The Actually Official 2020 ZiPS Projected Standings

I’m a big liar, or at least I am thanks to Major League Baseball. Last week, after the longest offseason in modern baseball history, I posted the Final ZiPS 2020 Projected Standings. It turns out, however, that these weren’t quite as final as we hoped. Last Thursday, MLB took the step — unprecedented in major sports, at least in my memory banks — of changing the league’s playoff structure the day the season started. The already-bloated 10-team playoff format became an engorged 16-team one. In are four mediocre teams; out is most of the advantage division winners get for being the best in their divisions.

I’m still hopeful this is solely a 2020 issue; the agreement between MLB and the Players Association was only for this year. Baseball’s regular season is the most important in major team sports, after all. Plus, it’s in the interests of the players to avoid further decoupling championships from team quality, as that would inevitably create a further drag on salaries. Assuming 2021 reverts to normal, it still leaves the question of 2020 projections. After a three-day weekend immured in my Fortress of Statitude, I’ve reconfigured ZiPS for the umpteenth and hopefully last time, and present the final, actually official 2020 projected standings. All the commentary in my original article still stands, but now the numbers are quite different.

Warning: There are lots of charts coming.

Let’s start with new start-of-season projections. For these standings, ZiPS knows nothing about what has happened so far this season, whether it’s wins, losses, player stats, or injuries. Whatever it knew last Wednesday, it still knows.

2020 ZiPS Projected Standings
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
New York Yankees 37 23 .617 44.8% 28.8% 12.4% 86.0% 7.6%
Tampa Bay Rays 35 25 2 .583 34.8% 30.7% 14.6% 80.0% 6.2%
Boston Red Sox 30 30 7 .500 14.5% 23.7% 19.7% 57.8% 3.0%
Toronto Blue Jays 27 33 10 .450 5.6% 14.4% 17.4% 37.3% 1.4%
Baltimore Orioles 20 40 17 .333 0.4% 2.5% 5.1% 7.9% 0.2%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Minnesota Twins 35 25 .583 40.1% 26.8% 12.6% 79.5% 6.0%
Cleveland Indians 34 26 1 .567 32.1% 27.7% 14.0% 73.8% 5.0%
Chicago White Sox 31 29 4 .517 19.6% 24.7% 16.4% 60.7% 3.3%
Kansas City Royals 26 34 9 .433 5.9% 13.3% 14.6% 33.9% 1.2%
Detroit Tigers 23 37 12 .383 2.4% 7.4% 10.3% 20.1% 0.6%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Houston Astros 35 25 .583 43.9% 26.1% 11.2% 81.3% 6.4%
Oakland A’s 33 27 2 .550 30.4% 28.7% 13.1% 72.3% 4.7%
Los Angeles Angels 30 30 5 .500 15.8% 22.7% 15.7% 54.2% 2.6%
Texas Rangers 28 32 7 .467 8.4% 16.6% 15.0% 40.0% 1.6%
Seattle Mariners 22 38 13 .367 1.5% 5.8% 7.8% 15.2% 0.4%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Washington Nationals 34 26 .567 32.4% 25.6% 17.9% 75.9% 5.3%
Atlanta Braves 33 27 1 .550 34.6% 25.4% 17.8% 77.8% 5.6%
New York Mets 31 29 3 .517 18.7% 22.5% 16.2% 57.4% 3.2%
Philadelphia Phillies 28 32 6 .467 10.6% 17.2% 12.6% 40.5% 1.9%
Miami Marlins 25 35 9 .417 3.7% 9.3% 5.7% 18.6% 0.7%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Chicago Cubs 32 28 .533 27.4% 22.7% 14.5% 64.6% 4.0%
Milwaukee Brewers 31 29 1 .517 22.7% 22.0% 13.8% 58.5% 3.4%
St. Louis Cardinals 31 29 1 .517 22.1% 21.6% 13.9% 57.6% 3.3%
Cincinnati Reds 31 29 1 .517 21.5% 21.6% 13.7% 56.8% 3.2%
Pittsburgh Pirates 26 34 6 .433 6.3% 12.2% 6.9% 25.3% 1.0%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Los Angeles Dodgers 38 22 .633 56.6% 23.2% 15.3% 95.2% 9.5%
San Diego Padres 32 28 6 .533 22.5% 29.7% 20.4% 72.6% 4.3%
Arizona Diamondbacks 30 30 8 .500 12.8% 23.2% 16.3% 52.3% 2.6%
Colorado Rockies 26 34 12 .433 4.9% 13.5% 8.8% 27.2% 1.1%
San Francisco Giants 26 34 12 .433 3.2% 10.5% 6.2% 19.8% 0.7%

Well, if the goal was to give every team a real chance at making the playoffs, no matter how weak the roster, you can pin up the mission accomplished banner. Where the second and third-tier contenders made huge gains when we went from 162 games to 60, the basement dwellers make the largest gains here. A team like the Orioles got a boost from a 60-game schedule, but to make the playoffs, they still had to actually be good in that shorter season. With eight teams per league now making the playoffs, even that bar is lowered significantly. Over the million seasons ZiPS simulates, 2.5 teams with losing records made the postseason in an average year; being a .485 team over 60 games is plausible for any team at the major league level.

To get a better idea of the new playoff format’s winners and losers, here are the standings transmogrified to display the differences between the current system and the old one (and hopefully, in 2021, the new-old one!).

2020 ZiPS Playoff Probability, Current vs. Old Formats
Team Playoffs Old Playoffs Change WS Win Old WS Win Change
San Diego Padres 72.6% 42.9% 29.7% 4.3% 3.8% 0.5%
Atlanta Braves 77.8% 50.3% 27.5% 5.6% 5.0% 0.6%
Boston Red Sox 57.8% 33.1% 24.7% 3.0% 2.9% 0.1%
Chicago White Sox 60.7% 36.4% 24.3% 3.3% 3.4% -0.1%
Oakland A’s 72.3% 48.2% 24.0% 4.7% 5.2% -0.6%
Los Angeles Angels 54.2% 30.2% 24.0% 2.6% 2.6% 0.0%
Cleveland Indians 73.8% 50.3% 23.5% 5.0% 5.6% -0.6%
Washington Nationals 75.9% 52.4% 23.5% 5.3% 5.4% -0.1%
Arizona Diamondbacks 52.3% 29.1% 23.2% 2.6% 2.2% 0.4%
Los Angeles Dodgers 95.2% 72.0% 23.2% 9.5% 9.3% 0.2%
Tampa Bay Rays 80.0% 57.3% 22.7% 6.2% 6.9% -0.7%
Chicago Cubs 64.6% 41.9% 22.7% 4.0% 3.8% 0.2%
New York Mets 57.4% 34.9% 22.5% 3.2% 2.9% 0.3%
Milwaukee Brewers 58.5% 36.6% 22.0% 3.4% 3.1% 0.2%
Minnesota Twins 79.5% 57.7% 21.9% 6.0% 7.0% -1.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 57.6% 36.0% 21.6% 3.3% 3.1% 0.2%
Cincinnati Reds 56.8% 35.2% 21.6% 3.2% 3.0% 0.2%
Houston Astros 81.3% 59.8% 21.5% 6.4% 7.5% -1.2%
Texas Rangers 40.0% 18.7% 21.3% 1.6% 1.4% 0.2%
Toronto Blue Jays 37.3% 16.4% 20.9% 1.4% 1.1% 0.3%
New York Yankees 86.0% 65.6% 20.4% 7.6% 8.8% -1.1%
Kansas City Royals 33.9% 14.5% 19.4% 1.2% 1.0% 0.2%
Philadelphia Phillies 40.5% 23.3% 17.2% 1.9% 1.6% 0.3%
Detroit Tigers 20.1% 6.3% 13.8% 0.6% 0.4% 0.2%
Colorado Rockies 27.2% 13.7% 13.5% 1.1% 0.8% 0.3%
Pittsburgh Pirates 25.3% 13.2% 12.2% 1.0% 0.8% 0.2%
Seattle Mariners 15.2% 4.0% 11.2% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2%
San Francisco Giants 19.8% 9.3% 10.5% 0.7% 0.5% 0.2%
Miami Marlins 18.6% 9.4% 9.3% 0.7% 0.5% 0.2%
Baltimore Orioles 7.9% 1.5% 6.4% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%

Baseball’s middle class sees a large benefit here, but they have to share the gains with the bottom dwellers more than they did when the season was trimmed to 60 games. Clubs in a division with one or two complete doormats see the largest bumps thanks to the guaranteed spot for a second-place team. Suddenly, teams like the Padres and Red Sox make the playoffs more often with records in the 83-to-88 win range. At the low-end, the Orioles get the smallest boost in terms of percentage points, only gaining a tad over six points, but when you start from just 1.5%, that’s still a giant gain in terms of magnitude.

Since we’ve already got the ZiPS machine open and teams have played nearly a week of games (as well as seen players such as Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber succumb to injury), we might as well run the first in-season update for dessert.

2020 ZiPS Projected Standings – 7/28
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
New York Yankees 37 23 .617 42.8% 30.0% 12.5% 85.3% 7.5%
Tampa Bay Rays 36 24 1 .600 40.2% 30.3% 13.3% 83.8% 7.1%
Boston Red Sox 29 31 8 .483 9.9% 19.9% 20.1% 49.9% 2.3%
Toronto Blue Jays 27 33 10 .450 6.3% 15.6% 18.6% 40.5% 1.6%
Baltimore Orioles 21 39 16 .350 0.8% 4.1% 8.1% 13.0% 0.3%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Minnesota Twins 36 24 .600 38.4% 27.1% 13.1% 78.7% 5.8%
Cleveland Indians 35 25 1 .583 33.8% 27.8% 13.8% 75.4% 5.3%
Chicago White Sox 31 29 5 .517 19.4% 24.5% 16.7% 60.6% 3.3%
Kansas City Royals 26 34 10 .433 6.2% 13.6% 15.3% 35.0% 1.3%
Detroit Tigers 23 37 13 .383 2.2% 7.1% 10.3% 19.6% 0.5%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Houston Astros 35 25 .583 42.5% 27.8% 10.3% 80.5% 6.1%
Oakland A’s 35 25 .583 36.7% 29.6% 10.9% 77.3% 5.4%
Los Angeles Angels 30 30 5 .500 12.4% 21.0% 15.1% 48.5% 2.1%
Texas Rangers 26 34 9 .433 6.8% 15.1% 13.9% 35.8% 1.3%
Seattle Mariners 22 38 13 .367 1.6% 6.5% 7.9% 16.0% 0.4%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Atlanta Braves 34 26 .567 33.3% 25.0% 18.6% 76.9% 5.6%
Washington Nationals 33 27 1 .550 31.0% 24.9% 18.6% 74.5% 5.2%
New York Mets 30 30 4 .500 19.1% 22.1% 17.1% 58.3% 3.4%
Philadelphia Phillies 28 32 6 .467 12.6% 18.5% 14.4% 45.5% 2.3%
Miami Marlins 25 35 9 .417 4.0% 9.5% 6.4% 19.9% 0.8%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Chicago Cubs 33 27 .550 35.9% 23.9% 14.2% 74.0% 5.1%
St. Louis Cardinals 32 28 1 .533 22.1% 22.8% 13.8% 58.7% 3.2%
Milwaukee Brewers 31 29 2 .517 21.1% 22.4% 13.4% 57.0% 3.1%
Cincinnati Reds 29 31 4 .483 16.5% 20.5% 12.4% 49.3% 2.5%
Pittsburgh Pirates 24 36 9 .400 4.5% 10.3% 5.0% 19.8% 0.7%
Team W L GB PCT Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Los Angeles Dodgers 37 23 .617 53.3% 24.3% 15.8% 93.4% 8.8%
San Diego Padres 34 26 3 .567 27.5% 30.4% 20.5% 78.4% 5.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks 28 32 9 .467 9.7% 19.6% 13.5% 42.8% 2.0%
Colorado Rockies 27 33 10 .450 5.4% 13.7% 8.9% 28.0% 1.1%
San Francisco Giants 26 34 11 .433 4.2% 12.0% 7.3% 23.5% 0.9%

As you can see, games have consequences and in a 60-game season, the results of individual contests have an out-sized effect on the standings. Not to keep bringing up the Orioles, but simply winning two-of-three rather than one-of-three against the Red Sox was enough to bump them up a whole win in 60 games and add five percentage points of playoff probability!

This is going to be a volatile season, even before accounting for the uncertain effects of COVID-19, which has caused the postponement of four games already.

One last chart. Here’s how those three or four games have changed the playoff and championship probabilities.

2020 ZiPS Projected Standings, 7/28 vs. Opening Day
Team Playoffs Opening Playoffs Change WS Win Opening WS Win Change
Chicago Cubs 74.0% 64.6% 9.5% 5.1% 4.0% 1.1%
San Diego Padres 78.4% 72.6% 5.8% 5.0% 4.3% 0.7%
Baltimore Orioles 13.0% 7.9% 5.1% 0.3% 0.2% 0.2%
Oakland A’s 77.3% 72.3% 5.0% 5.4% 4.7% 0.7%
Philadelphia Phillies 45.5% 40.5% 5.0% 2.3% 1.9% 0.4%
Tampa Bay Rays 83.8% 80.0% 3.8% 7.1% 6.2% 0.9%
San Francisco Giants 23.5% 19.8% 3.7% 0.9% 0.7% 0.2%
Toronto Blue Jays 40.5% 37.3% 3.2% 1.6% 1.4% 0.2%
Cleveland Indians 75.4% 73.8% 1.6% 5.3% 5.0% 0.3%
Miami Marlins 19.9% 18.6% 1.3% 0.8% 0.7% 0.1%
St. Louis Cardinals 58.7% 57.6% 1.2% 3.2% 3.3% 0.0%
Kansas City Royals 35.0% 33.9% 1.1% 1.3% 1.2% 0.0%
New York Mets 58.3% 57.4% 0.9% 3.4% 3.2% 0.2%
Seattle Mariners 16.0% 15.2% 0.8% 0.4% 0.4% 0.0%
Colorado Rockies 28.0% 27.2% 0.8% 1.1% 1.1% 0.1%
Chicago White Sox 60.6% 60.7% -0.2% 3.3% 3.3% 0.0%
Detroit Tigers 19.6% 20.1% -0.5% 0.5% 0.6% 0.0%
New York Yankees 85.3% 86.0% -0.7% 7.5% 7.6% -0.2%
Houston Astros 80.5% 81.3% -0.8% 6.1% 6.4% -0.3%
Minnesota Twins 78.7% 79.5% -0.8% 5.8% 6.0% -0.2%
Atlanta Braves 76.9% 77.8% -1.0% 5.6% 5.6% 0.0%
Washington Nationals 74.5% 75.9% -1.4% 5.2% 5.3% -0.1%
Milwaukee Brewers 57.0% 58.5% -1.6% 3.1% 3.4% -0.2%
Los Angeles Dodgers 93.4% 95.2% -1.7% 8.8% 9.5% -0.7%
Texas Rangers 35.8% 40.0% -4.2% 1.3% 1.6% -0.3%
Pittsburgh Pirates 19.8% 25.3% -5.5% 0.7% 1.0% -0.3%
Los Angeles Angels 48.5% 54.2% -5.7% 2.1% 2.6% -0.5%
Cincinnati Reds 49.3% 56.8% -7.4% 2.5% 3.2% -0.7%
Boston Red Sox 49.9% 57.8% -7.9% 2.3% 3.0% -0.7%
Arizona Diamondbacks 42.8% 52.3% -9.5% 2.0% 2.6% -0.6%

We hoped you liked reading The Actually Official 2020 ZiPS Projected Standings by Dan Szymborski!

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Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Baron Samedi
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Baron Samedi

The 2020 baseball “season” is a dangerous farce that is going to get people killed and writing about it legitimizes a dangerous farce that is going to get people killed.

bless_andrew
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Member
bless_andrew

ok doomer