Yankees', Astros', Braves' Playoff Hopes Take Big Hit in Latest Short-Season ZiPS Projections

Jordan Cohn
June 24, 2020 - 2:27 pm

A lot can happen in 102 games of baseball. So when you completely remove a 102-game chunk of action from a baseball season, things are bound to get a little wonky.

That's exactly what happened with Fangraphs' ZiPS projected standings, courtesy of Dan Szymborski, after Major League Baseball announced a 60-game season, effectively ridding teams of certain matchups, eliminating certain players' chances to return from injuries and rehab, implementing a universal designated hitter and laying out a whole new set of rules and regulations by which the game will be played.

ZiPS projections were released way earlier in the year in February, but the formula then took into account a normal 162-game season, normal schedules, normal health conditions and more, and as a result, the projected standings looked a lot more... well, normal! The Yankees were locked into a playoff seed after acquiring Gerrit Cole. The Dodgers were similarly an automatic entry into the postseason after Mookie Betts came over from the other coast. And the Orioles and other bottom-of-the-barrel teams were practically guaranteed to miss out on a playoff berth.

Now? Not so much. The Yankees' 97.7% projected playoff odds now sit at a much less comforting 66.5% (-31.2% difference). The Dodgers went from 98.8% down to 73.0% (-25.8% difference, but still the best in baseball). And the Orioles... well, they're still at the bottom of the barrel, shifting from a February projection of a 0% playoff chance to a 1.3% chance. But, in the words of Jim Carrey's "Dumb and Dumber" persona Lloyd Christmas... so you're saying there's a chance? I wouldn't get your hopes up, O's fans.

Here are the biggest movers in the ZiPS projected playoff chances after incorporating the shortened season, again courtesy of Dan Szymborski of Fangrahs.

Chances Decrease
- New York Yankees (97.7% --> 66.5%)
- Houston Astros (88.1% --> 60.9%)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (98.8% --> 73.0%)
- Atlanta Braves (72.5% --> 48.8%)
- New York Mets (49.4% --> 32.7%)
- Minnesota Twins (74.7% --> 58.1%)

Chances Increase (I only included teams with >20% chances)
- Chicago White Sox (17.9% --> 36.2%)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (12.9% --> 30.5%)
- Los Angeles Angels (18.9% --> 32.4%)
- Philadelphia Phillies (18.7% --> 30.4%)
- St. Louis Cardinals (25.6% --> 35.6%)

Of course, these numbers are projections and nothing more. The Yankees and Dodgers are still likely to go ahead and dominate. The White Sox still seem to be behind the Twins and Indians by a significant margin in the AL Central (and the new projections still represent that fact).

But you can also understand why some teams moved the way they did. The multitude of injuries that plague the Yankees' roster may not have a chance to heal in time for certain players to take part in the regular season, or only for a small portion of it. The Phillies, featuring a few guys who are notorious for leaping out to hot starts, could very well surge ahead of the Syndergaard-less Mets and find themselves boasting a record similar to the 33-24 figure they carried before June of 2019. The White Sox could benefit from playing against the central teams of MLB as opposed to coastal rivals. And so on.

One thing's for sure: this season is going to be as unpredictable as any, and so you shouldn't put too much stock into these rankings. The season may not even happen with the way cases are spiking up lately. But if it does get underway, it will be interesting to see who falters and who surges ahead.

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