And it wasn't about hype; it was about facts. The fourth-place finisher might have the best starting rotation in the group. The Nationals are going to be the prohibitive favorites in the East, though I do think the Marlins will prove pesky and the Mets have one of the league's deepest pitching staffs. Can Joe Milton put a stop to Michigan's quarterback carousel? SUBSCRIBE NOW Only $5 for 3 months. The Twins won't make things easy on their Central peers, with an offense that scored the seventh-most runs in baseball last season and a rotation that should be improved. The Cardinals seem to pencil the NLCS into their season schedule, and now they've added Jason Heyward to a lineup that needed a boost near the top of the order. And in 10 of those 17 seasons, the AL pennant winner came out of the East. All you need to know about the AL Central is that the club that finished in second place last year is the one that came 90 feet short of tying Game 7 of the World Series. Now regard those same two extremes for 2020, based on 2019 winning percentages. Answering this question used to be a sort of reflex reaction -- or maybe even a gag reflex, if you grew tired of all the Yankees and Red Sox hoopla. It has filled four of the six NL Wild Card spots in the last three years. We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.

Per the the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter), here are the average projected team win totals  by division in 2020: In the NL West, the division averages out to be fractionally above .500. Note those 2019 number above -- .510 at the challenging end of the continuum and .482 on the other, easier end.

In all, the Mets will play 43 of their 60 games against teams that were .500 or better in 2019. So, let me ask the question again: What is the toughest division in baseball?

But added playoff expansion in 2012 has changed the landscape, as has the television money that has helped clubs keep their core players and dilute the free-agent pool. Even though MLB plays an unbalanced schedule -- i.e, teams don't play other teams an equal number of times -- you don't typically don't see huge disparities in terms of strength of schedule. As you saw up top, the Angels are tied for toughest schedule in MLB based on 2019 winning percentages. They'll be challenged, of course, by a Pirates team vying for its third straight postseason with possibly the game's best outfield, a Reds team still very much in win-now mode despite the trades that yanked Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon out of the rotation and a Brewers team that was one of the best teams in baseball for four months of '14 and is vying for more staying power in '15. Log in here. Barnwell ranks the NFL's contender busts, Daniel Cormier: This is the Khabib Nurmagomedov I know, How former NBA star Nate Robinson ended up boxing on Mike Tyson's undercard, NFC East doormat: Giants trying to shed ugly label vs. Eagles, A four-win NFC East champ?

The Reds also get to play those two teams 10 times, while the Cubs and Brewers play them just seven times. Answering this question used to be a sort of reflex reaction -- or maybe even a gag reflex, if you grew tired of all the Yankees and Red Sox hoopla. That doesn't sound like much -- and it wouldn't be across 162 games -- but over a 60-game regular season that slight edge could matter, especially in a division as tightly bunched as the NL Central. We can probably dismiss the NL East from this discussion, if only because the Phillies and Braves are building for better days beyond '15. We'll keep our focus on likely contenders rather than the pitiable likes of the Orioles and Marlins. That would be the Dodgers. © 2004-2020 CBS Interactive. Meantime, the Indians and Twins tied for easiest with a mark of .482. The Yankees open the 2020 season by playing 33 of their first 36 games against teams that were .500 or better in 2019.
However, the Dodgers -- gird yourselves for breaking news -- have the benefit of not playing themselves. Part of it is that -- on top of playing one-third of their schedule against the Astros and A's -- they must play the Dodgers six times because of the natural interleague rivalry. The Rangers will travel 14,706 miles during the 2020 season, which is the most in all of MLB.

The Braves will endure this stretch to start the season -- they'll open on July 24 and not get an off day until Aug. 13. Like the Braves, the Mets are one of four teams in the NL East with legit designs on the division title. It's a wacky, wide-open division in which I, for one, am willing to entertain an argument for any of the five teams. On top of all that, there's the fact that the Braves are one of seven teams this season that will play 20 games in 20 days. As for the Cardinals, they have a pretty easy slate based on 2019 winning percentages. The Cleveland Indians have found themselves in the toughest division in the Majors. And now the Royals and Tigers are challenged not just by an Indians team with one of the best starting staffs in baseball but also by the White Sox, who added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to their Chris Sale and Jose Abreu nucleus to become an instant contender.

6-keys: media/spln/mlb/reg/free/stories, at FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The team that finished last in the NL Central in 2018 might have one of the deeper lineups in the division, the best closer and perhaps the best bullpen. Suffice it to say, that's an exacting stretch to begin the year. Also, thanks to a home-and-home against Boston, they'll play 14 of their 20 interleague games against the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox (yes, the Red Sox still profile as a quality team despite the cynical trade of Mookie Betts). I don't know if that has ever been more true than it is now. That's quite likely, as they'll play all but one of their final seven series against teams that lost 95 games or more in 2019. As you can see above, the margins now stretch from a low mark of .449 to a high mark of .534. ... against three of the best teams in baseball. In the case of the A's and the AL West, which looks like the toughest division as measured by average projected wins, Oakland is helping lift that figure up. At the other end, the NL East is projected for 142 WAR. What is the toughest division in baseball? An improved Astros team and a Rangers team that has to be healthier than it was last year deepen the AL West, where the Angels and A's battled last year. Teams will play regional schedules, with 40 games within the division and 20 games against the corresponding regional division in the other league (e.g., NL East vs. AL East, NL Central against AL Central). The Braves play in a hotly contested division that features three other likely contenders (the reigning champion Nationals, the Mets, and the Phillies). The Cardinals get to play the Royals six times in 2020 -- or 10 percent of their regular season games -- and the Tigers another four. It wasn't easy, Inside stories of Aaron Rodgers' weirdness, told by his backups, Ronaldo adds shaved head to the many phases of his hair, Hamilton questions FIA's choice of Petrov as a steward, 2020 MLS Cup playoffs: Who's in, fixtures, results, final date and key info, Why Dortmund vs. Schalke is the Bundesliga's biggest derby by far, Wolves don't see clear choice for No.

Yes, the Cardinals have a slightly easier schedule than the Reds based on 2019 winning percentages, but that reflects the fact that the Cardinals play the 75-win Reds 10 times while the Reds play the 91-win Cardinals 10 times.
It's harder than ever to buy a pennant, and, in a related development, it's harder than ever to pick a pennant winner. With that in mind, let's take a look at a handful of schedule "winners and losers" now that the full 2020 docket has been announced. section: | slug: 2020-mlb-schedule-winners-and-losers-mets-angels-have-tough-slates-good-news-for-nl-central-contenders | sport: baseball | route: | Likely, it's going to be close four-team race with a lot of compression in the standings from wire to wire and final win totals in the low thirties. That's a much greater variation than what we see in normal seasons, and as such strength of schedule is likely going to play a major role in how the playoff field shakes out in 2020. Maybe this discussion should go right back where it started. The best offseason improvements may have been made by the club that finished third. Despite many expecting the AL Central to be one of baseball’s weakest divisions to start the season, it … The club is also competing in perhaps the toughest division in baseball in a 60-game sprint and cannot afford to wait for Foltynewicz to get back on track. However, the 2020 season -- cut short to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic and ownership's plodding pace during negotiations with players -- figures to be very different. A surge down the stretch for the mighty Yanks?

With Joe Maddon and Jon Lester and a promising stash of young bats, that "Back to the Future 2" stuff isn't totally inconceivable (and if you don't believe me, why don't you make like a tree and get out of here).

The interesting thing about the NL Central is that the division houses four certifiable contenders -- the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds -- but none of those teams projects for anything like greatness in 2020.

For as much talk of the AL East not being the powerhouse it once was, its clubs still have the most average wins per season in the dual-Wild Card era.

They're the only AL East squadron that makes the list of easy schedules, and that's in part because they get six interleague games against the Marlins, who lost 105 games last season. That, ultimately, is the beauty of baseball in 2015. After all, the Padres' big winter, capped with this week's signing of James Shields, has added a layer of complexity to the NL West, which already supplied us with a 94-win Dodgers team and a Wild Card-winning Giants team that won the World Series last year. Covering the impact of coronavirus on the sports world. You'll note above that the Rays' opponents had an average 2019 winning percentage of .482. The Orioles won the East by 12 games last year, while the Rays have, in the last eight months, traded David Price and lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman. Free Press sports writers predict orders of finish for each of baseball's divisions, postseason award winners and the 2020 World Series. The other team that will play just 17 of 60 games against .500 or better teams from a season ago? 11:25 am ET, Bowden's Biggest Takeaway On 2020 MLB Schedule, one of seven teams this season that will play 20 games in 20 days, Five things we learned from Games 1 and 2, Rays' Lowe breaks out of slump with multi-HR game, Manfred: Expanded playoffs, extras rule could stay, Betts' brilliant Game 1 includes steals, free tacos, Bellinger hits Game 1 home run, celebrates responsibly, Ex-Astros GM: 'I didn't know we were cheating'. In more specific terms, one x-factor in the NL Central is how many times each contender gets an opportunity to beat up on the Royals and Tigers, the two weakest teams in the AL Central. Furthermore, better health could work wonders for the Rockies and the D-backs, both of whom should, at the very least, be more competitive than they were when losing 96 and 98 games, respectively, last year. Barcelona and Real Madrid have their issues, but who needs to win El Clasico more? That's tied for the fewest in MLB.

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