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12 bold predictions for the 2024 MLB season

With Opening Day just around the corner, it’s time to make some bold predictions about the MLB season. Although these are based on analysis and are partly based on last year’s performances, they are intended to be more fun than serious. Here are 12 things that probably won’t (but might!) happen this season:

Aaron Judge will hit 70 home runs.

Why it might happen: Despite missing 56 games last year due to hip and toe injuries, the New York Yankees slugger hit 37 home runs, the second-most all-time by a player who appeared in 106 games or fewer. Judge’s toe injury may have affected his ability to pull the ball, as only 13 of his 37 home runs came off the field in 2023, compared to half of his AL-record 62 bombs in 2022, but the performance indicators were still there, and Now he will strike behind Juan Soto. Judge’s average fly ball distance was higher in 2023 than it was in 2022, and his ratio of home runs to fly balls was nearly identical at 18 percent.

Why this probably won’t be the case: The only two players to hit more than 70 home runs in a season – Mark McGwire in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 2001 – both admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during their careers. Since MLB implemented a universal drug testing policy in 2008, no one has scored above 62. FanGraphs’ Steamer Projects Judge, who said his toe will need “constant care” and dealt with an abdominal injury in spring training, Hitting 46 home runs.

Gunnar Henderson will be AL MVP.

Why it might happen: Henderson, who became the first Baltimore Oriole to win AL rookie of the year since pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989, hit .255 with 28 homers for the AL East champions. He broke Cal Ripken Jr.’s franchise rookie record for extra-base hits while playing solid defense at shortstop and third base, and after overcoming a slow start in 2023, he’s ready to put up his numbers to improve in 2024. Ripken followed his rookie 1982 campaign by winning his first of two MVPs the following season. History could repeat itself in Baltimore.

Why this probably won’t be the case: Historically, the MVP usually leads his league wins over replacement, a metric that quantifies a player’s overall value by comparing his performance to that of a hypothetical replacement player across various benchmarks. Henderson is projected to be in the top 10 in wins above replacement in 2024. per steamer, but he’s not even expected to be his own team’s best player. That honor goes to catcher Adleyrutschman, who is expected to finish the season with 5.7 fWAR. (If Judge hits 70 home runs, Henderson may have to settle for second place as MVP.)

The Kansas City Royals will win the division.

Why it might happen: The AL Central was baseball’s weakest division in 2023. Four of their five teams finished under .500 and the Minnesota Twins won the title by nine games with 87 wins. After finishing at the bottom a year ago, the Royals signed their star shortstop, Bobby Witt Jr., to a record extension and were active in free agency, adding starters Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, backup Will Smith and slugger Added Hunter Renfroe. Left-handed starter Cole Ragans, acquired from Aroldis Chapman in a trade-deadline deal last year, is a potential breakout star after going 5-2 with a 2 ERA in 12 starts with Kansas City, 64 scored.

Why this probably won’t be the case: The Royals set a franchise record with 106 losses last season, and the roster has plenty of questions outside of Witt. Catcher Salvador Pérez, the only remaining player from Kansas City’s 2015 World Series-winning team, turns 34 in May and has hit a total of 46 homers over the past two seasons after hitting 48 homers in 2021. First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino will have shoulder surgery that limited him to 61 games in 2023.

Pablo Lopez will win the AL Cy Young.

Why it might happen: The Twins right-hander is one of the most underrated starters in the majors. He went 11-8 with a 3.66 ERA last season after adding a sweeper and scoring post to his arsenal the highest average fastball velocity his six-year career. His ERA should have been 3.33, accounting for events more within his control (walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed) that would have been ranked 11th among all pitchers. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole is expected to miss the start of the season.

Why this probably won’t be the case: López has been a model of health over the past two seasons, starting 32 games each year. If he can avoid the arm problems that plagued him early in his MLB career, he should at least be in the Cy Young conversation. But the competition in the AL is fierce, even beyond Cole, with Kevin Gausman, Corbin Burnes and Framber Valdez among the names with a better chance of winning the preseason award.

The Oakland Athletics will win more games than the Los Angeles Angels.

Why it might happen: The A’s potentially moving to Las Vegas have improved a starting rotation that had done so the second-worst combined ERA last year by trading Ross Stripling and signing Alex Wood. (A closer look at last year’s pitching problems shows that Oakland’s starters had that second biggest difference between their ERA and the expected ERA based on events beyond their control, according to FanGraphs.) Baseball Prospectuses PECOTA projections The A’s improved last year’s 50-win record by 14 games.

Why this probably won’t be the case: While Oakland’s pitching could use improvement, the lineup – which He ranked last in the majors in runs – doesn’t look much different. Second baseman Zack Gelof is a rising star, and designated hitter Brent Rooker and first baseman Ryan Noda are retired, but the A’s will need others to contribute to a third straight 100-loss season and a last-place finish to avoid.

Julio Rodríguez will win 40-40.

Why it might happen: Rodríguez overcame a slow start to 2023 and finished the season with 32 home runs and 37 stolen bases, joining the 30-30 club in his second season. He was the one only player Ranked in the 90th percentile or better in batting, base running and fielding last season, according to MLB Statcast data. At 23 years old, Rodríguez probably has his best years ahead of him. The hit rate at the sweet spot of the racket, also called the barrel, sees a sharp increase between ages 20 and 25, and a player’s hit rate (balls with an exit velocity of 95 miles per hour or more) increases slightly over this period.

Why this probably won’t be the case: Ronald Acuña Jr. hit 41 home runs and stole 73 bases last season, but don’t let the Atlanta Braves star’s historic season fool you: Joining the 40-40 club is no small feat. Acuña became only the fifth player to achieve this and the first since Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

Spencer Strider struck out at least 300 batters.

Why it might happen: In 2023, Strider struck out and produced 281 batters the fifth highest strikeout rate in baseball history (36.8 percent) among pitchers qualified for the ERA title. His fastball is nasty, averaging between 96 and 99 mph and topping out at 102.4 mph. The key to the 6-foot strider’s success is his release extension – 7 feet ahead of the pitching rubber, which ranks 13th among starters since 2021, according to TruMedia data. Strider’s perceived fastball velocity is 98.9 mph, trailing only Jacob DeGrom (100.0 mph).

Why this probably won’t be the case: Only 19 pitchers since 1900 have struck out at least 300 batters in a season, and that feat has become increasingly rare in recent years as teams limit pitchers’ innings. The Yankees’ Cole was the last pitcher to surpass that mark with 326 in 2019.

Trea Turner will be the NL MVP.

Why it might happen: After signing an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last offseason, Turner struggled to get comfortable in his new home. With a little unexpected encouragement from the notoriously tough Philadelphia crowd, who gave him a standing ovation on August 4, Turner turned things around. In 48 games starting August 4, he hit 16 home runs with 42 RBI, 42 runs scored and nine stolen bases. His fWAR during this period Third place in the majors behind Mookie Betts and Rodríguez.

Why this probably won’t be the case: Turner’s production this season is expected to be somewhere between his incredible second half of 2023 and his 162-game career average of 24 home runs, 82 RBI and 42 stolen bases. That’s All-Star material and deserves a standing ovation, but not enough to warrant MVP consideration.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand will lead the NL in home runs.

Why it might happen: There were questions about Encarnacion-Strand’s playing time in spring training, but Noelvi Marte’s 80-game suspension for a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance opens the door for him to become the Cincinnati Reds’ primary first baseman. With a starting spot in a strong lineup and the advantage of playing half of his games in the league’s most homer-friendly stadium, CES is primed for a monster year after hitting 13 home runs in just 63 games as a rookie.

Why this probably won’t be the case: Last year’s NL home run leaders — Matt Olson, Kyle Schwarber and Pete Alonso — failed to accomplish anything, and the arrival of Shohei Ohtani makes that prediction even bolder.

The Milwaukee Brewers become division champions again.

Why it might happen: The Brewers have not won back-to-back division titles since 1981 and 1982, but the team has enough young talent to offset manager Craig Counsell’s move to the division rival Chicago Cubs and Burnes’ move to the Orioles. Exceeding expectations will require another strong season from catcher William Contreras, a rebound from shortstop Willy Adames and big contributions from free agent Rhys Hoskins. Center fielder Jackson Chourio is one of the best prospects in baseball.

Why this probably won’t be the case: Milwaukee overachieved, winning 92 games last season. Based on the run difference (plus 81), 90 wins were expected. According to the BaseRuns metric — a measure of how many runs a team should have scored or allowed given its offensive and defensive performance — this is the Brewers’ expected win total was 85. Their unproven starting lineup could be without right-hander Brandon Woodruff all season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, and closer Devin Williams will miss about three months with stress fractures in his back.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will set the record for wins in a single season.

Why it might happen: The Dodgers have won at least 100 games in four consecutive non-coronavirus seasons, including 111 two years ago. This year’s roster is deeper than that group, thanks largely to the addition of Ohtani, who signed a 10-year, $700 million contract, and the significantly cheaper acquisition of slugger Teoscar Hernández. The pitching is also better and potentially more dominant, with Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto and former Tampa Bay Rays star Tyler Glasnow leading one of the game’s deepest teams.

Why this probably won’t be the case: PECOTA projects Los Angeles will win 100 games in 2024 – 16 fewer than the record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Chicago Cubs. If we knew absolutely that the Dodgers had enough talent to win 117 games, they would have a chance of around 7 percent to achieve this. Why? This is because randomness in the outcome of the game, variability in player performance, injuries and the influence of situational factors such as weather and referee decisions affect short-term results.

Jung Hoo Lee will win the NL title.

Why it might happen: Lee hit .340 during his seven-year career in the Korean Baseball Organization before signing a six-year, $113 million contract with the San Francisco Giants in December. The left-handed hitting outfielder, who turns 26 in August, struck out just 304 times in 3,476 at-bats in the KBO and is expected to lead the way for San Francisco. He got off to a hot start in spring training, recording six hits in his first 13 at-bats, including a home run that sent his bat reaching 110 miles per hour.

Why this probably won’t be the case: The transition from Korean baseball to the major leagues isn’t always smooth. In 2021, shortstop Ha-Seong Kim hit just .202 in his first year with the San Diego Padres after hitting .306 in the KBO the season before. One reason for the difficult adjustment could be that the average fastball in Korea reaches around 90 mph 94 miles per hour in MLB. According to data from TruMedia, from 2008 to 2023, hitters had a .291 batting average against fastballs thrown between 88 and 91 mph and a .279 batting average against fastballs between 91 and 94 mph. That’s a big difference for anyone aiming for the batting title.

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