Better late than never, right? Nearly four months later than expected, the 2020 MLB season is about to begin. The season’s first pitch will take place Thursday, July 23, at Nationals Park, when the New York Yankees visit the defending World Series champions in Washington D.C. Most teams will begin play the next day.
A lot is different about this season: 60 games, with 40 against the four in-division teams and 20 against the geographically-corresponding division in the opposite league; a designated hitter in both leagues; a taxi squad rather than traditional minor leagues; and, of course, the cloud of COVID hanging over it all. To get you up to speed before it gets rolling, 7 of our TGS greats have come together to provide two pages full of predictions and a few hot takes.
We asked our baseball correspondents these questions:
- Who wins the divisions, and who will make the Wild Card Games?
- Who will be in the ALCS and NLCS?
- How will the World Series turn out?
- MVPs of each league?
- Cy Young winners?
- The DH is now part of NL baseball, probably forever. What do you think?
- With only 60 games this year, who will get the most regular season wins, and how many will it be?
- Three Bold Predictions for 2020 baseball:
- Out of the stadiums you’ve never visited, where would you most like to catch a game?
Their answers appear below. Let them know what you think – we’ve linked their Twitter handles alongside their picks. Now let’s play ball!
Levi Denny – @tgslevi
Division winners and Wild Cards: The Astros, Twins, and Yankees in the AL, and the Dodgers, Reds, and Mets in the NL. The Wild Card matchups will be A’s vs. Rays and Braves vs. Cardinals. I don’t feel I’m straying too far from a likely norm here. The Reds have been improving, and statistically it seemed like they had some bad luck last season. Twins fans should be all in at this point, they seem to give more hope early than late so a shortened season could benefit them both. The Astros will get garbage jokes all season but that doesn’t mean they are a bad team. And you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than the Dodgers not winning the NL West. Do you like the odds on lightning?
ALCS and NLCS: In the AL, Yankees vs. Astros. Hit the Astros all you want with pitches, that just puts men on base. These are two highly talented teams that know how to get to the finish line. Potential injury issues are the only reason to avoid picking the Yankees, personally I think they will overcome those issues easily thanks to a late start.
In the NL, Dodgers vs. Braves. The Braves seem to be slightly discounted this year but they have won the NL East the past two seasons and have a potent offense that adds Puig. The Dodgers have three past MVP winners in their lineup. David Price sitting out may have an impact during the season but can only help their post season chances.
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees in 6. While the Dodgers have won the NL two of the last three years they haven’t hung a World Series banner since 1988. They have a great chance to end that drought this season. Also I can’t take the Yankees in good conscience as a Red Sox fan.
MVPs: Bryce Harper (PHI) and Aaron Judge (NYY). Last season many considered a down year for Harper. Down was hitting 35 home runs and tallying 114 RBI’s. He is comfortable in Philly now and if he takes any motivation from the doubters he could be poised for a huge season. And as for Judge, this could be an absolute light show of a season if he gets and stays healthy. A friendly park and weak schedule should allow huge offensive numbers on a pennant winning team.
Cy Youngs: Walker Buehler (LAD) and Gerrit Cole (NYY). Fun fact: Buehler is one of only three pitchers with 15 strikeouts and no walks in multiple games. The others — Pedro Martinez and Dwight Gooden. He is already in rare air and possesses four pitches to force hitters out. Drop the ERA a bit this year and there is good value here. Cole is one of the best in baseball in ERA. He strikes out nearly 40% of the hitters he faces, and will pile up wins in New York. He’ll get more press now, and if he produces can easily be the front-runner.
DH in the NL thoughts: Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful. About damn time. Baseball purists have long held this belief that everyone on the field should be able to wield a bat but that time has passed us by. Having someone who hits twice every five days and looks terrified to be in the batters box doesn’t bring entertainment. If baseball wants new fans (which they desperately need) then you have to add excitement and nothing is better for excitement than the long ball.
Most wins in this 60-game season: 39 by the Yankees. Running through their schedule, it looks likely the Yankees will play over a third of their games against opponents who will finish with a below .500 record on the season. If that is the case, winning 65% of their games should be very attainable with their roster.
Three Bold Predictions:
- No managers will be fired during or after the season. With a shortened season, potential challenges with health and rosters, and some stars sitting out, it’s reasonable to expect teams to give their managers a bye this season.
- Fans will be in attendance in some capacity by the end of the season. People want to go to games, and the MLB wants them there. With many parks being outdoors and the ease of spacing people out to allow social distancing even greater than the guidelines will recommend there will be a chance to watch your favorite team play in person this season.
- MLB will lift blackout restrictions. With fewer (if any) fans coming to the games, a shortened season, and stars electing to sit out baseball, they need to add and maintain viewers in any way possible. There is arguably no better way to do so than to let viewers watch their favorite team in the most dire of circumstances. Major League Baseball can grow another 50 years of fans with one smart move.
Your next new stadium: Fenway Park. This was rather easy for me; I fell for the lovable loser many years ago. There have been some bright lights in more recent memory. It is not a “me” dream anymore though, it is a “we” dream. Baseball hits deep. When I taste my first Fenway Frank, the boy is going to be next to me and you’ll be able to see those grins from Iowa.
Shawn Fensterman – @smfen
Division winners and Wild Cards:
- AL East – New York Yankees. Too much offense.
- AL Central – I hate to say this so much, but the god damned Minnesota Twins
- AL West – Houston Astros. They might be done cheating, MIGHT, but they’re still real good.
- NL East – Atlanta Braves. Once again, too much offense, good pitching, also so much fun.
- NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals. This division is a crapshoot so I really have no backing here.
- NL West – LA Dodgers. I don’t seem them losing this division for another decade.
- AL Wild Cards – Indians and I think the Rays can do it again. White Sox could be real sneaky here too, though.
- NL Wild Cards – Nationals, because they’re real good and defending champs, and give me the Reds!
ALCS and NLCS: The Twins will lose to the Yankees before we get here, per tradition. I’m going to hype my own expectations and say the ALCS is Indians-Yankees. Yankees in 6. The NLCS will be Braves and Cardinals, with the Braves winning in 5.
World Series: Braves-Yankees, and let’s ride this wave and bring Atlanta a championship in 2020! Braves in 6!
MVPs: Mike Trout (LAA) is going to add to his mantle again. Not sure the AL has anyone to fight him for it especially in a shortened year. The NL is a little more tough. Cody Bellinger (LAD) is the reigning winner, with Christian Yelich (MIL) right behind him. I’ll take a stab at adding a fresh face to the race, though: give me Ronald Acuna, Jr. (ATL)! I hope he hits 60 HRs in 60 games.
Cy Youngs: In the AL, I’m taking a young kid who was very much in the race for this award last year, and on a shortened season I think can absolutely shine. A bit biased maybe, but I think Shane Bieber (CLE) has the tools to be an outstanding, top talent this year. The NL is a different story; however I think Jacob deGrom (NYM) is filling the role that Clayton Kershaw (LAD) held in my mind for a while. I’m going to pick him until someone gives a reason not to do so. Imagine being that damn good on that brutally awful of a team.
DH in the NL thoughts: THE NATIONAL LEAGUE HAS FINALLY MOVED INTO THE 20th CENTURY! They’re decades behind on doing this and it’s insane to me it took this long and this sort of scenario to enact. The “strategy” or whatever it is that having pitchers bat is a good idea is finally gone and I think it’s gone forever. This is such a relief to me. You can’t tell me in any sort of good conscience that you actually enjoyed or believed that Jon Lester standing in a box never swinging was fun or better for that game than Kyle Schwarber smacking baseballs onto Sheffield.
Most wins in this 60-game season: Someone is going to mess around and do something wild here. I think someone, probably the Yankees, win 50 games.
Three Bold Predictions:
- The Marlins and/or Tigers will lose 50 games.
- One team will have to forfeit at least one game due to positive COVID tests.
- At least one team, due to rain outs and my above prediction, will finish the season playing less than 55 games.
Your next new stadium: My first thought every single time is PNC Park. I’ve heard its one of the best, but I have no real reason to go to Pittsburgh. Also, I absolutely NEED to check Progressive Field off some day and go see the Indians.
Ted Flint – @TedFlintKansas
Ted’s note: I wrote this at about 1:00 AM drunk in my basement, so these picks are sure to hit.
Division winners and Wild Cards: *Googles who is in each division. Makes a drink. Cracks knuckles.* Here we go. In the AL, the Angels, Twins, and Yankees win. The Dodgers, Pirates, and Braves take the NL. Wild Card games will be Indians vs. Rays and Padres vs. Cardinals.
ALCS and NLCS: Yankees vs. Twins and Dodgers vs. Cardinals.
World Series: Yankees over Dodgers in 7.
MVPs: Going with Javy Baez (CHC) and Mike Trout (LAA).
Cy Youngs: Max Scherzer (WAS) and Zack Greinke (HOU).
DH in the NL thoughts: Love it. Chicks dig the long ball or something like that.
Most wins in this 60-game season: 42, because it’s the best number in the universe.
Three Bold Predictions:
- The Cubs win less than 20 games, and Ricketts still doesn’t make any moves.
- A star gets sick in the World Series and costs his team the title.
- Mike Trout hits a home run while wearing a mask.
Your next new stadium: I’d like to make it up north to Target Field soon.
Nicole Gustafson – @NicoleGus2
Division winners and Wild Cards: The Astros, Twins, and Yankees take the AL, and the Dodgers, Brewers, and Braves win in the NL. Wild Cards go to the A’s, Rays, Nationals, and Cardinals.
ALCS and NLCS: The Braves and Dodgers face off in a great NLCS battle between an up-and-coming team at the beginning of their championship window and a veteran bunch still chasing a ring before their window closes. The whole baseball community backs the Twins in the ALCS against the Astros.
World Series: The Astros take the trophy from the Braves in six, but America falls in love with the exciting young players in Atlanta. Fans grumble that maybe Houston’s cheating punishment wasn’t harsh enough.
MVPs: I’m picking Mike Trout (LAA) for MVP every year, sorry. And I’ll go with Christian Yelich (MIL) in the NL.
Cy Youngs: A shorter season means fewer starts to make a good impression. I think that works in Clayton Kershaw’s (LAD) favor and he is able to stay healthy all season. In the AL, Gerrit Cole (NYY) gets the better of Justin Verlander (HOU).
DH in the NL thoughts: RIP, #PitchersWhoRake. It’s a sad day for everyone who feels that all baseball players should play both offense and defense. Although the DH is emphatically not my preference and you will not change my mind on that, it is easier to have both leagues doing the same thing. It could actually help my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, so I will allow it with a heavy heart.
Most wins in this 60-game season: I think the Braves take advantage of extra games against the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, in addition to the inconsistent teams in their own division. They finish with 42 wins.
Three Bold Predictions:
- A really good team is tanked by a positive COVID test.
- The Cincinnati Reds have a very good season. The Cubs fan in me doesn’t want to say the Reds finish third, but I think the two teams are neck and neck.
- We see several big, important games decided by the new rule that places a runner on second in extra innings.
Your next new stadium: I’ve already been to two stadiums with great history – Wrigley and Fenway – so I think I would go somewhere with awesome scenery next. I’ve always liked the water behind the Giants’ Oracle Park. The name needs some work, though.