The Braves will win 14 fewer games than last season and finish third in the National League East, if projections by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system prove accurate.
The annual computer projections, released Tuesday, have the New York Mets winning the NL East with an 88-74 record, followed by the Washington Nationals at 87-75 and the Braves at 83-79.
While PECOTA’s projected NL East standings are surprising, given the Braves’ back-to-back division championships, it bears noting on the cusp of spring training that both the Mets and Nationals had better records than the Braves after the All-Star break last year. Still, the Braves won the division with 97 wins for the full season, finishing four games ahead of the eventual World Series champion Nationals and 11 ahead of the Mets.
Why would the Braves’ record decline this year? If it happens, it could be because the loss of Josh Donaldson from the heart of the batting order isn’t sufficiently offset by the addition of Marcell Ozuna or because the Nationals and Mets have better starting pitching rotations than the Braves.
It’s also possible, of course, that PECOTA, which is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, is again underrating the Braves. At this time last year, you might recall, PECOTA projected the 2019 Braves to go 84-78 and tie the Philadelphia Phillies for third place in the NL East, behind the Mets and Nationals.
PECOTA’s projections for 2020 have the Los Angeles Dodgers winning 103 games and the NL West in a landslide and the Cincinnati Reds winning the NL Central with 86 victories.
Behind the Mets, Nationals and Braves in the NL East, the Phillies are projected to finish fourth with 77 wins and the Miami Marlins last with 71.
Based on projected win totals, the Nationals and Chicago Cubs would be the NL’s wild-card teams.
In the American League, the New York Yankees are projected to win the East with 99 victories, the Minnesota Twins to win the Central with 93 and the scandal-tarnished Houston Astros to win the West with 98.
Baseball Prospectus noted that its projections will “continue to be tuned” as teams set rosters during spring training.
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