July 22, 2020 [LINK / comment]
The 2010s: a decade of baseball in review
Since fate has robbed baseball fans of almost four months of expected enjoyment this year, it is perhaps fitting, on the eve of Opening Day 2020, to take a look backward. Soon we will be all caught up in the frenetic division races in this severely abbreviated season, and the recent past will fade from our eyes. And so, based on a compilation of records for the past ten years, I offer this review of the baseball during the decade that just finished, 2010-2019.
One can measure success in baseball (or almost any sport) by the winning record during the regular season, and then by how well the teams due in the postseason championship series. Usually teams that do well by one measure do well by the other measure as well, but the table below shows that there are many exceptions. The San Francisco Giants won three World Series during the decade (2010, 2012, and 2014), but their regular season record was barely above .500 overall. The New York Yankees (and until 2019, the Washington Nationals) were a lot like the Atlanta Braves of the early 2000s, routinely winning their division or at least a wild card spot, but not making it to the World Series. In contrast, the Kansas City Royals were well below .500 for the decade as a whole, and yet they won the American League pennant both times they qualified for the postseason: 2014 and 2015. Perhaps the most consistently good team was the Boston Red Sox, who won two World Series, and ranked #5 in regular season wins from 2010 to 2019.
Indeed, it may come as a surprise to some people that the Washington Nationals rank fourth among all major league teams in terms of total regular season game wins (879) during the 2010s. It would probably come as an even bigger surprise that, excluding the first two years (2010 and 2011), the Nationals won more regular season games (730) than any other major league team! From that perspective, the Nats' World Series victory in 2019 was long overdue. The Yankees came in second with 729 games over those eight years, 2012-2019. See the Washington Nationals page for more details, year by year.
|Team||Regular season game wins
(810 = 50%)
|Postseason appearances||World Series wins||World Series losses|
|New York Yankees||921||7||0||0|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||919||6||0||2|
|St. Louis Cardinals||899||6||1||1|
|Boston Red Sox||872||4||2||0|
|Tampa Bay Rays||860||4||0||0|
|Los Angeles Angels||822||1||0||0|
|San Francisco Giants||821||4||3||0|
|Toronto Blue Jays||794||2||0||0|
|New York Mets||793||2||0||1|
|Kansas City Royals||758||2||1||1|
|Chicago White Sox||743||0||0||0|
|San Diego Padres||739||0||0||0|
|Miami (Florida) Marlins||707||0||0||0|
SOURCE: Regular season wins (first column) from baseball-reference.com; other three columns are from the Postseason scores page on this website.
Setting aside all those numbers, which World Series of the past decade was most dramatic and/or memorable? I'm biased, of course, but I think most people would agree that the 2019 Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros contest would rank high in that regard. All seven games were won by the visiting team, and in three of the Nationals' four victories they came from behind. In part for historical reasons, most people would say that the Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians series of 2016 was the biggest. The Cubs had to win the last three games, two of them on the road, and the final one in extra innings on a freak rain delay that probably tipped the balance in their favor. It's a shame that one of those two long-suffering teams had to lose, just as it was a shame that the Houston Astros' 2017 victory will be forever tainted by that cheating scandal. Perhaps the biggest World Series disappointment was in 2011 when the Texas Rangers came within a hair's breadth of winning it all in Game 6 (in St. Louis), only to lose to the Cardinals in extra innings, and then losing Game 7 the next day. This was a year after the Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants; back-to-back World Series losses are hard to take for teams that had never made it that far before.
As mentioned above, even though the Yankees had the winningest regular season record and reached the postseason more often than any other team from 2010 to 2019, they failed to win the American League pennant even once. Quite bizarrely, this was the first decade in almost a century that the Yankees failed to reach the World Series at all!
World Series wins
World Series losses
SOURCE: The Annual baseball chronology page on this website.
Ballpark changes in the 2010s
After a veritable explosion of new ballpark construction in the 1990s (10) and 2000s (12), it is no surprise that only three new MLB stadiums were built during the 2010s: Target Field (2010), Marlins Park (2012), and Truist Park, originally called SunTrust Park (2017). We already have one new stadium this decade (Globe Life Field), and one would think that both the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays will get new stadiums by the year 2029. Maybe the L.A. Angels will get a new one as well.
In addition, the following ballparks underwent significant renovations or modifications during the 2010s: Dodger Stadium and Coors Field* (2014); Progressive Field* (2015); Wrigley Field (2015 and 2018); and Tropicana Field* (2019). These are listed on the Stadium chronology (annual) page. Those marked with asterisks (*) underwent major reducations in seating capacity, but only at Coors Field and Progressive Field did this entail upgrades in the facilities -- fancy social gathering places, etc. At Tropicana Field they just closed the upper deck in 2019, much like the upper deck of Oakland Coliseum was closed from 2006 through 2016.
Six MLB stadiums had their names change over the course of the decade, not counting the quick reversion of "O.co Coliseum" (2011 only) to its old name (Oakland Coliseum) in 2012. In 2010 Dolphin Stadium / Landshark Stadium became Sun Life Stadium; it was later renamed "Hard Rock Stadium" in 2016, but that was after the Marlins had departed. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington became Globe Life Park in 2014, U.S. Cellular Field became Guaranteed Rate Field in 2017, and Safeco Field and AT&T Park became (respectively) T-Mobile Park and Oracle Park in 2019. (SunTrust Park became Truist Park in January of this year, but that's not part of the last decade.)
Finally, three MLB stadiums were demolished during the past decade: Yankee Stadium (2010), Metrodome (2014), and Candlestick Park (2015). We are currently in the longest period (five years and counting) without any MLB stadiums being demolished since the late 1980s/early 1990s. The most likely next stadium to be demolished is RFK Stadium, perhaps as soon as next year.
T-Mobile Park tiny tweak
I recently saw an overhead aerial photo of a baseball diamond and empty seats in the Washington Post, and I assumed it was Nationals Park. But then I noticed some big differences and realized it had to be somewhere else. Eventually I deduced that it was T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) in Seattle, but the curvature of the backstop did not conform to my Safeco Field diagrams, which were last updated in 2015. So, I did some photographic sleuthing, and soon determined that the distance behind home plate is about 52 feet, rather than the 56 feet that I had previously estimated. Is that a big deal? Yes!!! And so, I updated the diagrams on the Safeco Field / T-Mobile Park page, also rendering the dugouts a bit thinner than before and adding an entry portal; there were no other changes of note. (You can compare to the previous version by clicking on the diagram on that page, and for the time being you can can see the change in the backstop configuration by rolling over the thumbnail image above.) My estimate of foul territory at T-Mobile Park was reduced from 24,300 square feet to 23,900 square feet, a decrease of 400.