2019 Had a Lot of Meaningless Baseball

Have you ever been to a September game between two teams out of playoff contention? I have, and while I like a nice afternoon in the sun as much as anyone, the lack of excitement in the stadium is contagious. Empty seats are demoralizing to fans who want to root for the team — there’s no one around to echo their cheers, so the cheers start to feel perfunctory. If you went to the game to get the thrill of baseball rather than for a pleasant afternoon, you’re often in for a disappointment.

Of course, that feeling isn’t exclusive to September. Last June 14th, for example, the Pirates took on the Marlins in a Friday night game. Per our playoff odds, the Pirates stood a 1.4% chance of reaching postseason play. The Marlins’ odds rounded to 0%, and we have a lot of decimal places to round to. It was only June, but the two teams were already playing out the string. The crowd of 8,340 filled the stadium to roughly one-quarter capacity.

When pundits talk about baseball’s competition problem, these games are the ones they mean. There are bound to be meaningless games throughout the course of the season: a 162-game schedule leaves plenty of time to separate the wheat from…

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