Zerillo’s Updated 2020 MLB Win Totals, Division and World Series Odds For a 60-Game Season

Credit:

Andy Lyons, Getty Images. Pictured: Sonny Gray

After providing my early thoughts on a 60-game season on Tuesday, and comparing Fangraphs’ updated 60-game ZIPS projections to World Series odds on Wednesday, I updated my own 2020 win totals, divisional odds, and World Series projections for the first time since February.

This is an atypical MLB season – and individual clubs with expansive roster depth are harmed by the shorter schedule, while others, with limited top-tier pitching, benefit from the very nature of the 60-game format. Certain teams will find ways to adapt their rosters to perform more efficiently in a smaller sample of games.

Additionally, the 2020 schedule is extremely imbalanced. Clubs will play ten games against each of their four divisional opponents, and four games against each of their five regional interleague opponents – with the East, Central, and West divisions pairing off for one-third of their games.

Essentially, MLB will proceed with three-separate 10-team leagues for the 2020-regular season, and the results for season win totals will be highly correlated within divisions.

Interleague Strength of Schedule

Throughout a 162-game season, I had projected the National League to record 30 more wins than the American League; driven by the presence of the two worst teams (Orioles, Tigers) in the MLB, and four of the bottom six clubs for win projections all residing within the Junior Circuit.

In my 60-game projections, the NL’s advantage narrows to four wins, with the East and Central expected to win two more games than their AL counterparts, while the West Division teams are projected to play to a draw.

I would make the American League a slight favorite to win the World Series, however, at 50.6% – with four of the five most likely winners in my updated projections.

Based upon the initial 162-game projections, the NL Central received the most significant schedule upgrade, even though I had projected the Twins, Indians, and White Sox for an average of 86.3 wins.

 

It seems likey that the NL Central should get at least two, and potentially up to three teams into the NL playoffs, which makes hunting for a longshot in that division so intriguing.

Let’s dive into my fully updated 2020 projections:

AL East

There is not a substantial amount separating my AL East projections from the ZIPS projections.

The Yankees divisional (-23%) and World Series (-10.6%) chances dropped more than any team in the American League in my projections as a result of a shortened season. ZIPS penalized their championship odds by 9.5%, and their playoff chances by an MLB-high 31.2%.

I’m slightly higher on the Yankees (+5%) chances to win the AL East than ZIPS and lower on both the Rays (-5.4%) and Red Sox (-8.9%) who I view as a .500 club given their expected opponents.

When I think about the starting pitching depth in the NL East amongst the Braves, Mets and Nationals, along with the top of the Phillies’ rotation and the Marlins’ young and improving staff, the Red Sox are going to be an underdog, and at a starting pitching disadvantage in most of their matchups.

I tried to persuade people to fade the Red Sox early and often this offseason. I bet under 93.5 and 92.5 on their win totals, and even though I can’t take those wagers with me, I would bet the Red Sox Under down to 31.5 in a shortened season.

Although the Rays divisional chances have improved dramatically due to the increased level of variance that comes with a 60-game schedule, the Yankees’ had a significant number of injuries in Spring Training and have recovered over the past four months; where the Rays are built on depth and initially seemed likely to grind down the Yankees over a long summer.

The Yankees’ 26-man roster is superior, however, and they can deploy their high-caliber bullpen arms much more efficiently over two months than six.

By the numbers, the Rays’ divisional (+19.5%) and World Series (+3.6%) chances improved more than any other team in my projections for a 60-game season. Still, my gut tells me that no contender is hurt more from a logistical standpoint than baseball’s most in-depth and most well-run organization, who won’t have as many games to exploit their minuscule advantages.

The rapidly improving Blue Jays are worth a small wager as a divisional longshot, given the shortened schedule.

Zerillo’s AL East Futures

  • Blue Jays to win division +4000 (0.25u)
  • Rays to win Division +650 (1.5 units)
  • Rays to win World Series +2200 (0.5 units)
  • Red Sox under 31.5 wins (3u)

AL Central

The White Sox are the darlings of the ZIPS update, surging by 18.3% in playoff probability, and 2.2% in championship odds.

The South-Siders also received a slight bump up in my World Series projections (+1.4%) to 4.2%, putting their current fair odds around +2300 – but I was pretty high on their chances, to begin with; taking multiple divisional and World Series futures on them throughout the winter.

Cleveland (+2.2%) and Minnesota (+1.9%) rank just behind the Rays in terms of improved championship odds in my projections. The ability to pad their record against the Royals and Tigers means that the quality teams in both the AL and NL Central have an increased likelihood of capturing a Wild Card – and all received a slight bump up in World Series projections.

Generally, the 60-game schedule favors the underdogs that I already invested in throughout the offseason – if you haven’t taken a piece of the White Sox already, this could be your last opportunity.

Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon, who are both returning from injury, benefited from the delayed start to the season and could help the White Sox pitching to flourish over a shorter stretch of games.

Expect the White Sox to be extremely aggressive with their talented prospects, including Nick Madrigal, and potentially even 2020 first-round draft selection Garrett Crochet – who could serve as an electric late-season addition if they need a left-handed reliever for their bullpen.

Crochet is not Chris Sale, but the latter made his major league debut for the White Sox on August 4, 2010, after being drafted No. 13 overall that same June.

Without a minor league season, and with an increased opportunity at making the playoffs, MLB teams will likely deploy their best available players – no matter their age or contract situation; service time considerations be damned.

Cleveland is intriguing from a star-power perspective. They have a great top end of the rotation with Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco, and Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can unquestionably anchor their lineup for eight weeks. I wouldn’t write them off.

Note that the Indians, Twins, and White Sox will each play one-third of their games this season against the Royals or Tigers.

Zerillo’s AL Central Futures

  • Royals to win division +10000 (0.1u)
  • White Sox to win division +375 (1u)
  • White Sox to win division +500 (2.5u)
  • White Sox to win World Series +6000 (0.5u)
  • White Sox to win World Series +7500 (1u)

AL West

 

Similar to the White Sox, I took a strong position on the Oakland A’s throughout the offseason – and their fair divisional odds have virtually halved as a result of the shortened season.

Their divisional odds increased by 3%, and their World Series odds increased by 1.3% (to 5%) in my projections – though they didn’t change much in the ZIPS update.

However, the Astros (-11.6%) were one of three teams to see a double-digit decrease in divisional odds, in addition to a 2.3% hit to their World Series odds; and ZIPS (-4.1%) thinks that the World Series toll should be even steeper.

The Rangers (+11.5%) mostly took back the Astros divisional shares,  which also bumped their World Series chances to 1.5% – in line with both the betting market and ZIPS (1.3%).

The under on their win total also looks a bit high, however – so you can either play the Rangers as a longshot or look to fade them completely.

ZIPS gave the Angels a big bump in playoff probability (+13.5%) and World Series odds (+1.8%) – but I’m significantly more neutral; the A’s are still the team that I want in this division. 

Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk could turn into a fearsome duo, and removing any consideration of innings limits raises the ceiling on this team significantly.

Zerillo’s AL West Futures

  • A’s to win division +300 (1u)
  • A’s to win division +400 (2u)
  • A’s to win World Series +2500 (0.5u)

NL East

 

I only projected a five-win gap between first and fourth place in the NL East over 162 games, so this divisional race should be exhilarating for two months – with three wins separating the top four selections.

The Marlins get the short end of the stick, adding the Rays and Yankees to their already tricky schedule alongside four NL East opponents projected to finish .500 or better. They aren’t without hope completely, however – seeing a 3.5% increase (from 0%) to win the division in my projections, while ZIPS puts them at 3.4% to pull off the miracle upset.

Their win total is also over-inflated, however, given the difficult schedule.

The Phillies benefit most from the short season. Like Cleveland, they don’t have a ton of depth. Still, they do have star power – including Aaron Nola and the newly signed Zack Wheeler at the top of their rotation, in addition to multiple all-star caliber bats like Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.

The Phillies saw a 7.7% increase in my divisional projections and a 1.7% bump (to 3.1%) in championship probability. ZIPS increased their World Series probability by 2.3% (from 0.1%), so I’m a bit higher on their chances overall, but the sentiment is the same – the NL East is wide open for the taking.

Unfortunately, the betting market sees right through this division – and I do not see World Series betting value on any club.

Zerillo’s NL East Futures

  • Marlins to win division +20000 (0.1u)
  • Marlins under 24.5 wins (1u)

NL Central

Similar to the NL East, three games separate the top-four NL Central clubs in my projections, while ZIPS only has one game separating those same four teams; all projected to win between 31 and 32 games.

Like the A’s and White Sox, I invested heavily in the Reds throughout the offseason, and my confidence has only grown with the limited schedule with their playoff probability (+9.4%) and World Series odds (+1.5%) both improving per ZIPS.

Their roster is built for the Universal DH, with the ability to rotate Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, and others through that spot. Their rotation and bullpen have top-end talents with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Raisel Iglesias – but as an organization, they don’t offer a ton of roster depth; and are moreso meant to overwhelm you with quality in short stints.

Logistically, the Reds could be a rocket ship in a 60 game season. 

Similar to my A’s projection adjustments, I’m much more neutral on the Reds’ chances, mathematically, however, given that I was so high on them previously; projecting them as the best team in the division since February.

I do perceive the Brewers as a pretty significant threat given their playoff pedigree, strong bullpen, and ability to manage their roster, game to game, as well as any organization in the league.

ZIPS likes all of the NL Central teams except for the Cubs (-5.9%) to make the playoffs more frequently now due to their head-to-head matchup against the AL Central – the weakest division in baseball.

The NL Central’s World Series chances, as a division, increased by 6% per ZIPS, and 4.2% per my projections – primarily due to the strength of schedule advantage and their likelihood of securing one or more Wild Card spots.

They’ll play 13% of their schedule against the Royals and Tigers. I suspect that the eventual NL Central winner either goes 7-1 or 8-0 in those contests, which ultimately proves to be the difference-maker.

Zerillo’s NL Central Futures

  • Pirates to win division +10000 (0.1u)
  • Reds to win division +350 (1u)
  • Reds to win division +400 (1u)
  • Reds to win division +500 (1.5u)
  • Reds to win World Series +5500 (0.5u)

NL West

No team took a bigger hit in my 60-game projections than the Dodgers, whose divisional chances dropped by nearly 40%, and World Series odds were almost cut in half, from 20% to 10.5%.

Consequently, the Diamondbacks (+22.1%), Padres (+16.6%), Rockies (+3.5%), and Giants (+2%) divisional odds all increased, and their combined World Series odds probability improved by 3.6%.

ZIPS dinged the Dodgers 8.2% in championship odds and it agrees that the Diamondbacks (+17.6% playoff probability) Rockies (+12.1%), and Giants (+8.9%) all see an increased postseason opportunity this year.

Oddly, ZIPS knocked down the Padres’ playoff odds by 9% but increased their World Series probability by a full percentage point. I still think that the Padres are one year away from contending, even though my own projections suggest that they offer a substantial buying opportunity.

I already have a World Series future on the Diamondbacks, but if I didn’t, I would be looking to buy. The thought of having a futures ticket riding on Madison Bumgarner in a wild-card game should intrigue you from an entertainment standpoint, nevermind the expected value.

Zerillo’s NL West Futures

  • Diamondbacks to win division +1000 (1u)
  • Diamondbacks to win World Series +6600 (0.5u)
  • Padres to win World Series +5000 (0.5u)

Biggest Movers

In sum, here are the largest projection discrepancies, from both a World Series and divisional perspective, between a 162-game season with the original schedule, and a 60-game season with the fixed divisional and regional interleague schedule:

2020 World Series Value Plays

Based upon my projections, below are the nine teams, compared to the listed odds at PointsBet, that currently offer greater than 0.5% in betting value to win the 2020 World Series:

Eight of the nine teams – all except the Reds (2.9% World Series probability) – are also viewed as value bets by FanGraphs’ ZIPS.

If you prefer ZIPS, you can bump up the Athletics (+0.2%), Indians (+0.5%), Padres (+0.6%), and Rays (+0.2%), and downgrade the Diamondbacks (-1.2%), Pirates (-0.1%) and White Sox (-0.8%).

I have existing World Series futures on the Athletics, Diamondbacks, Reds, and White Sox – the teams in bold – in addition to divisional futures on three of them – and I will take a long look at World Series futures on Cleveland, San Diego, and Tampa Bay – even though two of those teams need to navigate past either the Dodgers or Yankees.

Zerillo’s Current MLB Futures Card

[Bet now at PointsBet. NJ and IN only.]

  • Blue Jays to win division +4000 (0.25u)
  • Rays to win Division +650 (1.5 units)
  • Rays to win World Series +2200 (0.5 units)
  • Red Sox under 31.5 wins (3u)
  • Royals to win division +10000 (0.1u)
  • White Sox to win division +375 (1 unit)
  • White Sox to win division +500 (2.5u)
  • White Sox to win World Series +6000 (0.5u)
  • White Sox to win World Series +7500 (1u)
  • A’s to win division +300 (1u)
  • A’s to win division +400 (2u)
  • A’s to win World Series +2500 (0.5u)
  • Marlins to win division +20000 (0.1u)
  • Marlins under 24.5 wins (1u)
  • Pirates to win division +10000 (0.1u)
  • Reds to win division +350 (1u)
  • Reds to win division +400 (1u)
  • Reds to win division +500 (1.5u)
  • Reds to win World Series +5500 (0.5u)
  • Diamondbacks to win division +1000 (1u)
  • Diamondbacks to win World Series +6600 (0.5u)
  • Padres to win World Series +5000 (0.5u)

Follow me in The Action Network App for all of my 2020 MLB future wagers. 

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