The Red Sox are projected to fall just shy of a postseason spot in 2020.
The outlook has been anything but optimistic for the Boston Red Sox heading into the 2020 season. While few are predicting this club to advance to the postseason, Boston should at least be in the hunt and could be closer to a playoff spot than most people realize.
FanGraphs has released their annual projected standings, which predict the Red Sox to finish with a 31-29 record and a third place finish in the AL East.
The result is hardly surprising. The .516 winning percentage is a tick below last year’s .519 W% when Boston also finished third in their division and missed the playoffs. Since then, Chris Sale has been lost to season-ending surgery while Mookie Betts and David Price were shipped to Los Angeles. Improvement from their young talent will offset some of those losses but not nearly enough to expect the Red Sox to be a better team this year.
Despite a dip in winning percentage compared to last season, the Red Sox may see improved playoff odds. There isn’t much time for the top teams to pull away in the standings during a shortened season, leading to compact standings that provide little margin for error.
A rash of injuries or a cold spell could quickly derail a contender. A team’s fortunes could be altered by luck, either good or bad. A ball falling in where no defender can reach, a bad bounce, an umpire’s blown call. These variables rarely amount to much in a 162-game marathon but they have a greater impact during a 60-game sprint. This season will be more unpredictable than any in MLB history and the potential for randomness favors teams like the Red Sox that may have been counted out from the start in a normal season.
Winning only 31 of 60 games would suggest the Red Sox are expected to be a barely above-average team rather than a postseason contender. The winning percentage equates to about 83 wins over the course of a full season, just shy of the 84 they compiled last year when Boston finished a distant 19 games behind the division-winning Yankees and 12 games out of a Wild Card spot.
The winning percentage is far more favorable this year. While these projections show the Red Sox coming up short of a playoff spot, they are predicted to finish only three games behind the Yankees in the division race. New York’s .566 W% equates to nearly 92 wins in a full season. At that pace, Boston would finish about nine games behind the Yankees, a near insurmountable gap dividing the rivals down the stretch. Catching the Yankees is suddenly more realistic if they only had a three-game lead late in the season.
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A division crown may still seem far-fetched but a Wild Card spot isn’t. Based on these standings, the Tampa Bay Rays (33-27) and Oakland A’s (32-28) would meet in the Wild Card game. Oakland would be projected to finish at least three games ahead of the Red Sox in a full season but in these standings they are separated by only one win.
Boston isn’t the only team that benefits from the condensed standings. The Cleveland Indians are projected for the same 31-29 record while the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels are hot on their heels with 30 wins. It took the Rays 96 wins to secure the second Wild Card spot last year but a .500 record is enough for a team to consider themselves in the hunt based on these projections.
Pre-season predictions are often conservative. We’ve seen several teams eclipse 100 wins in recent years but rarely do we expect a team to hit triple digits entering the season. It’s certainly possible that some of the top teams will smash their projection but the gap in the standings still won’t be nearly as wide as it would be in a full season.
The Red Sox probably won’t win their division but they should be closer than they were last year and be among a handful of teams fighting for a Wild Card spot. There’s enough talent on this roster to remain competitive and keep the postseason race interesting down the stretch.