Arthur: Baseball’s competitive balance is broken

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on September 20, 2019:

Before the 2019 season began, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was already sensitive to arguments about tanking and competitive balance. Answering questions from reporters, Manfred denied that teams intentionally losing games was having any major impact on the league, saying: “There has been no meaningful change in the distribution of winning percentages in Major League Baseball.”

He was wrong then (as I pointed out at the time), but 2019 has conclusively shown just how distorted the league’s competitive balance has become. And regardless of whether Manfred sees a problem or not, some teams appear to be adjusting their strategies to cope with the new reality of contention in baseball.

To analyze Manfred’s statement in February, I checked the winning percentages of the top (best) and bottom three (worst) teams in baseball. If there had been no change in winning percentages, then the gap between the best and worst teams ought to have been historically average.

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Originally published: September 20, 2019. Last Updated: September 20, 2019.