Making predictions for the 2020 Major League Baseball season that is set to get underway on Thursday is a riskier proposition than ever before. Instead of a 162-game, six-month long, everyday marathon that exposes depth and talent more than any other pro sport, MLB is about to undergo a 60-game, two-month long sprint.
The likelihood is that the best teams will still rise to the top over those 60 games. But the odds that some team that would have been more of a mid-level squad over 162 can rise to a genuine contender over 60, and that a championship contender can stumble and find not enough time to recover in the shortened format, becomes much more feasible a possibility.
As for the players contending for individual honors such as Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year awards? Just as many possibilities that could derail them as well. A hot start over the first month can make any regular an MVP contender. A sudden positive COVID test in early August would completely derail a superstar having an MVP campaign.
With all that said, I’m going to make predictions anyway based on where I see things right now, and on the assumption that everything runs smooth and most players stay healthy.
Let’s start it right off with the regular season divisional finishes and playoff results, and the individual award winners. I will then provide some closing commentary.
NL EAST: PHI, WAS, NYM, ATL, MIA
NL CENTRAL: STL, CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL
NL WEST: LAD, COL, SD, ARZ, SFG
AL EAST: NYY, TB, TOR, BOS, BAL
AL CENTRAL: CLE, CWS, MIN, DET, KC
AL WEST: HOU, LAA, TEX, OAK, SEA
NLCS: Phillies over Dodgers
ALCS: Indians over Astros
World Series: Phillies over Indians
Now, in looking over my predictions the most obvious thing that should stand out to anyone will be that there is the completely “homer” prediction of the Philadelphia Phillies winning not only their first NL East crown in nine years, but also just the third World Series championship in franchise history.
While hardly any national or even local prognosticator will make that same prediction, there are two simple reasons that I do make it. First, the Phillies coming off a .500 season are better right now than they have been at any time in the last eight years. Second, in all seriousness, why not us? Why not now? In 2020, anything even remotely realistic can come to pass, including this.
Another secondary highlight for me is the prediction that the Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros will not only fail to win the World Series, none of those teams will make it to the Fall Classic.
One NL team that I hate to say needs to be watched are the New York Mets, who I think are legitimate contenders. That is true even if Yoenis Cespedes and Robinson Cano do nothing. If either of those guys, and especially if both, enjoy a big comeback year, look out. On the other hand, I’m not buying that the Braves are deep enough to be the contender that many seem to feel.
In the AL, watch out for what is happening with the Chicago White Sox. This is an organization that is accumulating an insane amount of young talent. It may be too much to think the kids can put it all together this year. But over the 2020’s this should be a serious contender in the American League.
In wrapping it up, let’s call it the year of the Phils and the Tribe. But mostly we will all look back on this, no matter who wins it all – if any team does – as the year of the pandemic. No fans in the stands. Piped in crowd noise. COVID testing. 60-man rosters.
More than ever we can expect the unexpected from Major League Baseball in the 2020 season. Well, actually, that’s not true. Whatever happens, no matter how unusual, should actually be what expected in this most unusual season in big-league history.