, pub-3283090343984743, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 The 2024 Pre-Spring Training ZiPS Projected Standings: American League
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The 2024 Pre-Spring Training ZiPS Projected Standings: American League

American League
Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

With the Dodgers reporting for pitchers and catchers on Friday, this week seems like a good time to do run ZiPS projections for all 30 teams. Let’s be clear up front: These are not the final preseason projections – and an ancient curse I saw suggests that if you quote them as such, ghosts will eat your lymphatic system – but they’re the best expression of how ZiPS sees the league right now. After all, several marquee free agents remain unsigned and rosters will surely change between now and the start of the 2024 season.

These standings are the result of a million simulations, not results obtained from binomial, or more competently, beta-binomial magic. The methodology isn’t identical to the one we use for our playoff odds, which were released yesterday, meaning there naturally will be some notable differences in the results.

So how does ZiPS calculate the season? Stored within ZiPS are the first- through 99th-percentile projections for each player. I start by making a generalized depth chart, using our Depth Charts as a jumping off point. Since these are my curated projections, I make changes based on my personal feelings about who will receive playing time as filtered through arbitrary whimsy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates a million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion (the computational algorithms, that is — no one is dressing up in a tuxedo and playing chemin de fer like James Bond).

After that is done, ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized distribution of injury risk that changes the baseline plate appearances or innings pitched for each player. ZiPS then automatically and proportionally “fills in” playing time from the next players on the list to get to a full slate of PAs and innings.

The result is a million different rosters for each team and an associated winning percentage for each million of them. After applying the new strength of schedule calculations based on the other 29 teams, I end up with the standings for each of the million seasons. I promise, this is much less complex than it sounds.

The goal of ZiPS is to be less awful than any other way of predicting the future. The future is tantalizingly close but beyond our ken, and if anyone figures out how to deflect the astrophysicist Arthur Eddington’s arrow of time, it’s probably not going to be in the form of baseball projections. So we project probabilities, not certainties.

Over the last decade, ZiPS has averaged 19.6 correct teams when looking at Vegas preseason over/under lines. I’m always tinkering with methodology, but most of the low-hanging fruit in predicting how teams will perform has already been harvested. ZiPS’ misses for teams from year to year are uncorrelated, with an r-squared of one year’s miss to the next of 0.000562. In other words, none year-to-year misses for individual franchises has told us anything about future misses for those franchises.

2024 ZiPS Projected Median Standings – American League East
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Baltimore Orioles 90 72 .556 36.4% 38.5% 74.9% 8.4%
New York Yankees 88 74 2 .543 25.5% 40.0% 65.6% 5.9%
Toronto Blue Jays 88 74 2 .543 24.5% 39.1% 63.6% 5.6%
Tampa Bay Rays 83 79 7 .512 9.7% 29.9% 39.5% 2.1%
Boston Red Sox 79 83 11 .488 3.9% 18.1% 22.0% 0.8%

I’m from Baltimore, but I would hope last year’s projection miss would disavow anyone of the notion that I weight these team standings toward my personal preferences. The Orioles – and last year’s Orioles – do a bit better in my methodology than others, I suspect because of the weight I deal with depth. In those seasons in which they lose players, especially offensive ones, the team’s depth keeps the falloff from being too dire. Even in simulation no. 452,331, in which the O’s lose both Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschmann to season-ending injuries before the first game, the team still finished 84-78!

The Yankees have significant downside given how much of their punch is tied up in a handful of players, but the reports of their death are quite premature. Juan Soto will provide a huge offensive boost this year, even if they don’t re-sign him after the season. They also added two other outfielders, Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham, who are better than everybody they ran out there last year, with the exception of Aaron Judge.

ZiPS likes Toronto’s rotation and expects the return of Kevin Kiermaier to help, but without Matt Chapman, it sees third base as a major downgrade from last year. The Rays almost always get the most out of their depth, but ZiPS isn’t sure how much production they will get from their DH spot or how they will cobble together their rotation without Tyler Glasnow.

The Red Sox aren’t a dreadful team, but they’re merely OK in a division that has four good-to-great teams. That being said, they’re just good enough that they still have slightly better than a one-in-five chance of making the playoffs.

2024 ZiPS Projected Median Standings – American League Central
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Cleveland Guardians 85 77 .525 42.4% 13.6% 56.0% 3.9%
Minnesota Twins 85 77 .525 42.1% 13.6% 55.7% 3.8%
Detroit Tigers 77 85 8 .475 10.3% 7.3% 17.7% 0.5%
Kansas City Royals 74 88 11 .457 4.7% 3.9% 8.6% 0.2%
Chicago White Sox 66 96 19 .407 0.4% 0.4% 0.7% 0.0%

ZiPS projects Cleveland to be relatively even with Minnesota, in large part because it likes the rotation trio of Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, and Tanner Bibee more than other projection systems do. ZiPS doesn’t see the Guardians as significantly below average at any position — Andrés Giménez remains a ZiPS favorite — and it thinks their bullpen is underrated. The Twins won the division fairly comfortably last year, but remember, they won only 87 games and just lost the AL Cy Young runner-up, Sonny Gray, in free agency. The Jorge Polanco trade came from a surplus of infield talent, but the additions of Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Topa won’t compensate for Gray’s loss to the rotation. If you like Carlos Santana, the team’s “big” offseason signing, I’d recommend you not look at the projection for him.

The projections still see more upside for Detroit’s pitching than its hitting, though after Spencer Torkelson’s surge last summer, ZiPS does expect him to keep improving in his third big league season. The Tigers are good enough that they can make a serious run at .500, but they’ll need some good fortune to get enough offense.

The Royals get credit for being active in free agency this offseason, signing veteran starting pitchers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, reliever Will Smith, slugger Hunter Renfroe, and utility man Adam Frazier, among other players. That said, those are the types of moves a team makes when it already has a strong core in place and is ready to contend, and, at least as ZiPS sees it, the Royals aren’t quite there yet. That’s not the worst thing in the world, considering they just signed shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to the longest, most valuable extension in franchise history.

ZiPS has the White Sox as one of the worst teams in baseball, with little to look forward to outside of Dylan Cease, Luis Robert Jr., and the hope that Yoán Moncada and Eloy Jiménez get back on track. This organization is in a very dangerous position in that, like the Rockies a few years ago, I’m not sure it truly understands where it stands.

2024 ZiPS Projected Median Standings – American League West
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 89 73 .549 43.3% 26.5% 69.8% 7.3%
Texas Rangers 86 76 3 .531 28.0% 28.4% 56.4% 4.5%
Seattle Mariners 85 77 4 .525 23.0% 27.4% 50.4% 3.5%
Los Angeles Angels 79 83 10 .488 5.6% 13.2% 18.9% 0.6%
Oakland A’s 63 99 26 .389 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%

ZiPS still sees the Astros as the class of the AL West, thanks to the massive concentration of talent in the heart of their lineup. It wasn’t a busy winter for Houston, but the big addition, Josh Hader, gives a boost to the bullpen. The Astros, though, are not unstoppable. They have a lot of viable arms in the rotation, but the upside isn’t what it was three or four years ago, even if Justin Verlander has another strong season left in his arm.

The Rangers are a well-built team, but a lot of their offensive talent is on the wrong side of 30, and last year was probably the best case scenario for a few of their hitters. Their starting pitching is weaker now than it was at the end of 2023. ZiPS did account for the late-season returns of Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Tyler Mahle to reinforce the rotation, but all those games without them count, too, and as of this writing, Texas has not re-signed or replaced Jordan Montgomery.

ZiPS likes a lot of what the Mariners did this offseason. It projects Jorge Polanco as a moderate plus at second base and Luis Urías to be an effective replacement for Eugenio Suárez. Gregory Santos is in the top tier of projected relievers, though his projection will come down just a tad once a fixed error in the ZiPS database propagates to our player pages.

It will be nice for the Angels to get full seasons from Zach Neto and Nolan Schanuel, and the team has spent its offseason quietly beefing up its bullpen. But losing Shohei Ohtani is going to hurt.

I believe I have talked about all the major league teams in the AL West and surely did not forget anyone.

2024 ZiPS Projected Playoff Wins – American League
To Win 10th 20th 30th 40th 50th 60th 70th 80th 90th
AL East 89.2 91.4 93.0 94.4 95.7 97.1 98.5 100.2 102.7
AL Central 82.7 85.1 86.8 88.3 89.7 91.2 92.8 94.7 97.3
AL West 86.7 89.0 90.6 92.1 93.5 94.9 96.4 98.2 100.8
To Win 10th 20th 30th 40th 50th 60th 70th 80th 90th
AL Wild Card 1 87.3 88.8 89.9 90.9 91.8 92.8 93.9 95.1 97.0
AL Wild Card 2 84.6 86.0 86.9 87.8 88.6 89.5 90.3 91.4 92.9
AL Wild Card 3 82.5 83.8 84.7 85.5 86.2 87.0 87.8 88.8 90.2

One thing that drive me nuts about the discourse of the ZiPS projections is when someone looks at the top median projection and gets very angry with me that some division can be won with 89 or 90 wins. Since most of the tweets on this subject have an aspect for Mature Audiences Only, I’ve translated an example into something suitable for polite company.

Verily, Szymborski, thou art bereft of wit! How dare thee proclaim that a mere tally of 89 victories shall secure the Astros dominion over the AL Wast! Thy discourse betrays a lamentable ignorance, akin to that of a common dullard. Thy prognostications, I dare say, are as worthless as the dregs of a shire-reeve’s larder after Michaelmas!

Yes, the Astros have the best median projection in the AL West at 89 wins, but that doesn’t mean 89 wins will actually win the AL West. This last chart shows the probabilities that X number of wins will take the division or wild card spot in question. So, 89 wins might win the AL West, but only about 20% of the time. The Orioles project to 90 wins, but in the 36.4% of scenarios in which they won the AL East, they averaged 95.3 wins.