Yankees would be biggest winners of MLB’s radical realignment, short season proposal

The three new divisions would be based on geography, and teams would only play clubs in their division, completing a regular season sche...

The three new divisions would be based on geography, and teams would only play clubs in their division, completing a regular season schedule of about 100 games before engaging in an expanded playoff. The divisions would look like this:

East: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals

Central: Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals

West: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers

As you can imagine, that change would throw preseason projections out the window. The biggest beneficiaries of this proposed plan would be the Yankees. Gerrit Cole, their new ace, is expected to be the most valuable pitcher in baseball per FanGraphs’ calculation of wins above replacement. Cole will join a starting five that should also include Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery. Only the Nationals, also in the division, are projected to have a better starting rotation.

The Yankees’ lineup is also expected to mash. They hit 306 home runs last season (one fewer than Minnesota for the most in the majors — and the most in major league history) without sluggers Aaron Judge (102 games played) and Giancarlo Stanton (18) in the lineup for long stretches. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu, shortstop Gleyber Torres, catcher Gary Sánchez, outfielder Brett Gardner, first baseman Luke Voit and third baseman Gio Urshela round out a lineup expected to be among baseball’s best.

The Bronx Bombers were projected to win 96 of 162 games (a .593 winning percentage) and easily dominate the AL East with a cushion as large as seven games over the Rays, their closest division rival. It’s possible the Pirates and Marlins join the Blue Jays and perennial bottom-dweller Orioles as sub-.500 clubs that would litter the Yankees’ new schedule, pushing New York’s win rate to 67 percent over a 100-game season in the proposed division. No other team is expected to see more wins per 100 games than the Yankees under this plan.

Here are three other teams that benefit from the realignment:

Cleveland would have been in a dogfight with Minnesota for the AL Central crown, plus Tampa Bay, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels for a wild-card spot, giving the Indians a 43 percent chance to make the playoffs. Under this realignment, the Indians are expected to finish second in the new Central, just a game behind the Twins, thanks to the introduction of a slightly below-average team, the Cardinals (18th), to an already-weak cast of opponents from the original division in the Tigers (28th) and Royals (25th).

The Athletics probably won’t overtake the Dodgers or Astros at the top of this division, but they have everything they need to be the third-best team in the newly constructed West.

Most of the Oakland team that won 97 games last year returns, including shortstop Marcus Semien, who led the team with 7.6 wins above replacement, and third baseman Matt Chapman, second with 6.1. Pitcher Jesús Luzardo had shoulder problems that delayed his debut last season, but the 22-year-old impressed in this year’s shortened spring training and won’t be the only hard-throwing left-hander on the roster. Sean Manaea has been working with Hall of Famer Randy Johnson on a slider, and A.J. Puk, a rookie who struck out at least 29 percent of the batters he faced at every stop in the minors, is getting extra time to rehab a shoulder injury.

The Brewers underwent a makeover this offseason. Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas left in free agency, and many new players joined the 40-man roster. Everyday players Avisaíl García, Jedd Gyorko, Ryon Healy, Eric Sogard and Justin Smoak were brought in as free agents, as were pitchers Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom and David Phelps. Second baseman Luis Urías, catcher Omar Narváez and pitcher Eric Lauer were acquired via trade. Luckily, 2019 NL MVP runner-up Christian Yelich returns to anchor a lineup that would now face the Royals and Tigers in addition to the Cardinals.

Yelich, the 2018 NL MVP, was the best hitter in the National League last year, creating runs at a rate that was 74 percent higher than average after adjusting for league and park effects, while also being one of the best base runners in the game (posting a league-high 8.5 runs above average via stolen bases and other base-running plays). He’s expected to be in the running again for MVP honors with a projected slash line of a .303 batting average, a .394 on-base percentage and a .570 slugging percentage, resulting in 5.3 wins above replacement over 162 games.

Instead of scrambling to get ahead of the Cubs and Reds in the NL Central, Milwaukee could coast into the No. 3 or No. 4 slot in a revised Central, which could mean a playoff spot. Not bad for a team that only makes the playoffs 28 percent of the time in simulations with the season starting as usual in March.

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Newsrust: Yankees would be biggest winners of MLB’s radical realignment, short season proposal
Yankees would be biggest winners of MLB’s radical realignment, short season proposal
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