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Most Improved Teams in 2020

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Who were the most improved teams from 2019 to 2020?

The top four in winning percentage improvement each made the playoffs: Padres, Marlins, White Sox, and Blue Jays.

So how did they do it?

Biggest Win Pct Improvement - 2019 to 2020

Team 2019 Win Pct 2020 Win Pct Improvement
Padres .432 .617 .185
Marlins .352 .517 .165
White Sox .447 .583 .136
Blue Jays .414 .533 .119

The Padres improved by an MLB-best 185 points in win percentage and finished with the third-best record in baseball. Their rebuild was a joint effort. The team finished third in the National League in runs scored and fourth in fewest runs allowed. The Padres have three MVP candidates in Manny Machado, Fernando Tatís Jr., and Wil Myers. All three finished in the top 16 in Runs Created.

Dinelson Lamet grew into a No. 1 starter, ranking in the top four in the NL in ERA, strikeouts per 9 innings and fewest home runs allowed per 9 innings. Trade acquisition Kyle Davies was a solid No. 2 behind him. San Diego’s bullpen benefited from late-season acquisition Trevor Rosenthal, who pitched 10 scoreless innings and recorded four saves after joining the team in late August.

The Marlins went from a 105-loss season in 2019 to a winning record and a playoff spot in 2020. They got there with a 61-player effort, due to a COVID-19 outbreak early in the season that led to a huge roster overhaul in the first week of August. The Marlins took advantage of the shortened doubleheaders that came about from games being postponed, winning 10 of 14 and survived having to play 34 games on the road instead of 30, going 20-14 away from their home ballpark.

The Marlins top offensive players were returning veterans, Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas, and Garrett Cooper, and one notable newcomer, first baseman Jesus Aguilar. The patchwork pitching staff had only one pitcher make more than seven starts, Pablo Lopez (3.61 ERA in 11 starts), but got boosts from rookie Sixto Sanchez, who posted a 3.46 ERA in seven starts, and longtime reliever Brandon Kintzler, who recorded 12 saves and a 2.22 ERA despite striking out only 5.2 hitters per nine innings

The White Sox lived up to preseason media expectations that they would be much improved. They led the AL Central for much of the season before a late-season dip bumped them into third place. Nonetheless, they loom dangerous this postseason as the American League’s No. 7 seed. Their offense ranked second in the AL in runs scored and first in home runs, and helped the team go 14-0 when the opposing starter was left-handed. The pitching staff ranked fifth in fewest runs allowed. And the team made a huge improvement in the field, jumping from 26th to 5th in Defensive Runs Saved.

José Abreu and Tim Anderson were among those putting up better defensive numbers to go with great offensive numbers. Each is a formidable AL MVP candidate. Abreu led the AL with a .617 slugging percentage and ranked second in the league with 19 home runs. Anderson finished second in batting average, as he hit .322 with 10 home runs. New acquisition Dallas Keuchel pitched to a 1.99 ERA, which ranked second in the AL. Closer Alex Colomé had an 0.81 ERA and tied for third with 12 saves.

The Blue Jays were another team that accelerated their rebuild. They earned a Wild Card spot with a 32-28 record. The Blue Jays were displaced from their home field, Rogers Centre, but found Buffalo’s Sahlen Field much to their liking, going 17-9 there.

The team’s top three hitters in OPS were Teoscar Hernández (.919), Rowdy Tellez (.886), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.882). Hernandez rode a huge start to a .289 batting average with 16 home runs and ranked seventh in OPS. Tellez, currently sidelined by a knee injury, had 8 home runs and 23 RBI in 113 at-bats. Gurriel, the son of a Cuban baseball legend of the same name, hit .308 with 11 home runs, outperforming sons of major leaguers, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in some respects.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, a big free agent acquisition this offseason, led the team with 12 starts and pitched to a 2.69 ERA. Relievers Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis, who entered the season with a combined 12 career saves, totaled that many to lead the bullpen.

All four of these teams now get a chance to take their improvement to the next level, as the MLB postseason awaits them. We’ll see which one keeps those improvements going through October.

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