Baseball is literally right around the corner, folks. Not only are World Baseball Classic rosters set, but the Mets, the Yankees, and the rest of MLB will be reporting to Spring Training very soon.
We’ve seen player projections for 2023 get released over the past few weeks, but we’ve reached another level since standings projections are beginning to become public.
The first I’ve seen are Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections. He released the start-of-spring American League and National League standings this week. As usual, projections are just that, and they should be taken with a grain of salt. But still, it’s something else for us to talk about, and they help set realistic expectations for the upcoming season.
We have Yankees- and Mets-related takeaways/observations to share. Before that happens, though, here are the details. Below is a screenshot of the projected AL East standings for 2023:
And here are the projected NL East standings for 2023:
Postseason and World Series odds
It’s not surprising to see the Yankees projected to win the AL East again. After all, they just took home the division title in 2022 off the strength of a 99-win campaign. Aaron Judge is back and Carlos Rodon is joining the party in what looks to be a stacked rotation.
When looking at New York’s 75.8% chances of making the playoffs and 8.0% odds to win the World Series, it’s among the American League’s highest. That’s easy enough to do since the AL Central could once again be a war of attrition. Only three AL clubs have playoff odds greater than 70% heading into Spring Training, and the Yankees are the second-highest.
Those same three AL clubs (New York, Toronto, and Houston) are the only ones with better than a 5% chance of winning the World Series. And once again, the Bronx Bombers rank as the second-best.
ZiPS account for roster depth. So, the fact that the Mets’ percentages are so high means ZiPS anticipates them to be good, even if the injury bug hits. And it probably will at some point. Mostly because six months is a long season, and also because it’s the Mets.
Five NL clubs currently have playoff odds better than 70%, but just two are above 80%. Unfortunately for the Mets, the other squad resides in their division. In addition to that, New York and the Atlanta Braves have the two highest World Series winning odds, both eclipsing 10%.
Any way you slice it, postseason baseball is the expectation for each borough in 2023.
Familiar dragons need to be slayed
Winning in the regular season hasn’t been a problem for the Bombers. They’ve finished with a winning record in each of the past three decades. More times than not, those performances have led them into October.
However, the Yankees haven’t appeared in a World Series since winning it all in 2009. That’s one of the longest droughts in franchise history, and one team has been to blame more than most: the Houston Astros.
Houston is not just the defending champion. The organization has reached at least the ALCS in each season since 2017. New York has reached the postseason seven times since 2015. They’ve been eliminated from the playoffs by the Astros four of those times, with the last three occasions being in the ALCS.
Unsurprisingly, Houston’s 90 wins, 78.2% playoff odds, and 9.1% odds of winning the World Series are all AL-best projections. If the Yankees want to get back to the Fall Classic, they’ll probably have to exorcise some Houston demons along the way.
The Mets were eliminated by the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Round of last year’s playoffs. That NL West squad should be in the mix again once October comes around. However, the Amazins will have to deal with Atlanta throughout the regular season.
As we can see from the above projection, these two will likely be duking it out for the next few months. It’s not quite the same as the Yankees-Astros situation, but for the Mets to take another step forward, they need to take care of the Braves.
Atlanta has a great young core group of players who are all seemingly under contract for the rest of this millennium at below-market rates. Sure, they won the 2021 World Series, but their recent stretch of success goes beyond that. They’ve also captured the NL East title each of the last five seasons, reaching at least the NLCS twice during that span.
For the Mets, the road goes through Atlanta.
Divisional races should be tight
The Bombers won the AL East by a comfortable seven-game margin in 2022. Most of that is thanks to an incredible first half. Outside of Judge, New York struggled through July and August, periodically making things a little too close for comfort.
The AL East had three teams qualify for the postseason last year (New York, Blue Jays, and Rays). That could very easily happen again, and who knows how pesky the Baltimore Orioles will be after posting their first winning campaign since 2016.
For New York, it’ll be a matter of consistency. There’s nothing wrong with coming out of the gates fast and being one of MLB’s best teams. It just can’t be followed with a month or two of below-.500 baseball.
The Amazins also started fast in 2022. They took advantage of the Braves World Series hangover and jumped out to a 10.5-game divisional lead by Memorial Day. Of course, that’s when Atlanta caught fire and eventually overtook New York (by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker).
ZiPS is projecting another two-horse NL East race in 2023, but I’m not buying that. The Phillies had a solid offseason and got a huge upgrade at shortstop in Trea Turner. Lowering the emphasis on divisional play this year could be a factor, but I think these three will all be close in the standings. And, after they all made the playoffs last season, that could easily happen again.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.