Predicting the Final Standings for the 2015 MLB Season
The offseason has been a blur, one blockbuster move after another changing the landscape as we knew it just hours before.
Brash and fearless front offices shuttling out superstars, bringing in others and changing the complexion of divisions has been the norm since before Thanksgiving. In what has become one of the most active and maybe surprising fall-winter seasons in recent memory, the balance of power has shifted in every division in both leagues over the course of three-and-a-half months.
All pitchers and catchers should be reported to their spring training camps by the end of next week—barring any odd happenings, of course—and optimism will run rampant at all of them. The reality of any club’s situation never really hits until around late June, when party lines are clearly drawn and the best teams start to distinguish themselves.
In the world of prognostication and prediction, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for things to play out. In this world, we play the games on paper because we want answers, and we need them now.
So, with about all of the roster shuffling complete and spring training a few sleeps away, let’s get to predicting what things will look like come Oct. 4.
American League East
|Boston Red Sox||88||74|
|New York Yankees||87||75|
|Toronto Blue Jays||82||80|
|Tampa Bay Rays||75||87|
There is not a dominant team in this bunch, nor is there a team complete enough to say they will without a doubt overcome any unforeseen circumstances to still win the division.
The Red Sox have improved the most and will complete yet another worst-to-first run. This one will not end with a World Series title, though, unless a blockbuster trade for Cole Hamels develops by August.
While the offense is good enough to be a juggernaut—so good that Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections has them leading the majors in runs scored—the rotation has not improved enough to make this a top-tier club. There is no ace and not even an arm that has ever led a rotation in the past. In fact, PECOTA also has the Red Sox as one of the worst run prevention teams in the American League.
The Yankees made no blockbuster signings or trades this offseason, but their rotation and bullpen should be better than Boston’s. If the rest of the lineup can stay healthy—an “if” that is more long shot than pick ‘em—the offense just may be good enough to upend the Red Sox. However, Yankee fans should be advised not to hold their breath on that one and be happy with a wild-card berth.
Toronto made a big-time trade in acquiring Josh Donaldson from Oakland, but it failed to address its rotation while other teams got better. The same can be said about the Orioles, who lack a true ace and are severely counting on Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis to be All-Star caliber.
As for the Rays, this is not a bad team. Just a team not better than the rest of their division—for now.
American League Central
|Chicago White Sox||85||77|
|Kansas City Royals||83||79|
Losing Max Scherzer is going to hurt the Tigers. No doubt about that. Still, they have the firepower and just enough in their rotation with David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander. Verlander is the wild card. We can assume he will be better than he was in 2014, though not by a lot. As long as that prediction holds true, the Tigers should be fine.
Unless, of course, Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez, or any of the above pitchers, miss significant time because of injury, which seems to be a valid concern for everyone but Price and Verlander.
As far as the American League goes, the White Sox might be offseason winners. Adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera is good enough to make the Sox a dozen games better than in 2014. Combine that with a 10-game improvement from 2013 to last season and Chicago has bettered itself by 22 games in two seasons. Unfortunately, they are still not playing beyond Oct. 4.
The Indians are good enough to be the best rotation in the league, but that assumes there will be little to no regression from guys like Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House. Aside from Kluber, the others will also have to pitch more innings and allow fewer baserunners while keeping their strikeout rates intact. No easy feat.
The Royals really only lost James Shields from last year’s pennant-winning team—Billy Butler is replaceable—but the rest of the division got better with the exception of Detroit, and the Royals did nothing to improve their pitching. Counting on Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy to be at the front of their rotation after they threw 183.0 and 149.1 innings last season, respectively, is not a great fallback plan.
The Twins are improved. They still aren’t very good.
American League West
|Los Angeles Angels||95||67|
Garrett Richards should be healthy enough to pitch in April after a gruesome knee injury last season, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, and that means the Angels will have an ace.
Now, if Matt Shoemaker can sustain last season’s breakout and Jered Weaver can be a bit better than league average, this team has the makings of a good rotation. As for the lineup, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols obviously have to keep producing at high levels, and another good offensive season from Chris Ianetta and Kole Calhoun wouldn’t hurt either.
The Angels won’t sniff 100 wins this season as they did in 2014, but they’re still good enough to be the No. 1 seed come October.
The Mariners finally have enough offensive pop to complement their rotation and will make the postseason for the first time since 2001. There are no more excuses for this team. The fanbase has been waiting for a winner for more than a decade. This team will finally produce one.
The A’s traded All-Star after All-Star, but they are still competitive because of a solid rotation and bullpen.
The Rangers, despite better health, still have to rely too much on Yu Darvish to carry the rotation, and while the Astros are also better, they are still years away from seriously competing.
National League East
|New York Mets||81||81|
The Nationals’ super rotation looks good enough to be an all-time great, and the lineup has no visible fatal flaws. All this team has to do is stay relatively healthy and they will challenge for 100 wins as no other club in the division can match up.
The Marlins have an improving pitching staff that might get Jose Fernandez back by mid-June, reports MLB.com beat writer Joe Frisaro. With MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton leading a young and progressing lineup, the Marlins are good enough to fight for a playoff berth into the final weekend.
The Mets have an improving rotation filled with some young and promising arms, but the lineup still has significant questions and health concerns for David Wright.
The Braves traded their way out of contention this offseason, and the Phillies didn’t make enough of them to be considered a contender for this season or next.
National League Central
|St. Louis Cardinals||89||73|
This division has lost firepower from top to bottom with the exception of the Cubs, but they still are not good enough to keep up with the Cardinals. St. Louis’ rotation, while having some health concerns, is still good enough to outlast the rest of the division. And its outfield defense should improve from 14 defensive runs saved (via FanGraphs) last season to a top-five group in 2015.
The Cubs will be one of the most watched and scrutinized teams in baseball this summer, but despite adding Jon Lester and having a strong rotation and blossoming lineup, they are still too young to be any better than .500. There time will come, though, and it will come soon.
It is a tough sell to say the Pirates got any better this offseason, so unless Josh Harrison and Starling Marte can be All-Star-worthy pieces, they will have plenty of trouble making the playoffs.
The Brewers could be without their best player, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, at the start of the season, leaving Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez the responsibility of producing at elite levels. That probably won’t happen for both, and with the loss of their best starter, Yovani Gallardo, this team will not break .500.
Neither will the Reds, a team that seems to be aging rapidly and traded productive starter Mat Latos. Catcher Devin Mesoraco was a four-win player last season by FanGraphs' calculations, but his .309 BABIP is far too lucky to duplicate.
National League West
|Los Angeles Dodgers||95||67|
|San Diego Padres||87||75|
|San Francisco Giants||85||77|
Adding Yasmani Grandal, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and Joc Pederson to the middle of the Dodgers defense will make things even better in 2015. The offense might not be as powerful, but they are certainly good enough to run away with this division as they have improved at catcher and second base.
The offseason overhaul for the Padres will pay off with a 10-game improvement and its first playoff appearance since 2006. The addition of James Shields was a huge piece to this rebuild, although his numbers on paper might not reflect that because he is going from the game’s best outfield defense in Kansas City to what could end up being one of the worst.
The Giants have a knack for missing the postseason after winning the World Series, but this season they will compete for a berth if healthy. The rotation is the biggest enigma because of age, injuries and ineffectiveness.
The Diamondbacks are still rebuilding and will feel the effects of being in a quality division. As for the Rockies, no one is too sure what exactly they are doing.