Baseball Prospectus has released its yearly record projections for each Major League Baseball team. If you’re not familiar, they use a system called “PECOTA,” which stands for “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.” It’s a system that uses sabermetrics in an attempt to predict the performance of teams and players. By no means is the system perfect, as it only correctly picked two out of the six division winners correctly in last season, but it’s certainly fun to look at the projections.
In 2020, the Yankees were projected to win the American League East and make it all the way to the World Series. Obviously, that didn’t happen as the Tampa Bay Rays stole that title and galloped their way to represent the AL in the Fall Classic. However, with the losses of Blake Snell and Charlie Morton at the top of their rotation, the Rays will supposedly see a drastic drop in their win total, as PECOTA sees them winning around 86 games. The Yankees are estimated to win the division with roughly 97 wins, and the Bombers are given an 81.1 percent chance to come out atop the AL East in 2021. Those are the highest odds by any team in the entire league to win their division.
Going 97-64 would snap their streak of two straight 100-win seasons (excluding the 60-game season), but that’s no knock on the Yanks. Winning nearly 100 games and owning the best record in the American League is definitely something they can write home about. As for the rest of the AL East, it doesn’t seem as though the Yankees will have much of a problem with their competition.
Tampa is really the only team who could give New York a run for their money, but after that, Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore aren’t projected to pose much of a threat. With George Springer and Marcus Semien now in tow, though, the Baby Jays might think otherwise.
As for the rest of the American League, the projection says that the Twins and Astros will emerge as victors of their respective divisions. Minnesota will hover around 90 wins, while Houston will have slightly more at around 93. One of the biggest surprises to me was Cleveland finishing second in the AL Central and the White Sox placing third. Cleveland traded their best player in Francisco Lindor and lost two of their better arms in Carlos Carrasco and Brad Hand. Meanwhile, the White Sox added Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, and Adam Eaton. I certainly view Chicago as a better team than Cleveland heading into 2021, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Wrapping things up with the National League, the crosstown rival Mets will seemingly have an easy track to a division crown, as they’re projected to finish with approximately 95 wins, which would be 10 more wins than the second-place Washington Nationals. PECOTA is apparently not high on the three-time defending division champion Braves.
I don’t know if I want to stretch it too far, but it appears as though the NL Central will be almost like the NFC East of baseball in terms of mediocre/bad teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Brewers are projected to take the division at a mere 88 wins, with the Cubs and Cardinals finishing with 85 and 80 wins, respectively.
Finally, to no one’s surprise, the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers are predicted to finish with MLB’s best record at around 102-59, the only team to surpass that 100-win mark. The new and improved Padres aren’t too far behind, but the Dodgers still have a 78.4 percent chance of winning the West for the ninth straight season.
Of course, these are just projections. We still have to play the season and as Yankees fans know all too well, injuries can derail a season. The Yankees have some issues to address as we inch closer to the season, but they do seem equipped to make a run at World Series No. 28 in 2021.