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Fade the Braves and Ride the Rays if MLB Realigns for Shortened 2020 Season

Ronald Acuna Jr. in the Braves outfield
If MLB proceeds with the proposed realignment plan, the Atlanta Braves could be saddled with a very difficult schedule in 2020. Photo by Ian D'Andrea (Flickr).
  • MLB is contemplating a three-division (East, West and Central), 10-team realignment plan for the shortened 2020 season
  • The Central appears to be the most balanced division, making it more difficult for Atlanta to exceed its win percentage prop
  • Tampa Bay (East) and San Diego (West) look like two teams with a great shot to exceed their win-percentage props

Major League Baseball could look a lot different this year if the three-division, 10-team realignment plan it’s considering is approved. The proposal, which still needs medical clearance given the COVID-19 pandemic, would keep many of baseball’s biggest rivals together, and reduce the amount of travel needed.

MLB officials are reportedly optimistic this plan can be implemented by no later than July 2, allowing teams to play at least 100 regular-season games solely within their new division.

The shakeup could drastically influence the 2020 MLB win-percentage odds, so let’s investigate which teams a potential realignment will hurt and who it will help.

2020 MLB Win Percentage Odds

Team Division Over/Under Odds
Baltimore Orioles EAST 35.0% (-110o/-110u)
Boston Red Sox EAST 52.0% (-110o/-110u)
Miami Marlins EAST 40.0% (-110o/-110u)
New York Mets EAST 53.5% (-110o/-110u)
New York Yankees EAST 62.0% (-110o/-110u)
Philadelphia Phillies EAST 52.5% (-110o/-110u)
Pittsburgh Pirates EAST 42.0% (-110o/-110u)
Toronto Blue Jays EAST 46.5% (-110o/-110u)
Tampa Bay Rays EAST 56.5% (-110o/-110u)
Washington Nationals EAST 55.0% (-110o/-110u)
Team Division Over/Under Odds
Arizona Diamondbacks WEST 52.0% (-110o/-110u)
Colorado Rockies WEST 45.0% (-110o/-110u)
Houston Astros WEST 58.5% (-110o/-110u)
Los Angeles Angels WEST 52.5% (-110o/-110u)
Los Angeles Dodgers WEST 62.5% (-110o/-110u)
Oakland Athletics WEST 55.0% (-110o/-110u)
San Diego Padres WEST 50.5% (-110o/-110u)
San Francisco Giants WEST 42.0% (-110o/-110u)
Seattle Mariners WEST 41.0% (-110o/-110u)
Texas Rangers WEST 47.5% (-110o/-110u)
Team Division Over/Under Odds
Atlanta Braves CENTRAL 56.0% (-110o/-110u)
Chicago Cubs CENTRAL 53.0% (-110o/-110u)
Chicago White Sox CENTRAL 52.0% (-110o/-110u)
Cincinnati Reds CENTRAL 52.5% (-110o/-110u)
Cleveland Indians CENTRAL 53.5% (-110o/-110u)
Detroit Tigers CENTRAL 35.5% (-110o/-110u)
Kansas City Royals CENTRAL 40.0% (-110o/-110u)
Milwaukee Brewers CENTRAL 51.0% (-110o/-110u)
Minnesota Twins CENTRAL 57.5% (-110o/-110u)
St. Louis Cardinals CENTRAL 53.5% (-110o/-110u)

Odds taken April 30th.

A Raw Deal for the Braves

The Atlanta Braves are fresh off back-to-back NL East division titles and currently own the fourth-best World Series odds. The 2020 season was looking like a great opportunity for them to reach the NLCS for the first time since 2001, but if this realignment proposal is passed, they’ll be stuck in the most competitive division.

Just two teams in the Central (Kansas City and Detroit) are projected to win less than 50% of their games in 2020, compared to four teams in the East and five teams in the West. Atlanta will no longer have the luxury of beating up on the lowly Marlins (they were 15-4 vs Miami in 2019), and 55% of their games will be against pitching staffs that ranked top-nine in fewest runs allowed last season.

The Braves won 59% of their contests a year ago, but got quite lucky to do so. They rated out as the second-luckiest team in baseball (behind only Milwaukee) and were 12 games above .500 in one-run affairs. Regression is likely to hit hard in 2020 and keep them under their win percentage prop.

Pick: Braves Under 56.0% (-110)

The Rays are for Real

Over in the East, things are looking bright for Tampa Bay. Not only will they continue to feast on AL East bottom-feeders Toronto and Baltimore, but they’ll also have the luxury of playing 22% of their games against Miami and Pittsburgh, two clubs who combined to win just 39% of their outings in 2019. More easy wins for the Rays.

Tampa Bay advanced to the AL Divisional series a year ago on the strength of its pitching, but lacked enough offense to compete with the heavy hitters. They addressed that issue in the offseason, acquiring Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and 33-home run man Hunter Renfroe.

The proposed realignment will also match them up with rivals Boston and New York, plus a trio of quality NL East opponents, including the defending champion Washington Nationals. That may seem daunting, but the Rays were 12 games above. 500 in the AL East last year, and had little trouble with NL opposition, posting a 14-6 record in interleague play.

Pick: Rays Over 56.5% (-110)

Padres Present Value

Another team with a great chance to exceed its win percentage is San Diego. The Padres line currently sits at 50.5% which is below the 51.9% projection assigned to them by FanGraphs. Under the proposed realignment, they’ll play in the West, which is by far the weakest of the three divisions. Yes, it’s loaded up top with Los Angeles and Houston, but five of the 10 teams (Arizona, Colorado, San Francisco, Texas and Seattle) are all projected to play sub .500 baseball.

San Diego is stacked on offense with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado leading the way, and have a plethora of young pitching talent. Chris Paddack is coming off a phenomenal rookie campaign in which he struck out nearly 27% of the batters he faced, and they’re set to welcome MacKenzie Gore, who was recently named baseball’s best pitching prospect by MLB executives.

They also added former 17-game winner Zach Davies to fill out their rotation, and with 55% of their games coming against projected inferior opponents, they’re a good bet to go over their win percentage.

Pick: Padres Over 50.5% (-110)

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