While the two agree on a lot heading into the upcoming season, they don’t see eye to eye on everything. Here’s a breakdown of some interesting ways in which they agree, and where they differ.
The Yankees are poised to return to power in the AL East
The Bronx Bombers’ 2023 season was a “disaster,” as general manager Brian Cashman put it last August, with New York missing the playoffs and posting its worst winning percentage (.506) since 1992. But if the projections are any indication, the Yankees might not be down for long.
The Cardinals will go from worst to first in the NL Central
The Cubs and Reds each made strides in 2023, remaining in Wild Card contention until the final week of the season after finishing well below .500 the previous year. But while PECOTA and FanGraphs both project the reigning National League Central-champion Brewers to take a step backward in 2024, neither Chicago nor Cincinnati is expected to take Milwaukee’s place atop the division. Rather, it’s the Cardinals who are seen as the best team in the NL Central by both sites, one year after finishing in last place with a 71-91 record.
St. Louis focused on bolstering its pitching staff this offseason, signing starters Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson and reliever Keynan Middleton in free agency. However, those additions alone aren’t going to carry the club to first place. The Cards are likely going to need to get more from their two star bats, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who combined for 6.3 WAR last year after producing 14.2 WAR in 2022.
The Astros are the class of the AL West
The AL West featured the closest division race in baseball last season, with the Astros and Rangers both finishing with a 90-72 record — Houston won the division crown via tiebreaker — and the Mariners coming in third at 88-74. The Rangers went on to defeat the Astros in seven games in the AL Championship Series en route to a World Series title.
This year, though, both sites view the Astros to be the best team in the division by a wide margin — PECOTA projects Houston to win the AL West title by eight games, while FanGraphs has the Astros winning it by five games.
The Twins will continue to reign atop the AL Central
The Twins’ subtractions have far outweighed their additions since the end of last season, but they are still viewed as the strong favorite to win a weak division for the second straight year.
The Royals were one of the offseason’s busiest teams in free agency, and the Tigers also made some veteran additions to a young roster. But neither PECOTA nor FanGraphs thinks either team is ready to challenge for a playoff spot. Ditto for the Guardians, who didn’t do much to improve after winning 76 games a year ago. Then there’s the White Sox, who are projected to be a bottom-five team on both sites.
Does that make the Dodgers the best team in baseball? PECOTA thinks so, but FanGraphs doesn’t, projecting the Braves to post MLB’s best record for the second straight season and finish four games ahead of Los Angeles. Unlike the Dodgers, the Braves largely stayed out of the spotlight this offseason, but that’s mostly because they already had such a strong roster coming out of 2023.
Will the defending World Series champs even make the playoffs?
The Rangers won it all in 2023, but PECOTA and FanGraphs are divided over whether we’ll see Texas in the playoffs this year. While PECOTA thinks the Rangers will land the third AL Wild Card spot by the slimmest of margins over the Rays, FanGraphs has Texas missing the postseason entirely, projecting the club for the eighth-best record in the AL.
The Rangers’ pitching appears to be the biggest factor behind FanGraphs’ middling projection for the defending champs. Texas is projected to have a top-five position-player group, in terms of WAR, but the club currently has MLB’s sixth-worst projected pitching staff, with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom both expected to miss a large chunk of 2024 due to injuries and Jordan Montgomery dropping off the roster as a free agent (Montgomery could still be re-signed).
Missing the postseason has been fairly common for defending champs as of late. Of the 13 teams who won the World Series from 2010-22, seven didn’t make the playoffs the year after their title. Will Texas join that group in 2024?
Who is the second-best AL East team?
The AL East had four teams finish north of .500 and sent three — the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays — to the playoffs last year. PECOTA and FanGraphs both think that the division will be extremely formidable again, projecting four of the best seven teams in the AL to come from the East. We also know the two sites project the Yankees to be crowned AL East champs.
The point PECOTA and FanGraphs disagree on, however, is which team will finish in second behind the Yanks. Interestingly, neither site has last year’s AL East champs, the O’s, in that position, even though Baltimore added ace pitcher Corbin Burnes to a roster that won 101 games in 2023 and will soon see Jackson Holliday (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) join its impressive young nucleus in the Majors.
PECOTA has the Blue Jays in second, while FanGraphs projects the Rays to claim the spot.
The race for the third NL Wild Card spot is as tight as it gets … or not
While both PECOTA and FanGraphs project the Phillies and D-backs to grab the first two NL Wild Card spots, they disagree on how the third spot will shake out. PECOTA projects the Mets to clinch the berth by a fairly convincing margin at 84-78, three games ahead of the next closest NL Wild Card contender, the Cubs.
FanGraphs’ projection? Chaos. The Cubs, Padres, Brewers, Marlins and Mets are all projected to finish with 81-81 records, with the Reds and Giants at 80-82. Yes, for those counting at home, that’s a seven-team race for one spot.