Baumann: Can MLB’s dying middle class be saved?

From SABR member Michael Baumann at The Ringer on November 27, 2018:

Baseball’s best teams are more dominant than at any prior point in this century. In 2017, three teams won 100 games, which was the first time that happened since 2003. Then it happened again in 2018. From 2010 to 2014, only one team, the 2011 Phillies, posted a triple-digit win total. Because baseball is zero-sum—each season features an equal number of wins and losses—those wins have to come from somewhere.

This past season, three different teams lost 100 games in the same season for the first time since 2002, which seems to indicate that in addition to great teams getting better, awful teams are getting worse. But if there’s a trend so far in the young 2018-19 offseason, it’s that the top clubs in the league—the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, and the like—will soon find a new source of wins: not just the basement-dwelling clubs, but MLB’s disappearing middle class. This offseason, it’s not just rebuilding teams selling off aging and expensive veterans. Teams that until recently had playoff aspirations are also selling off good players on team-friendly contracts.

Earlier this decade, an above-average, but not great, team could sneak into the playoffs and, with a few breaks, make a run all the way to the World Series. The Royals won back-to-back pennants this way, and the Giants won the World Series three times with deeply flawed rosters.

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Originally published: November 29, 2018. Last Updated: November 29, 2018.