Arthur: The Astros and Dodgers might be even stronger than we thought

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on October 4, 2019:

In this new era of competitive balance, the gap between the best and the worst teams in baseball is wider than it has ever been. Teams at the bottom, who are sometimes losing intentionally to improve their draft position, are poor fodder for the dominant rosters at the top of the league. One school of thought goes that the impressive records racked up by the class of baseball–in particular, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros–are being inflated by getting to face this weaker slate of opposition than in previous years.

A close examination of the records of these three juggernauts shows that’s not the case. While the trio have feasted on feeble competition, there’s some indication that they’ve actually been pulling their punches. And that means that the three most dominant teams in baseball might be even stronger than our playoff projections account for.

Good teams have always built much of their run differential by beating down and blowing out cellar dwellers. What has made this year different is that the gap between the haves and have-nots in the league has become historically large. Bottom-dwellers like the Tigers are fielding almost replacement-level teams. Strong opposition naturally runs up the score against them.

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Originally published: October 4, 2019. Last Updated: October 4, 2019.