2020 MLB Projected Standings & Preseason Ratings

The Dodgers lead our 2020 MLB Projected Standings

All signs point to the Dodgers being the favorite, unless someone steals it from them (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Our 2020 MLB Projections are back again for another run. In early March, we released them initially, right before the pandemic shut down the sports world. The 162-game schedule is gone, and in its place we now have a 60-game schedule for each team. Not only that, but the breakdown of who teams are playing has changed dramatically, with teams not traveling cross-country in 2020 and staying in their own regions.

With all that in mind, here are our updated 2020 MLB preseason ratings and 2020 MLB projected standings.

As always, the main purpose of our preseason MLB ratings is to provide a data-driven starting point for our MLB projected standings.

They also drive our MLB postseason seed projections and our other MLB season projection details. These include fully automated win-loss predictions, playoff chances, and World Series win odds.

Those standings and seed projection pages are updated every day to reflect the latest results and most up-to-date MLB power ratings.

How We Create The Preseason Ratings

For football and basketball, we use our own data and models to come up with independent estimates of team quality. We then compare those to the market, and to other projections, and make final adjustments.

We treat baseball a bit differently, though. So far at least, our methods for projecting MLB aren’t as cutting edge, relative to other sports. So rather than trying to create our own preseason ratings, and deriving a season projection from those, we base our initial MLB projected standings on a weighted average of betting market info and projected standings from other well respected sources.

Essentially, we combine projected win total info from various sources into a consensus win total projection for every team. Then we figure out what preseason team ratings would lead to those exact projections.

We’re still publishing these, so that you know what the initial rating in our projection system was for each team. But at this point we can’t recommend using these MLB projected standings to go place preseason bets, for example, if for no other reason than we haven’t done extensive backtesting of our approach.

Full Preseason 2020 MLB Projected Standings

American League
AL EastWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
NY Yankees36.723.3283.6%64.2%31.5%16.3%
Tampa Bay32.727.3850.4%22.3%8.6%3.8%
AL CentralWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
Chi Sox31.428.62039.1%20.4%4.6%1.5%
Kansas City24.135.9282.8%1.1%0.1%0.0%
AL WestWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
LA Angels30.829.21434.1%17.3%3.8%2.2%
National League
NL EastWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
NY Mets32.327.7642.5%24.8%5.9%4.0%
NL CentralWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
St. Louis32.727.31146.5%27.4%7.5%3.2%
Chi Cubs32.427.61243.7%24.8%6.3%3.0%
NL WestWLTR RankPlayoffsWin DivTop SeedWS Champs
LA Dodgers37.922.1188.0%76.9%43.6%22.8%
San Diego30.429.61726.8%9.8%3.1%1.3%
SF Giants24.935.1253.1%0.9%0.1%0.1%

A Seemingly Narrow Win Distribution

You may look at the projections and think that they aren’t extreme enough. In a way, you’d be right — no team is projected to win fewer than 20 or more than 40 games in the shortened season. Now, it will almost certainly happen that a team or two will get on a hot streak over a stretch of 60 games. Some others will go in the tank.

But if a team jumps out to a 45-15 record, it’s going to be because things have gone better than could have reasonably been expected. And picking which teams will wildly exceed expectations is rather tricky. On average these conservative predictions should provide a less biased starting point than more aggressive ones.

More Team Projection Details

If you’d like to see our more aggressive best case and worst case scenarios for each team, check out their team projections page. Here are the LA Dodgers projections and the Baltimore Orioles projections as examples.

Click through to find a chart showing the projected odds of the Dodgers or Orioles winning any specific number of games. From the details in the Orioles’ chart, you can glean that we project about a 2.6% chance that Baltimore finishes 12-48 or worse this year. Gulp!

The projections detail page also includes a list of each team’s toughest & easiest games, and a table showing how their chances of winning the World Series change depending on what seed they get in the playoffs.

2020 MLB Projected Standings Highlights

Here are some highlights that stand out about the 2020 projections:

  • The two leagues look pretty evenly balanced overall in 2020, as five of the top ten teams reside in both the AL and NL. The two highest rated teams (New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers) are also in separate leagues.
  • But that equality does not translate to individual divisions. For example, Atlanta (No. 4 in the power ratings) plays in a much tougher division (NL East) than No. 3 Houston (AL West) or No. 7 Minnesota (AL Central). Add in that the schedules have now been altered and Atlanta not only plays the NL East but also only plays other teams from the AL East, and the Braves are projected to win more than two fewer games than either the Astros or Twins.
  • The change in formats swapped a couple of pairs of teams in our projected standings. The Cincinnati Reds are now a slight favorite to win the NL Central over the St. Louis Cardinals. This is a result of the change in schedules. In the original schedule, St. Louis had four extra games against Kansas City while the Reds played Cleveland four more times than St. Louis did. Now, Cincinnati plays Detroit in six games, while St. Louis still plays six against Kansas City. The schedules are much more balanced and that difference was enough to swap the teams. In the NL West, the Padres also moved in front of the Diamondbacks into second place in the NL West in our projections.
  • Teams that have won a World Series in the last decade: 22.0% chance of winning the World Series in 2020. That’s what happens when the Dodgers haven’t been able to win the title despite so many recent contending teams, and the Yankees have not won since 2009. There’s a pretty good chance that this year’s winner will come from a team that has not won a World Series in a while.
  • The shortened schedule does have a slight impact on the championship odds for the leading contenders. Because of the higher risk associated with missing the playoffs in a shortened season, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros all have between a 1% and 1.5% lower chance of winning than they did back in March. Don’t weep for them too much, though. According to our projections, those three have a combined 46.5% chance of winning the World Series in 2020.

Playoff Team Shakeup

The shortened season and schedule format has altered some of the specific playoff outlooks slightly. This is particularly true of NL Central teams, who now get the benefit of having the AL Central make up one-third of their schedule, while avoiding teams like the Dodgers, Braves, and Nationals.

So the net result of this is that the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee Brewers all have a slightly better chance than before of making the postseason. None of those teams are in the Top 8 of our overall power rankings, or among the top 4 in the National League.

In the AL, Cleveland now has a slightly higher win projection than Oakland for the final wildcard, despite being our No. 19 team in the power rankings (Oakland is No. 9). That’s how different the schedule strength is for the various teams and groupings.

The shorter season also means a likely crowd and plenty of drama at the Wildcard cut line. We project 10 teams within 2.5 games (either above or below) of the final wildcard spot in the NL, and eight teams within 2.5 games of the final wildcard cutoff in the American League.

2020 MLB Projected Playoff Results

Here is how the playoffs would play out, if these projections are spot on (numbers below refer to the team’s playoff seed within their league).

Wild Card Round

  • #5 Atlanta Braves over #4 St. Louis Cardinals
  • #4 Tampa Bay Rays over #5 Cleveland Indians

Division Round

  • #1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #5 Atlanta Braves
  • #2 Washington Nationals over #3 Cincinnati Reds
  • #1 New York Yankees over #4 Tampa Bay Rays
  • #2 Houston Astros over #3 Minnesota Twins

League Championship Series

  • #1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #2 Washington Nationals
  • #1 New York Yankees over #2 Houston Astros

World Series

  • #1 Los Angeles Dodgers (NL) over #1 New York Yankees (AL)