How the projected standings agree (and how they don't)

February 17th, 2023

Projection rollouts have become a time-honored tradition in the lead up to every baseball season, and FanGraphs writer Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS and Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA are two of the most trusted projection systems around.

But as you might expect, they don't agree on everything.

Now that ZiPS and PECOTA have both released their projected standings for 2023 (ZiPS can be found here and here, and PECOTA here), here's a breakdown of some interesting points on which they agree, and where they differ.


It's Cleveland vs. Minnesota for the AL Central title.

After reaching the playoffs in 2020 and winning the AL Central with a 93-69 record the following year, the White Sox seemed poised to establish themselves as the division’s alpha dog in 2022. Instead, the club went 81-81 and missed the postseason, finishing 11 games behind the upstart Guardians.

Although José Abreu left as a free agent to sign with the Astros in the offseason, the core of the roster that won the division title two years ago is still largely intact, making Chicago an obvious rebound candidate in 2023. But ZiPS doesn’t see it that way, and neither does PECOTA. ZiPS projects the White Sox for 74 wins, closer to the Tigers (71) and Royals (70) than the Guardians (83) and Twins (80). PECOTA projects both the Twins and Guardians for 88 wins, with the White Sox at 78.

The Angels are playoff contenders … and the Rangers aren't

Despite employing and , the Halos missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season in 2022. But after an offseason spent filling out their roster with solid role players, ZiPS and PECOTA both think they have a good chance to break their ignominious drought in 2023. 

ZiPS projects both the Mariners and Angels for 85 wins, putting the two clubs in a tie for the third AL Wild Card spot behind the Blue Jays and Rays. PECOTA has the Halos four games ahead of the Mariners and gives them a 54.9% chance of reaching the postseason, the seventh-highest odds in the AL.

Notably, ZiPS and PECOTA both project the Angels to be significantly better than the Rangers, whose moves have been much splashier than the Halos’ in the past two offseasons. After signing , and for a combined $556 million in 2021, the Rangers inked , , and Martín Pérez and traded for this offseason. But neither system is buying Texas as a contender in 2023.


Are the Blue Jays even with the Yankees, or way behind?

The Blue Jays have constructed one of the most talented rosters in the AL, combining impressive young players such as , , and with veteran stars such as , and , but the club has yet to break through as an AL powerhouse. The Blue Jays were widely considered to be one of the AL favorites to reach the World Series entering 2022, but they ended up finishing seven games behind the Yankees in the AL East and were swept by the Mariners in the AL Wild Card Series. Toronto hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016.

After winning 99 games in 2022, the Yankees were able to re-sign and in free agency, and they inked All-Star lefty  to a six-year contract. PECOTA views the Bronx Bombers as heavy favorites in the AL East, with Toronto projected for roughly nine fewer wins. ZiPS has it as a much closer race, projecting the Yankees for 89 wins and the Blue Jays for 88.

Are the Braves even with the Mets, or way behind?

After the NL East race came down to the wire in 2022, with the Braves edging the Mets via tiebreaker after both won 101 games, the two teams had drastically different offseasons. The Mets committed nearly $500 million to free agents this offseason, re-signing and while also inking , Kodai Senga and to replace departed starters deGrom, and . The Braves, on the other hand, weren’t a major player in free agency. In fact, they lost their top free agent, shortstop , to the Cubs.

With considerable improvement expected from and ,  ZiPS thinks Atlanta is in good shape, projecting the club for another tie with the Mets at 94 wins apiece. PECOTA, however, sees a sizable gap of roughly five games between them, with the Mets on top.

We should also mention the Phillies, who went further than both the Mets and Braves in the 2022 postseason before losing to the Astros in the World Series. Despite signing  in free agency, neither ZiPS nor PECOTA views the Phils as a major threat to win this division. Perhaps it would be a bit closer if two-time NL MVP were healthy, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in November and might be out until July.

Are the Brewers better than the Cardinals, or way behind?

The NL Central hasn’t had a repeat champion since the Cubs in 2016-17, and PECOTA expects that trend to continue in 2023, giving the Brewers a two-game edge over the Cardinals. Milwaukee had a relatively quiet offseason after finishing seven games behind St. Louis last season, but PECOTA projects the team’s vaunted pitching staff to allow 41 fewer runs than that of St. Louis.

Meanwhile, ZiPS not only projects the Cards to win a second straight NL Central title but also gives St. Louis the largest margin of victory (seven games) of any of the projected division champions. The Cardinals’ pitching may be a question mark, but the club has an excellent defense and good roster depth, not to mention a lineup featuring reigning NL MVP at first base, perennial All-Star at third and new addition at catcher.

As for the Cubs, neither system likes their postseason chances despite the signings of Swanson, , , and .

Is the NL West a two- or three-team race?

With the exception of a 107-win season from the Giants in 2021, the Dodgers have owned the NL West for the past decade. But after Los Angeles lost a number of key players and steered clear of this offseason’s free-agent bonanza, the club’s grip on the division could be loosening.

It’s not a huge surprise that ZiPS projects the Padres and Dodgers for the same record. After all, the Friars signed , will be getting back from injury/suspension and will benefit from having and for a full season after acquiring both at the 2022 Trade Deadline. What is surprising, however, is that ZiPS also puts the Giants squarely in this race at 88-74.

Coming off an 81-81 campaign, San Francisco had an offseason that can best be described as “OK.” The Giants had grand designs to add a superstar, but they came up short in the Judge sweepstakes and walked away from a deal with , reportedly due to concerns about his physical. Instead, their big additions were , , , and . They lost Rodón, and . But there they are with an 88-74 projection from ZiPS, just three games behind the mighty Dodgers and Padres.

PECOTA is much less bullish on the Giants, giving them a winning percentage below .500 and less than a 1% chance of winning the division. The system also thinks there’s still a gulf between the Dodgers and Padres, projecting Los Angeles for 96.1 wins and the Padres for 92.6.