Well, what do you want me to say?
Although the season officially started Sunday and was followed up with a more traditional Opening Day yesterday, there’s still one final set of pre-season projections to share with you, via Dan Szymborski at ESPN. It’s the final pre-season ZiPS standings and playoff odds projections.
The content is premium, meaning you have to pay to be an ESPN insider to read it, but I’ll share some of the highlights.
Dan Szymborski opens the discussion by analyzing the Mets/Royals World Series rematch and identifies each team’s chance of reaching the World Series. Then, using the full and updated ZiPS projected standings for 2016, he lays out every team’s chances of reaching the playoffs, winnings its division, earning a wild-card spot and, ultimately, winning the World Series. Afterwards, he breaks down the AL vs. the NL, picks a dark horse playoff selection, discusses the impact of A.J. Pollock’s elbow injury, examines the worst teams in the league and uses statistics to determine the most likely World Series pairings.
Whew … that’s a lot.
For the NL Central, it should come as no surprise that ZiPS is picking the Chicago Cubs to take the division, after finishing with 94 wins in the regular season. As we’ve discussed, other projection systems generally agree. ZiPS gives the Cubs 91.9% playoff odds as of the preseason.
Coming in just behind the Cubs are the Cardinals (88 wins), followed by the Pirates (85), Brewers (73) and Reds (69). In fact, the Cubs – and their 94 wins – are projected to be the best in baseball and the only team to win over 90 games in 2016.
As for the rest of the National League, the Mets (89-73) are projected to take the NL East by just two games over the Nationals (87-75), while the Dodgers (89-73) are expected to take the West by the same exact margin over the Giants (87-75). That means that the Cardinals would play one of the Giants or Nationals in the Wild Card game, and frankly, that all sounds about right.
Although there are some very strong and some very weak teams in the National League, the AL shows a great deal more parity than their DH-less counterparts. In fact, the top ten (out of fifteen) teams in the American League are projected to finish with between 82 and 86 wins. For comparison’s sake, the top ten teams in the National League are projected to finish with between 75 and 94 wins. That’s a huge difference and serves to underscore the contenders/pretenders dichotomy in the NL, as Szymborski puts it.Skipping down to the 2016 World Series probabilities, we once again find our lovable Chicago Cubs at the top of the list. In fact, out of the top 25 most likely 2016 World Series match-ups, the Cubs appear in nine(!!!) of them, including the top two most likely (Cubs/Astros and Cubs/Indians) and five of the top ten (Cubs/Red Sox, Cubs/White Sox and Cubs/Blue Jays). (I don’t want to be picky, but I would absolutely love a Cubs/Red Sox or Cubs/White Sox World Series. I guess I’ll just take a Cubs/Anyone, though).
But before we get to the World Series, we have to get to game 2 of the 2016 regular season. And, although this season already started, these projections (and the accompanying article) are very interesting and definitely worth your time, so be sure to check it out.
For now, I’ll just settle for another win tonight.