Is it too early to predict each team's win total?

June 5th, 2021

It has long been an adage that you can’t really trust what you see in the standings until Memorial Day. Well! Memorial Day has come and gone, and as we head into the first weekend of June, we’re starting to get a little clarity. It looks like a four-team race in the AL East; a two-, maybe three-team race in the AL Central (though we’re not ready to count out those Twins just yet); teams still finding their footing in the AL West and NL East; and three-team races in the NL Central and NL West. Could all that change? Of course! It’s only the beginning of June! That’s the fun of this. Many truths we accept as constants now will look ridiculous in September.

But we can surely take the opportunity to look ridiculous making some predictions right now. So today, four months before the last day of the regular season, we’re going to look at every team’s “on pace for” win total, division-by-division. We’re going to work off their win total if they played the entire season at the exact winning percentage they have played so far. Is that too low, too high or just Goldilocks right for how they’ll finish? Let’s foolishly attempt to guess.

“On pace for” win totals
Rays: 99
Red Sox: 97
Yankees: 87
Blue Jays: 85
Orioles: 57

Rays: The Rays are on course to finish with right around 100 wins. Did you know Tampa Bay has never won 100 games? This team has looked incredible at times, but are you ready to say this is the best team in Rays history? I am not. 99 wins? Too high.

Red Sox: Boston has been one of the most surprising stories in baseball in the early going, and it’s always possible that Chris Sale will come back in full force, but sorry: I’m just not sure the pitching is going to hold up enough all year. 97 wins? Too high.

Yankees: New York is coming off another of its “Let’s terrify our fans a bit!” skids, but you have to think it'll be one of the most active teams on the starting-pitching market. Putting the Yanks at 87 wins would have them as the worst team of the Aaron Boone era, and I do not think they are that. 87 wins? Too low.

Blue Jays: The Jays have to be a little frustrated to be stuck in fourth after all their offseason moves, but George Springer has to come back eventually, and even though you have to wonder when they’ll ever get back to Toronto, they may still have a run in them. That pitching, though. 85 wins? About right.

Orioles: The O's are going to keep getting beaten by these four all year, but enough to lose 105 games? Don’t they seem like the type of team whose youngsters -- most likely including, by then, Adley Rutschman -- will have a nice, hopeful September? 57 wins? Too low.

“On pace for” win totals
White Sox: 99
Cleveland: 88
Royals: 85
Tigers: 65
Twins: 63

White Sox: For all the drama on the South Side this year, manager Tony La Russa has his team comfortably in first place. The injuries have piled up, though, and Yermín Mercedes, who carried them through April, has cooled. There’s still plenty of pitching here, and talent, and I bet they will win the division going away. But 99 wins seems a skosh high. 99 wins? Too high.

Cleveland: This club has kept its head above water thanks to its pitching, but there really just aren’t enough bats here. 88 wins? Too high.

Royals: Kansas City looked like it was going to go off the rails there for a bit before stabilizing, but in the neighborhood of .500 looks like the ceiling. The question is whether the Royals will make any Deadline deals that help could help them in the future but cost them this year. My guess is no: They’ll want to hang in this thing, for better or worse. 85 wins? About right.

Tigers: Detroit had a nice series against the Yankees last weekend and are starting to show some of that young pitching, but we’re still plenty early here. 65 wins? About right.

Twins: And then, yes, the Twins. Do they have enough time to figure themselves out and make a run at first place? That’s going to be awfully tough: They’re 11 games out! That’s a lot! But getting above 63 wins? Easiest call on the board. 63 wins? Too low.

“On pace for” win totals
A’s: 93
Astros: 91
Mariners: 80
Angels: 74
Rangers: 63

A’s: The weirdest, most disorienting division in baseball. No one ever knows what to make of Oakland, but it won 97 games in 2018 and '19 and played at a 97-win pace in '20. That still seems a little high to me, though? So we’ll hedge. 93 wins? About right.

Astros: Houston actually has the second-best run differential in the American League, and it really does look solid everywhere. My money’s on the Astros to win this division and absolutely drive everybody crazy in the playoffs. 91 wins? Too low.

Mariners: Seattle has kept its head above water, but injuries, and the fact that the club is a year or two early, may drop it a notch down the stretch. Look out next year, though. 80 wins? Too high.

Angels: I know that Mike Trout is going to be out for far too long, and it’s not like the pitching is going to magically fix itself … but I still just cannot bring myself to imagine this team, with these stars, is going to lose 90 games. 74 wins? Too low.

Rangers: Texas looks like a prime selling candidate at the Deadline, and all told, it might as well start now. 63 wins? Too high.

“On pace for” win totals
Mets: 87
Braves: 77
Phillies: 75
Nationals: 72
Marlins: 69

Mets: Their injury problems are as comically absurd as they always seem to be, and while some of that talent’s going to return, and 91 wins would have almost seemed low going into the year, the idea that they are 14 games better than anyone else in this division is cuckoo banana pants. Just to even things out, you have to drop them a notch, even if they’re still clearly the favorites. 87 wins? Too high.

Braves: You keep waiting for Atlanta to make some sort of run, but circumstances keep pushing it farther and farther down the line. Still: It’s tough to imagine that much of a fall. 77 wins? Too low.

Phillies: If Philly doesn't finish at .500 this year, I’m not sure what it's supposed to do here. The Phils sure look like a .500 team, though, or even a step below that. Yikes. 75 wins? About right.

Nationals: Teams may already be calling around about Max Scherzer in Washington, but even if the Nats are resistant, perhaps they should not be. It might actually be helpful for them, long term, to go on a losing skid and just make this official. (Note: Usually when people say things like this about the Nationals, they win 10 in a row or something.) 72 wins? Too high.

Marlins: Miami may be positioned for one of its patented young-guys-getting-hot runs in August and September. I’m in. 69 wins? Too low.

“On pace for” win totals
Cubs: 91
Brewers: 88
Cardinals: 87
Reds: 77
Pirates: 64

Cubs: The Cubs were the best team in baseball in May and began June by sweeping the Padres at Wrigley Field. It’s looking more and more likely that the big selloff isn’t going to happen; these cowboys are going to get one last rodeo. Still: Can the pitching hold up to win 94 games? That would require all sorts of magic. 91 wins? Too high.

Brewers: The Crew’s offense has been underwhelming, wasting some historic starting pitching. But this is still a well-constructed team, and I bet Christian Yelich has a run in him coming. 88 wins? Too low.

Cardinals: The Cards have a terrific defense, some emerging outfield talent and some big bullpen arms. But the rotation is already starting to crumble, and Jack Flaherty could be out for a while. They need rotation help, and fast. But will they outbid everyone else who needs rotation help? That sure doesn’t sound like St. Louis. 87 wins? Too high.

Reds: Cincinnati, once again, can’t get all its pieces moving at once. But it still does have a lot of pieces. Seventy-three wins is low: Other than the Twins, this is the easiest call on here. 77 wins? Too low.

Pirates: The Bucs haven’t been as bad as you might have thought without Ke’Bryan Hayes. But even with him back, there is a long way to go. 64 wins? Too high.

“On pace for” win totals
Giants: 102
Padres: 99
Dodgers: 97
Rockies: 64
D-backs: 55

Giants: Wow, this division, right? Expecting the Giants to be worse than they actually are has becoming a cottage industry in the prognostication business the past few years; they’re brewing something up there. I’m willing to grant that I was too low on them when the year began. But not that too low on them. 102 wins? Too high.

Padres: San Diego was on a 100-win pace before the Cubs’ series, but all told, 97 sounds about right, now that the club is here. 99 wins? About right.

Dodgers: Los Angeles is the only team that can be on a 95-win pace and make you feel like it's somehow self-destructing. Not only do I think the Dodgers are going to win this division, I also think they might do it by six games or more. 97 wins? Too low.

Rockies: The Rox are about to start trading their valuable veterans, or at least they better be. 64 wins? Too high.

D-backs: They have been terrible, and the surprise team they were two years ago seems long, long in the past. But they have enough stray talent not to be this bad, right? 55 wins? Too low.

Please do not come back to look at this piece when the season is over to see how wrong it is. Or if you do, please do not tell anyone about it.