- MLB Opening Day is Thursday, kicking off the 2018 season.
- Analytics site 538 suggests just five teams could dominate this season.
- The top-heavy league may be the result of a tanking epidemic in which it appears almost a quarter of the league won’t be competitive this year.
MLB is back!
Thursday is Opening Day in MLB, as teams return to the field after the long winter break, set for the 162-game marathon that is the MLB season.
According to 538, the 2018 season may be a bit more lopsided than usual, with five teams ranking as the heavy favourites to win the World Series. 538 only gives seven total teams a better than 5% chance to win the World Series, and those same seven teams are the only ones with a better than 50% chance to make the playoffs.
The favourites are:
- Cleveland Indians – 14% chance of winning the World Series
- Houston Astros – 14% chance of winning the World Series
- Los Angeles Dodgers – 13% chance of winning the World Series
- New York Yankees – 10% chance of winning the World Series
- Chicago Cubs – 10% chance of winning the World Series
The Boston Red Sox have an 8% chance of winning it all, while the Washington Nationals have a 6% chance, according to 538.
So why are these powerhouse teams such heavy favourites? Some of that is due to significant additions, like the Yankees landing Giancarlo Stanton, while teams like the Astros and Dodgers mostly returned the teams that got them to the World Series last year, as did the Indians and Cubs with clubs that were considered contenders.
Another factor may be the tanking epidemic hitting the sport. An unusually large number of franchises seem to be in rebuilding phases, which led to a turbulent offseason in which many of the top free agents went unsigned for long stretches of time. The situation led to a standoff between players, clubs, and MLB, with teams saying they did not want to spend money on rebuilding rosters while players wondered if collusion was a more likely explanation.
While the most prominent names were eventually signed, it still appears that perhaps a quarter of the league may be tanking or rebuilding this season. 538’s model seems to reflect this strategy as it gives seven teams a less-than-10% chance of even making the postseason. 17 teams are predicted to have below-.500 records.
While baseball can produce some unexpected results, and there’s a gaggle of teams in the middle pack that could break out or slide down, even in March, it seems like we have a good idea of who will be playing come October.