A couple days ago, well-respected BBWAA member Bob Nightengale reported that MLB is discussing a late-June start with radically realigned divisions.
New York Yankees and Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins
Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners
I don’t understand this proposal for many reasons, but that’s not the point of this blog.
The super divisions are essentially merged AL/NL geographical regions, with a few exceptions. The Braves are in the NL East but in the 10-team Central division, and the Pirates are in the NL Central but in the East division. Whatever.
The Yankees have one of the best rosters in the league so they are in a good spot regardless of which division they play in, but this certainly makes the “regular season” more interesting with the addition of teams like the Mets and Nationals. Let’s see how the 10 teams stack-up.
10. Baltimore Orioles
2019 win total: 54 | 2020 original over/under: 56.5
With Trey Mancini unlikely to play this year, Chris Davis is probably their best player. That isn’t even a joke. The Yankees lost 2 games to Baltimore last year but should go undefeated this year.
2019 win total: 57 | 2020 original over/under: 64.5
I was going to flip-flop the O’s and Marlins because Miami gets the National League demerit, but then I remembered Baltimore’s best player in 2019 (Jonathan Villar) is now playing for the Marlins. Yankees should go undefeated against the Marlins too.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates
2019 win total: 69 | 2020 original over/under: 69.5
The Pirates were already on the Yankees schedule this season, but they don’t pose much of a threat. They have a few solid players like Josh Bell and Bryan Reynolds, but 2020 was going to be a rebuilding season and the shutdown has only made that more difficult.
7. Toronto Blue Jays
2019 win total: 67 | 2020 original over/under: 75.5
The jump from Pittsburgh to Toronto is pretty big, in my opinion. The Jays have a ton of young talent in the lineup and improved their rotation with the signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu. While the shutdown is probably going to hurt them on a developmental level with their farm system, they are still a team that will be taking a big step forward sooner than later.
2019 win total: 84 | 2020 original over/under: 84.5
The Sox would be higher on this list if Chris Sale were not out for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Even without Mookie Betts, their lineup will be dangerous (Rafael Devers, JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts is still a lethal 3-punch) but their rotation is just way too thin for the team to do anything. Could a shorter season help them in theory? Yes, but overall they are still middle of the pack in the division and in the league.
2019 win total: 86 | 2020 original over/under: 86.5
The 4-5 spots were the ones I debated the longest. Losing Noah Syndergaard for the season I think pushes the Mets below the Phillies even though their rotation is still very strong with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Michael Wacha, and Rick Porcello. Their bullpen should also be improved with Dellin Betances, but at the end of the day they’re the Mets so something will go wrong.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
2019 win total: 81 | 2020 original over/under: 85.5
Joe Girardi is a good manager and will help the under-achieving Phillies improve. They also have some injuries that are being helped by the shutdown, so their lineup could be potent when the season starts with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, JT Realmuto, and old friend Didi Gregorius.
2019 win total: 96 | 2020 original over/under: 90.5
Like the jump from Pitt to Toronto, there is another jump with Philly to Tampa. The Rays were already going to be a problem for the Yankees, but now that the season is shorter, they get even tougher.
Top-to-bottom their pitching staff is good; Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow is a great big-3 starters and their bullpen is deep. They are also a defensively-sound team which could play early in the season if guys are still getting into a rhythm.
Kevin Cash simply knows how to get the most out of a roster, and if you give him an expanded one, who knows what he’ll have up his sleeve.
2019 win total: 93 | 2020 original over/under: 90.5
I’m giving the defending champs the nod over Tampa because their big-3 are just downright better. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin make up the best rotation in the division and facing them fresh in August-September is a scary prospect.
Stephen Strasburg, 82mph Curveball, 87mph Changeup and 94mph Fastball, Overlay.
The loss of Anthony Rendon hurts but you can make an argument that Juan Soto is the best offensive player in the division (I’ll still take Judge, but I said you can make the argument). And did you know he’s only 21?
1. New York Yankees
2019 win total: 103 | 2020 original over/under: 102.5
Pre-shutdown rankings had only the Dodgers ahead of the Yankees in baseball, so of course they’re going to be #1 in a division that doesn’t include LA.
The delayed season also really helps the Yankees get healthy. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and possibly even Gary Sanchez were all going to miss Opening Day. James Paxton will be back as long as the season starts in late June or July, which helps a rotation that lost Luis Severino for the season. While I’ll still take Washington’s big-3, Gerrit Cole, a healthy James Paxton, and pitching for a contract Masahiro Tanaka might edge-out Tampa’s.