Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Author: Cobey K.
As I do every year, over the last few days I sat down to make my 2020 MLB Season predictions. I couldn’t help but keep circling back to how weird I think this year will ultimately end up looking. Not only visually without fans in the seats but all across the board. I can already hear the arguments being made about which record/stats needs an asterisk. What if someone bats .400? pitches to a sub-1 ERA? That doesn’t even start to address the large and small scale rule changes for 2020: 3-batter minimum for relief pitchers, a man starting on second base in extra innings, a DH in the NL, what?
And then I kept coming back to “Is this season even going to work as planned.” I think it’s far from a guarantee that this all just flat out works for 3 months. The Blue Jays already found out they can’t play home games in Tornoto and are scrambling to find a new temporary home. Who knows what the next obstacle might be. Just goes to show that in these uncertain times, we don’t know what we don’t know.
What we DO know is that there is going to be regularseason action on the field this Thursday and I’m ready to consume some MLB product. While I tend to doubt I’ll be as accurate as usual in these predictions in this small-sample-size overall weird year, if nothing else, working through these got the juices flowing and I’m stoked to be talking baseball again.
For a deeper dive, listen in on Sode 257 of The Charity Stripe. For now, some notes on my predictions and expectations for the 2020 MLB Season. (7/23 NOTE: expanded playoffs additional notes attached at bottom)
I see a 6-horse race in the AL (2 from each division separating from the rest of the pack) fighting for the Division Titles and subsequently a spot in the Wild Card game.
· I love the Rays arms and am super excited to see how they deploy their malleable staff.
· No easy out up and down the Yanks powerful lineup. Barring health concerns give them the division.
· Top of the Indians staff is super-elite and they run the best left-side-of-the-infield in baseball.
· The Twins set a record for most team HRs last year and have only added more pop and more arms.
· Both these teams will feast on the bottom of this division (and a middling-at-best NL Central).
· Houston’s rotation will miss Cole bad, opening up the division slightly, but the lineup is top to bottom loaded with professional AB’s and pop. Added bonus of no away fans to boo from the seats.
· Loaded with players that don’t get nearly enough national recognition (see Chapman, Matt), the A’s challenge but ultimately fall short of dethroning the AL West champion Astros.
Not nearly as cut and dry as the AL, I see two DEEP division battles in the NL. The third, not so much.
· The Dodgers loaded lineup plus depth everywhere and great starting staff will prove too much for the rest of the NL West to handle – take it to the bank.
· No traditional WS hangover for the Nats with the extra long offseason, they ultimately sink or swim with the very top of their rotation – I have questions everywhere else.
· Dynamic offensive core in Atlanta will be slightly held back by the inexperienced and somewhat volatile rotation.
· I’m all over this Mets team that looks deeper than ever offensively, as a starting staff and in the pen.
· The lineup should mash (especially at Miller Park) but the rotation doesn’t scare me – Hey, I had the same knock last year though.
· Great offensive core in Chicago (when healthy) but real questions about rotation depth and in the pen.
· Shildt found a way to bring the division to StL in 2019, I see them just short in a 2020 divisional dogfight.
· Spent like crazy in free agency and aided by the addition of the NL DH, I’m aboard the Cincy hype train.
· Trout is the best player in baseball but guaranteed to miss time with his wife giving birth - in an already short season I can’t bet him to win MVP. Give me Jose Ramirez coming off a remarkable 2ndhalf of 2019.
· When Mookie and Bellinger cannibalize MVP votes from each other, Yelich takes it.
· There’s talk of Trevor Bauer pitching out of rotation to get a few extra starts throughout the year – that’s huge from a Cy Young perspective if he can keep the ball in the park.
· Best Bets: Jose Ramirez AL MVP (25/1), Matt Chapman AL MVP (14/1), Ketel Marte NL MVP (20/1), Corey Kluber AL Cy Young (20/1), Trevor Bauer most NL wins (25/1), Ross Stripling most NL wins (50/1)
The MLB Postseason – more so than any other American pro-sport – is conducive to such random outcomes. While there are certainly paths that are easier than others, so much of winning in the postseason comes down to the right guys being hot at the right time. Any team with a ticket to the dance has a real chance to make some noise. Feels a little arbitrary picking out these individual matchups in July but let’s have some fun. I’ll take some liberties here and try to paint a picture.
· Wild card games are the smallest of small sample sizes but my gut says: Rays over the Indians (I’ll be on the under) and DBacks over Braves (I’ll be on the over).
· The 3-batter minimum bares its teeth and hurts the way the Rays wish to use their varying looks off the mound. The Twins power outlasts in a fun ALDS.
· Yankees-Astros in empty stadiums (I think that will still be the case come October) is gut wrenching after the recent history between these two. Yanks get some semblance of revenge in a gentleman’s sweep.
· Dodgers make quick work of the divisional opponent DBacks.
· Mets’ depth cuts the steam out of the Reds’ hype train in the NLDS.
· The Yankees and Twins set a postseason record for most homers in a postseason series. The Yankees out-slug and punch a ticket to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009.
· The Dodgers lean heavily on their starting pitching to beat the Mets decisively in the NLCS.
· What a marquee matchup in the World Series! WS MVP Walker Buehler stifles the Yankee offense over two starts and the Dodgers FINALLY bring home the hardware for the first time since 1988.
· 8 teams make the postseason from each League: the top two in each division plus the next two largest win totals from the respective leagues.
· From there, each division winner chooses it’s 1stround opponent (for a 3 game series all at the higher seed’s home ballpark) in the order that they finished in the league.
o Side note: no team in a League plays any other team outside their division so I have no idea how a tiebreaker would work here for seeding or for who makes the postseason altogether.
· Really a tough break for higher seeds like the Dodgers/Yanks that now have to survive a 3 game postseason series and great break for middling teams in bad divisions (Diamondbacks and White Sox).
I’ve done my best to update the postseason picture below but I’m not even really sure I know what the structure looks like, so take it for what it’s worth.
Not ready to make any full scale changes from my first version of predictions but I’d bet that there’s one or two favorites that get knocked out in a 3-game 1stround series. Don’t know how I feel about that in an already crazy weird year but whatever, this is what we’ve got at this point.
Here’s to hoping we get a complete and successful (60-game) season this year – and we get too look back and laugh at how far off I was across the board.
Weird year only getting weirder. Happy Opening Day!