The MLB Standings reveal only four or more games behind in their division: a delight for fans, stress for players, and $$ for MLB.
Only four teams, Minnesota and Detroit in the AL Central, Texas in the AL West, and Colorado in the NL West, begin play today, five or more games removed from first place.
In the Nation League East, all five teams are separated by a mere two-and-a-half in the MLB Standings, and no team has a record above .500.
The Oakland A’s got off to a 1-6 start in the American League West before they reeled off thirteen wins in a row. More of late, though, the A’s are 5-5 in their last ten and struggling to hold off the Houston Astros, winner of seven of their last ten, two games behind the pace, as is Seattle.
MLB Standings: Nothing But Oddities
How often do we find first-place teams with a negative run differential? Yet this year, MLB Standings show the Royals (-5), the Athletics (-5), Washington (-14), and Milwaukee (-2) holding leads in their division.
Check out the National League West where the Dodgers, the overwhelming choice to win it all, find themselves losers of seven of their last ten games, looking up at the surprising San Francisco Giants (17-11).
In 2019 and by contrast (no one counts 2020), twelve (not four) of the thirty Major league teams saw themselves already five or more games behind in the MLB Standings on May 1.
So okay, by now you see the point – but what does it matter, and what does it mean?
It means that we’re going to see more of the same, with little likelihood (save the Detroit Tigers) that there will be teams that get hot (or cold enough) to have an impact on their season – until all 162 are played.
MLB: Is There A Team Capable Of A Hot Streak
Consider, for instance, the 24 instances this season in which a team had lost four in a row; 14 saw the losing streak end right there. Three teams ended streaks in that next game in the four cases where a losing streak reached six games.
In the 28 times in 2021 in which a team had won four straight games, only 11 extended the winning streak to five.
Unlike revenue sharing in baseball, or the salary cap in the NFL, both of which are artificial attempts to manufacture parity, the MLB Standings this year is more of a reflection of the natural progression of baseball.
Almost all teams are structured to win games by the almighty home run, and when they fail to do so, they lose. Hence the preponderance of .500 records in the MLB Standings.
But pitchers are smarter than hitters these days, as we saw the other day when Corey Kluber (he of 97mph fastballs during his two-year reign as a Cy Young winner). At the same time, he stymied Detroit batters with a changeup that had them swinging from their heels, with seven of the ten strikeouts he recorded that day in a Yankees 2-0 win.
Major League Baseball sees the problem, so they are experimenting with a new rule in the minor leagues to inject more offense into the game by moving the mound back a full foot to accommodate hitters still trying to hit through the shift et.al.
MLB Standings: A Fan’s Dream
Beyond that, though, the MLB Standings reveal something bound to delight fans and send more $$ into the treasuries of the preponderance of teams, who will likely remain in the battle for the postseason until the bitter end.
If you are a fan of the Texas Rangers, dwellers as they should be in the last place in the AL West, you say what else could I have expected, but I’ll still attend their games because I sure like that brand-new state-of-the-art facility they built.
Conversely, if you are a fan of the Seattle Mariners, you say, “Holy cow, we’re two games over .500, and only two games removed from the top – Let’s Go, Mariners!”
As for the team owners, you know that already – the more, the merrier.
NASCAR fans watch races hoping for a two-lap shootout like there was last week in Kansas City when after 398 trips around the course, one guy won, and the other one didn’t.
MLB: Which Do You Prefer: Excellence Or Parity
If the MLB Standings hold the course they’re on, and there is little to think otherwise, we’ll see “shootouts” in almost every MLB Division, with teams losing playoff spots by no more than a game within the last day or two of season’s end.
Juxtapose that against MLB’s winningest regular-season teams. The Seattle Mariners, for instance, won 116 games in 2001.
Or, the 1998 New York Yankees went 114-48 (.704), sweeping the World Series.
What do we treasure most in this game of baseball? A good and tight pennant race, or a team that strives for and achieves excellence, running far away from the pack?
This year, the MLB Standings points to a year where the question doesn’t matter, only because there isn’t a team that will rise to collect the cream at the top.
And so, as the lyrics go in the song, I suppose “I’ll See You In September” – “when the summer’s through”…
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…