By now, we are familiarized with the fact that we will have a rather uncommon MLB season. Each team will play 60 games, far from the 162 we can usually enjoy year in, year out. Some former players and analysts, such as John Smoltz, have said that this format generates even more pressure for winning teams with high expectations, such as the New York Yankees, because they can’t afford any cold streaks in a competitive AL East.
That’s up for debate, but as far as projections go, the Yankees are still expected to claim the top spot in the American League East; they’re pegged above the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles, in that order.
That’s according to the ZiPS projections system, made by Fangraphs’ writer Dan Szymborski. With the season being so short, the odds of the Yankees, or any team leading the East, by more than five games like last year are very slim.
Here are the projected American League East standings, per Zips:
For the full projected standings, you can go to Fangraphs’ page, found here.
ZiPS has the Yankees finishing at 37-23, two games ahead of the Rays (35-25.) The Red Sox are projected to finish third, at 30-30, with the Blue Jays (27-33) not too far behind. The Orioles will be, per ZiPS, the worst team in the majors at 19-41.
Compared to the rest of the league, the Yankees are projected to finish with the second best record in MLB, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (38-22.) The Houston Astros are third, as they are expected to lead the American League West division with a 36-24 win-loss register.
The Dodgers added star outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price to an already solid roster, so they get the edge according to mentioned system, despite the fact that the Bombers also added Gerrit Cole.
Maybe with a healthy Luis Severino, the story would be a different one. However, we are talking about projections. They give us an idea of what could happen, but the final outcome will be decided in the field.
Strength of schedule
Let’s remember that each team will play ten games against every division rival, and four each versus the other league’s identical geographical region (East, Central, West.)
That means the Yankees are going to play ten games each versus the Red Sox, Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays and four games each against the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins.
Taking that into consideration, here is ZiPS’ strength of schedule chart:
ZiPS’ 2020 Strength of Schedule
|Blue Jays||. 508|
|Red Sox||. 499|
|White Sox||. 487|
Given the fact that the Yankees will face the Orioles and Blue Jays ten times each, and the Marlins four times, they have the third easiest schedule in the 2020 short season, at .483. That doesn’t mean the club should relax or give any competitive advantage, though.
The American League Central division is, once again, the weakest, making the schedule a piece of cake for the Minnesota Twins (.478) at least on paper. The O’s and the Marlins, at .525 and .522 respectively, have the toughest calendar per ZiPS.
We’ll have to wait and see how the Yankees handle talented teams like the Nationals, the Mets, the Phillies and the Braves. For now, the theory states they should feast on the lowly O’s and Marlins to pad their AL East lead. Let’s see if that comes to fruition.