For almost the last two decades, Baseball Prospectus has released their record projections for each MLB team prior to the season’s start. They use a system called “PECOTA,” which is an acronym for “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.” It is a system that uses sabermetrics in an attempt to forecast the performance of both the teams and the players. By no means is the system perfect, as it only accurately picked three out of the six division winners correctly in last season.
Last year the system gave the Yankees 95 wins. They ended up finishing the season with 103 wins, but it correctly chose New York to win the AL East, so I’ll give credit there. Not much has changed in the PECOTA projection for the 2020 AL East title. The Yankees are still looked at as the favorites. This time around, they’re projected to go 99-63, with a 89.1% chance to repeat as division winners and a 97.5% chance to punch a spot in the postseason. With their 99 wins, the Yankees would be the best team in the American League, thus clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which is something that has eluded them in recent years. Here’s a look at how the system believes the rest of the AL East will shape out:
None of these rankings seem out of the ordinary. The Rays were a strong team last year and have made some decent moves over the offseason. The Red Sox obviously took a hit by trading their best player in Mookie Betts and one of their top pitchers in David Price. Boston is clearly shifting their attention towards a rebuild rather than investing in talent to become a top competitor. The Blue Jays and Orioles are not seen as major threats either. According to PECOTA, the Yankees will cruise to the division title.
Looking outside the division and at who will be the Yankees’ toughest competition in the American League, the Houston Astros are slated to win 98 games in 2020, en route to their fourth-straight AL West title. The system does not seem to think that the loss of their manager, general manager, and Gerrit Cole will hurt them all that much. As for the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins are set to come out on top, with the Cleveland Indians trailing in second.
Now that we know the three division winners, the Wild Card game is expected to be in Tampa Bay as the Rays would host Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels. In fact, PECOTA projected the same exact playoff teams as 2019, except for the Oakland A’s getting bumped for the Halos. But, Trout making it back to the postseason should excite every baseball fan and would genuinely be a good thing for the sport, so no complaints there.
As for the National League, there are some projected shakeups. The New York Mets are estimated to be the victors in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball with 87.8 wins. Though, the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals are expected to be right on their tail with 87.1 wins.
After a flurry of offseason moves, the Cincinnati Reds are slated to come in atop the Central, ahead of the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers respectively. Out West, the Los Angeles Dodgers are forecasted to win a league-most 102.5 games, which would give them home field throughout the World Series if they were to get that far. The Wild Card game in the NL would be the Nationals hosting the Cubs.
These aren’t meant to be taken so seriously as they’re pretty much just educated guesses, but many people have to figure the Yankees should win the division again. It should be an exciting season either way.