Monday, August 13, 2007
The case of the dissapearing "dominant teams"
Just something I've noticed while going through the records here on a hazy Monday morning...does it strike anyone else as odd that for the second straight year, a grand total of 0 teams can be projected out to win 100 games? As of right now, the Red Sox are closest, with a 70-47 record, which if you project out to their current .598 winning percentage, gives them 97 wins.
Last year, the Mets and Yankees tied for the best record, also both with 97 wins. In 2005, the Cardinals won 100 games on the dot in what has been historically over the last 7-odd years the weakest division in baseball, and the White Sox won 99. You have to go all the way back to 2004 to find a team that truly dominated their league, when the Cardinals won 105 games, and a hell of a lot of good it did them against the Red Sox.
Has baseball really changed that much just in the last few years? Technology expands, scouting is easier to integrate with all this new communication software, sure. I think it's fair to say that the playing field has been slightly evened, to where if you try hard as a small market, you won't embarrass yourself. I also think it's fair to say that teams have more money to spend and attract free agents with than ever before. Is this what's pushing us towards these 97 win "good but not great" best records? Or is it a more random fluctuation?
Historically, the last time before last year (and looking like this year) that we had 0 100 win teams in either league was 2000, when only one team won even 95 games (the White Sox, a lot of good it did them), it happened again in 96, when the Indians could only manage 99 wins. However, once is a blip, twice may be a trend. Are we really moving into an era where nobody in either league can even win 100 games?
I think this is primarily a credit to the small market teams. Whether or not you think Gil Meche was a smart signing, he definitely increased the Royals chances to not finish with 100 losses. Even the perennially clueless Pirates have lost 100 games just once in this decade, and the last team to lose 100 games in the NL was the ridiculously horrible 2004 Diamondbacks (aka Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, and 22 guys from your local Chuck-E-Cheese who looked pretty good at Skiball). Meanwhile, the AL had for a long time been able to count on beating up on the Royals and the Devil Rays and the Tigers in 2003, but for the most part these teams are making strides both in free talent and in rich talent, and these have finally paid off to where only the Devil Rays have a real chance at 100 losses, and that's mainly due to the fact that their bullpen has resembled Mel Rojas in his prime.
So, blame Gil Meche for the fact that there are no dominant teams. He was supposed to sign with someone good.