The first month of the 2023 MLB season has been one of the most fascinating early campaigns in recent memory.
While our focus has been on the fallout from changes to the rulebook, the competitive aspects of the 2023 season have also been interesting. Is that good or bad? Well, that very much depends upon the team you root for.
If not for the rule changes, the dominant storyline so far might be about competitive inequality.
I track a metric I call "stratification score." Simply put, the higher the score, the more spread out the strength of the teams; the lower the score, the more across-the-board parity exists. During the postwar era in baseball (since 1947), the highest stratification score for any season by this measure has been 116, which happened in 1954. Last season, that figure was 94, which ranks sixth in the postwar period.
With the caveat that the following number will (hopefully) regress to the mean over the course of the season, here is the stratification score for 2023: 131.
That's a whopping figure. It's almost unbelievable unless you happened to look at the standings Friday morning and noticed the Rays (26-6) were already 20 games better than the Athletics (6-26). It doesn't seem possible.
We might call this the "Season of Stratification" -- though it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Let's see Bryan Cranston make a promo out of that.
All this means our task today in Stock Watch of offering up the best news for each team is made a little more difficult for the clubs that have already fallen well off the pace. Thankfully, as with most things, you can find a silver lining anywhere -- if you look hard enough.
Note: Season-to-date performance, blended with forward-looking projections of each team's roster, is used to run 10,000 simulations of the remainder of the season schedule and postseason. Teams are ordered by their average number of wins in the simulations.
Sim wins: 107.5 | Change (since Opening Day): +18.8
Probabilities: 92% (division), 100% (playoffs), 26% (title)
Best news so far: I very much just want to paste the lyrics for Pink Floyd's "Eclipse" into this comment, but we'll try to narrow down the Rays' unbelievable start to one single baseball item. And I guess you've got to pick between MVP candidates Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena. As much as I like the thought of Arozarena reading plaudits about himself and then doing that arm-crossing thing he does, I'll go with Franco. Expectations for Franco were as high as they get when he reached the majors at age 20. He did nothing to suggest that the hype was misguided even before this season. But his big league performance has supercharged in 2023, and it's awfully fun to watch. This is a generational player becoming a generational player.