In Andrew Zimbalist’s 2006 book In The Best Interests Of Baseball?, he wrote:
“[Commissioner Bud] Selig had a pet phrase that makes considerable sense: the fans of each team need to have ’faith and hope’ that their team has a chance to win at the beginning of each season. Without this faith and hope, fans will eventually lose interest, and the game will suffer.”
After reading that recently, I was inspired to create an annual Faith And Hope Report here at MLB Trade Rumors, so we can put a number on how many teams are competitive and track it over time. I’ll be combining FanGraphs’ projected playoff odds with my own common sense, and there is some subjectivity involved on the borderline teams. I’ll elaborate on those later in this post.
Teams that enter the 2019 season with faith and hope: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Indians, Twins, Astros, Athletics, Angels, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks
Teams that enter 2019 without faith and hope: Blue Jays, Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, Marlins, Giants
Conclusion: 70% of MLB teams have faith and hope of contending in 2019.
- The Blue Jays carry a 76 win projection and a 3.9% chance of reaching the playoffs. If a team has a high-70s win projection, we look at its offseason to determine its interest in winning. The Jays’ offseason was clearly that of a club that is not pushing to win in 2019.
- It feels like the White Sox tried to pull out of their rebuild in the 2018-19 offseason, but their pursuit of Manny Machado and other big names fell short. Looking at the veterans they did acquire, plus a 72 win projection and 1.1% chance of making the playoffs, and the Sox deserve to be lumped in with the Tigers and Royals in baseball’s least competitive division.
- The Rangers’ preseason projections are about the same as the White Sox. Texas spent a fair bit of money stocking their rotation with post-Tommy John pitchers, most notably Lance Lynn. But so many things would have to go right for this team to sniff the playoffs that we have to classify them as a team without faith and hope this year.
- The Mariners have already snagged a couple of wins in Tokyo, pushing their projection to 76 and playoff odds to 3.6%. GM Jerry Dipoto authored a complicated offseason that involved shipping off Jean Segura, Mike Zunino, Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, and James Pazos. In some cases, Dipoto acquired big leaguers in return, and he also signed Yusei Kikuchi, but it’s clear the Mariners are prepared to take a step back in 2019 even if they have not committed to a multiyear rebuild.
- The Reds have a 79 win projection, but the relative parity of the NL Central means they have a 15.7% shot at the playoffs. Plus, the Reds were clearly in go-for-it mode during the winter, bringing in Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood to lead a retooled rotation. They also added Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. An extension from the Reds will prevent Gray from reaching free agency after the winter, but all the other key acquisitions will be eligible. Give the Reds credit: they’re trying.
- The Pirates aren’t much better than a team like the Mariners, but the Bucs carry an 11.4% shot at the playoffs given their division. The club had an extremely low-key offseason, missing an opportunity to more clearly position themselves as contenders. The team did little to earn the designation of a team trying to win, but it’s still true that their fans have faith and hope entering the 2019 campaign.
- The Diamondbacks are a lot like the Pirates: they have a 77 win projection and a 9.7% chance at the playoffs. The team made bargain acquisitions and shipped off longtime star Paul Goldschmidt. Still, the D’Backs focused on Major League players in return for Goldy, who was in the final year of his contract. They are the most borderline of the borderline cases, but there’s enough chance of a long shot playoff run to put them in the “faith and hope” category.
- I can’t say the same for the Giants, who finished second in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes and own a 73 win projection and 3.5% chance at the playoffs. Like many of the teams listed here, I wouldn’t call the Giants a rebuilding team at present. However, their biggest offseason move was re-signing Derek Holland, their outfield may be the game’s worst, and it’s a club without a real chance of contending. Contrast that with the Padres, who might only be 4-5 wins better than the Giants but added a superstar player in Manny Machado and will conceivably look to add this summer rather than subtract.