||8-4||1-3||11-4||1-2||8-2||L 1|
|Chi. Cubs||11||9||.550||2||120||89||31||3-4||8-5||3-3||5-5||2-1||6-4||W 2|
|NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST|
|L.A. Dodgers||11||11||.500||5||98||84||14||7-7||4-4||3-2||0-0||7-8||7-3||L 1|
|San Francisco||11||12||.478||5½||74||80||-6||5-4||6-8||2-0||0-0||6-10||5-5||W 3|
|San Diego||9||16||.360||8½||97||123||-26||4-10||5-6||0-0||0-3||8-11||4-6||L 1|
You'll note, of course, the two extremes marked by the Red Sox (on pace for 125 wins!) and Reds (on pace for 127 losses!). The other thing to note, though, is that the Red Sox and Reds have a lot of company at those extremes. Right now, 16 teams -- i.e., more than half the league -- is on pace either to win or lose 100 or more games. Tidily enough, we've got eight of each, which isn't especially surprising when you consider the zero-sum nature of wins and losses in a given league.
The record for most 100-win and 100-loss teams in the same season is six, set in 2002. Obviously, using the raw total of 100-win and 100-loss teams means we're more likely to set that mark in expansion era and in the overlapping era of the 162-game schedule. Indeed, that's what's happened here. Obviously, the 2018 season is on pace to crush that mark.
"On pace to," however, is a tricky qualifier, and it leads to all sorts of hasty conclusions. So let's instead look back throughout recent history (say, from 2000 onward) and see how many teams as of April 25 of each year have been on pace for 100 wins or 100 losses. Here are the results, in eye-pleasing graphical format ...
As you can see, in 2018 we have the most "100 squads" at this point of the season since ... the record-setting campaign of 2002. Of course, we got an earlier start in 2018 so we're working with a larger sample of games. That probably works against 2018 when it comes to these calendar-based comparisons.
Insofar as 2002 is concerned, the pace you see above dropped off pretty quickly. By April 26 of that year, 13 teams were on pace to win or lose 100 or more games. By April 28, the figure was 11. The next day it was 10. By May 2 it was nine. By May 10 it was down to seven. And so on. There's the roadmap for 2018. If this season continues at something close to its current pace as we get into May, then we may be headed for history of a fairly obscure kind, perhaps driven by the bad-faith efforts of too many clubs.
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