As baseball is about to begin, 22 members of the Last Word On Baseball staff picked National League over/under for the coming season. Each writer was asked to pick two team overs and two team unders. With a 60-game schedule, any team that gets off to a bad start could find it hard to get back into the race.
COVID-19 is still a factor. MLB players are getting tested often and any positive test will result in a quarantine period until that player has two consecutive negative tests. There are a handful of players who have opted to not play this season because of this terrible virus and still more could follow suit.
As always injuries will play a part in every team’s success. With this season basically being a sprint, every team knows that the usual April slump just can’t happen this season. Expect the players to come out of the chute with a pedal-to-the-metal mentality. This also could cause injuries to players who are so accustomed to easing into the season. The schedule is broken out into 40 division games and 20 regional games against the other league. One other new rule for this season is the implementation of the universal designated hitter. Just announced prior to the first game of the season, MLB has expanded the playoffs. A total of 16 teams will qualify for the playoffs, eight in each league. Just like the universal designated hitter both rules are for this season only.
Before we get into the team by team picks, let’s look at some of the numbers that the LWOB staff’s picks came up with. The Toronto Blue Jays were picked the most times with eight selections. The only team not to get picked was the Miami Marlins. The MLB team with the highest over/under total is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with 37.5, followed by the New York Yankees, with 36.5. Not one staff member pick the over for either team, but that does not mean a different team won’t win more than 37 games.
The lowest over/under total is the Baltimore Orioles with 20.5. Two staff members did pick the Orioles, and we will talk about that later on in this article. The American League East led the way with 18 selections followed by the American League West with 15. Next, we have three divisions tied with 14 selections. Those divisions are the American League Central, National League East, and National League West. The National League Central rounds out the list with 13 selections.
Now it’s time to break down each team’s selections.
National League East
Atlanta Braves (33.5)
After back-to-back division championships, the Atlanta Braves will be looking to get past the NLDS. The young Braves talent started bursting onto the scene two years ago, and more is on the way. The Braves are going to be a force for many years to come. But can they win their third straight division title? Only one writer selected the Braves, and that pick was an over.
Caleb Begley: Vegas lowballed the Braves number a bit.
New York Mets (32.5)
As usual, the New York Mets come into the season with expectations and drama. Pitcher Noah Syndergaard is out for the year. Marcus Stroman has just been placed on the IL. The bullpen, while having quality arms, still remains, a big question mark. The Mets will need to rely on their offense to carry them this season. The Wilpon family is looking to sell the team, and that has turned into a circus. What else can happen to this team? Two writers selected the Mets and both were under picks.
Michael Gray: The Mets have a tough schedule and are a bad team.
Caleb Begley: I don’t think the Mets are as good as people say they are.
Philadelphia Phillies (30.5)
Perhaps the best offseason acquisition the Philadelphia Phillies made was the hiring of Joe Girardi as their manager. The Phillies management is willing to spend whatever it takes to bring a winner to the City of Brotherly Love. The lineup is very good, and the signing of Zack Wheeler will be huge if he plays out the season. But there still are some question marks surrounding the pitching staff as a whole, especially in the bullpen. The writers selected the Phillies five times with four of those picks being overs.
Robert Morrison: Joe Girardi gives the Phillies a big chance in the NL East. He brings a ton of big-game experience and will definitely help Realmuto elevate his game going into his free-agent year.
DJ Kleinbard: The Phillies have All-Stars all over their roster, and they added stability to their rotation with Zack Wheeler. Joe Girardi also has a great track record of managing a bullpen, so I think the Phillies can at least put together a winning season in 2020.
Matt Mackin: I picked the Phillies over because I believe they were given a low number. The Phillies will be much improved with Girardi running the show, and Didi in the middle of that lineup can only lead to good things.
Akshaj Gaur: The Phillies don’t have a lack of stardom, especially in their lineup and in the rotation with newly signed Zack Wheeler. However, in a season where bullpens will be vital, the Phillies have many question marks since Seranthony Dominguez was placed on the 45-day IL.
Washington Nationals (33.5)
The defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals had an interesting offseason. They re-signed World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, but Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels. The Nationals greatly improved their bullpen, turning a weakness into a strength. A player like Rendon can’t be replaced by one guy, so instead, the Nationals signed several low-cost players that will make up for some of the difference. The writers selected the Nationals six times, and the picks were split in half.
Andrew Brown: Over. I believe the pitching will hold down most teams. I also believe the Nats have enough firepower to offset the loss of Rendon.
Lucy Korte: It’s unlikely the Nats only win 33 games with a lot of the same roster from last year.
Aaron Cornett: Under. The defending world champions return most of their key pieces from 2019. However, the Braves, Mets, and Phillies will likely be too much for them to replicate last season’s success.
Matt Mackin: Under. The Nationals lost their best hitter and MVP runner up, which will hurt them and Scherzer is definitely near the end of his career.
Doug Winkey: Under. The Nationals lost one of their three best hitters, and the World Series hangover still exists, even in a weird season.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs (31.5)
After winning the World Series in 2016 and breaking the 108-year curse, the Chicago Cubs decided to part ways with manager Joe Maddon. With a new regime in place, the Cubs have a lot of question marks. What are the long term plans, if any, with Kris Bryant? Will their pitching hold up in this shortened season? The NL Central promises to be competitive. The writers selected the Cubs four times, with all picks being under.
Robert Morrison: The Cubs lost a lot from their core playoff teams of 2015-18 including manager Joe Maddon. They stumbled down the stretch last year, and they still have to get past the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds in their own division. It’ll be too much for them to overcome in a shortened season.
Chris Larson: Sure, they have some star names, but they aren’t the team they used to be. Also, who the heck is supposed to be trusted in that bullpen on the North Side besides maybe Craig Kimbrel?
Aaron Cornett: The Cubs weren’t very active this past off-season. They still have some solid pieces, but they’ll have to battle a daunting schedule in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball.
Lucy Korte: I like to root against the Cubs and I don’t think they have great pitching.
Cincinnati Reds (31.5)
After six straight losing seasons, the Cincinnati Reds are another team that made a lot of offseason moves. The lineup looks very formidable, and the front end of the rotation is really good. The Reds have been picked to win the division by some experts, but the NL Central will be a dogfight. Two writers selected the Reds, and both picks are overs.
Braden Herb: The Reds have a great pitching staff, and made good offensive additions in Nick Castellanos and Moustakas.
James Rowe: I picked the over because the Reds are built for a playoff series, and with expanded rosters and a shortened season they should match up well against any team.
Milwaukee Brewers (31.5)
After back-to-back playoff seasons, the Milwaukee Brewers did some retooling. But, as always, they will be led by Christian Yelich. The starting rotation on paper does not wow you, but their bullpen, led by Josh Hader and the returning Corey Knebel, could carry this team through the shortened season. Three writers selected the Brewers, and all picks are under.
Braden Herb: The Brewers have a shaky pitching staff and lost Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal, which hurts.
Lucy Korte: I also like to root against the Brewers and I don’t think they have great pitching.
Noah Barnhart: The Brewers are playing in a tough division. Starting pitching will be a problem for Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh Pirates (25.5)
If you are looking for a team that needed to hit the reset button, then the Pittsburgh Pirates are that team. The manager and the entire front office were removed following a second-half collapse and a series of embarrassing incidents. Just five years ago, this team won 98 games. But with top pitchers Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon out for the year, this young staff has to step up. Two writers selected the Pirates, and both picks were under.
Jared Cantatore: The Pirates did not make any moves to improve their team and play in a very competitive division.
Jeremy Hodsdon: The Pirates have no pitching after losing their top starters to injuries.
St. Louis Cardinals (31.5)
The St. Louis Cardinals always seem to be in the thick of a pennant race, and this year will be no different. The NL Central is wide open with four teams that have legitimate chances to win the division. If the Cardinals want to compete this year then they will rely on their young starters, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. The Cardinals have not had a losing season since 2007, and that streak will continue this year. Two writers selected the Cardinals, and both picks were over.
Jeromey Hodsdon: I like Cardinals because I think they have the best overall team in the division. I’m not a big believer in the Reds yet, and I think the Cubs will be worse. In addition, they get to prey on the AL Central teams.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks (30.5)
Every division has that one team that makes a lot of offseason noise, and for the NL West, it is the Arizona Diamondbacks. General Manager Mike Hazen has put this team together nicely, and it is poised to maybe challenge the Dodgers for the division crown. This might be the most complete Diamondbacks team since their early 2000’s teams. Barring an injury, this team is poised for a big season. Four writers selected the Diamondbacks, and all four picks are over.
Chris Larson: Arizona is in good hands with Mike Hazen at the helm and has what it takes to be a lot better than people think. Plus, they’re a hungry, gritty, and terrific defensive team.
Steve Wynocker: Fun energy around the team. Some big additions in Mad Bum and Starling Marte. The Marte combo will be fun to watch.
Evan Thompson: The DBacks will be better than people realize. Their only true question mark is the back end of their rotation.
Aaron Cornett: The Diamondbacks are solid at nearly every position. Expect them to give the Dodgers a scare in the NL West.
Colorado Rockies: (27.5)
Two seasons ago the Colorado Rockies won 91 games. Last year, amid injuries, the win total fell to 71. Now franchise player Nolan Arenado has expressed his unhappiness with the franchise and the team on the field. It’s hard to attract top free-agent pitchers to Coors Field and the thin air. But mainly they need to make sure Arenado is happy. This lineup is capable of putting up numbers outside of Coors, but their pitching has to get consistent. Three writers selected the Rockies, with two over picks and one under.
Braden: Over. I wanted to go out on a limb, and the Rockies will get out to a hot start and maintain through 60 games.
Doug: Over. The Rockies still have some very good hitters and replaced two below-average relievers with guys who show more promise.
Matt Mackin: Under. I think the Rockies are going to be a disaster with their bullpen falling apart, and their best player is unhappy with the team.
Los Angeles Dodgers (37.5)
The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a stranglehold of this division since the 2013 season. With seven straight division titles under their belt, the Dodgers have still not managed to win it all. The Dodgers retooled this offseason by trading for former MVP Mookie Betts and signing him to a long term deal. The dynamic duo of Betts and Cody Bellinger will give the rest of the division fits for years to come. As good as the Dodgers are, the staff selected them three times, and all picks are under.
Evan Thompson: The NL West will be closer than people are predicting.
Scott Shaffer: I picked the Dodgers for the under because I think they are in an underrated division. The NL West has a lot of talent with the DBacks and Padres, but still the Dodgers will win their division.
San Diego Padres (30.5)
The San Diego Padres have been the perfect example of how good offseason moves don’t equate to a winning team. The talent is there but, the Padres still have not had a winning season since 2010. Their farm system, despite cranking out good players in the last few seasons, still has six players ranked in the top 60. However, as is the case with most teams, their pitching has to hold up. Three writers selected the Padres, with one over and two under picks.
Lucy Korde: Over. The Padres are underrated.
Liam Hopkins: Under. The Padres are a good team hidden in a deep NL west.
San Francisco Giants (24.5)
With aging and high priced veterans anchoring this team, it’s time for a rebuild for the San Francisco Giants. With five prospects ranked in the top 100 of MLB Pipelines ranking and seven draft picks in the 2020 draft, they are well on their way to a rebuild. It would really take a lot of things to go their way to be competitive this season. Only one writer selected the Giants, and it was an under pick.
Steve Wynocker: Rebuild and your leader isn’t playing (Posey).
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