On Monday night we got the schedule for the 2020 revised season. The Cincinnati Reds are starting out the year by hosting the Detroit Tigers. And for the 2020 season it’s the Tigers, not Cleveland, who is considered the Reds “rival”, which means that Cincinnati gets to play Detroit six times instead of Cleveland, who they will only play four times. In a shortened season where every game is that much more valuable, playing a team expected to be a bottom dweller instead of a team like Cleveland that’s expected to compete for the playoffs is huge.
That may be a part of the reason why the Reds are the National League Central favorites according to the PECOTA Projections over at Baseball Prospectus. The division is still a tight race, except for the Pirates – but Cincinnati is atop with 33 wins. The Cubs follow up in second with 32, while the Cardinals have 31, and Milwaukee sits in 4th with 30.
The PECOTA Projections give the Reds strong playoff odds, with a 63.8% chance of making the playoffs in 2020, with a 43.8% chance of winning the division. The Cubs only have a 24.6% chance of taking the division title according to the projections. Cincinnati’s 33 wins would give them the second best record in the league, tied with the Nationals, but well behind the Dodgers.
Projections are just that, though – projections. It’s based on past performance and likely outcomes. But in 2020, there’s no such thing as a likely outcome. Perhaps the most likely outcome is that chaos will reign supreme. A hot streak or a cold streak in a 60-game season may win or lose the division. An injury or illness that costs a player 2-3 weeks could do the same thing. Having a player go off like Aristides Aquino in August of last year could truly carry a team in a way that baseball players usually can’t do given the length of a year. The 2020 season will be a sprint rather than a marathon, but no one spent the offseason training for a sprint.