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 in 2019, 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. 70% of teams had hope in 2019 by my estimate. Given the strange nature of the 2020 season, I skipped that year. To make this assessment for 2021, I’ll be combining FanGraphs’ projected playoff odds with my own common sense, and there is subjectivity involved on the borderline teams. I’ll elaborate on those later in this post.
Teams that enter the 2021 season with faith and hope: Dodgers, Padres, Yankees, Mets, Astros, Braves, White Sox, Twins, Blue Jays, Brewers, Angels, Red Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, Rays, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, Indians, Phillies, Royals, Giants, Marlins
Teams that enter 2021 without faith and hope: Rangers, Pirates, Rockies, Orioles, Tigers, Diamondbacks, Mariners
Conclusion: 76.67% of MLB teams have faith and hope of contending in 2021.
- The Royals have a 8.9% chance at making the playoffs, with a 78 win projection. As a team that very clearly worked to get better in the offseason and could make further additions at the trade deadline, they belong in the contender category.
- With a 5.2% chance at the playoffs and a 76 win projection, the Giants are a tough one. With the Dodgers and Padres in their division, their playoff chances rest almost entirely on grabbing one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots. Their offseason involved some decent veteran contracts, including an accepted qualifying offer for Kevin Gausman and almost $42MM in additional commitments. I’d say there’s some faith and hope for their fanbase this year.
- The Mariners have a projected 2.7% shot at the playoffs and a 74 win projection. It wasn’t a particularly aggressive offseason, and one of their bigger acquisitions, Ken Giles, won’t pitch this year. They did add James Paxton, Rafael Montero, and various smaller pickups. This isn’t a playoff caliber team and I sense that they’ll truly go for it in 2022, so I am going to nudge them into the non-contender category.
- The Diamondbacks have a 1.6% chance at the playoffs and a 72 win projection, and like the Giants they’re hurt by the division they’re in. It’s a fairly veteran club, and Baseball Prospectus has them better than the Giants. But with a significant payroll cut and a quiet offseason, this doesn’t seem like a team with playoff aspirations. Arbitrary as it may be, I’m putting them in the non-contender category.
- The Marlins have just a 1.3% chance at the playoffs, per FanGraphs, with a 71 win projection. Baseball Prospectus says 70. This club made the playoffs in 2020 with a season that extrapolated to about 84 wins. They would have just missed the postseason if not for the expanded format. The club’s quiet offseason doesn’t tip the scales much. The Marlins did pick up Starling Marte’s option and didn’t lose anyone too significant. This one could go either way, but based on last year I have to lean toward the contender category even if the projection systems call for major regression.