Predictions, projections and wild guesses for the 2024 MLB season – The Athletic

By Keith LawMar 27, 2024

I am, once again, asking for you to take this column of predictions for the upcoming season in the spirit in which it is intended: Fun.

These predictions are for fun, not a demonstration of my deep-seated loathing for your favorite team, and not the product of a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm to produce impeccable forecasts. I make it all up, and then I talk about it. (I do, however, rely on FanGraphs’ projections as a starting point for several things here, especially some individual players’ projections, and this piece would be far harder without them.)

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I’ve done this for at least 14 years now, and the reactions are always the same — people look for what I said about their favorite teams and then yell at me about it. I make no claims of accuracy — I had both Texas and Arizona finishing in fourth place and missing the playoffs last year. They did slightly better than that. Actually, my 2024 predictions were pretty terrible, even considering my caveats about them being just for fun. I’m sorry I even looked at them.

Here are my projections for the 2024 season, including playoff results and post-season awards. Disagree all you like, as long as you enjoy.

American League East

Team Wins Losses
Baltimore Orioles 92 70
Tampa Bay Rays 88 74
Toronto Blue Jays 87 75
New York Yankees 83 79
Boston Red Sox 80 82

The Orioles do seem primed for some regression to the mean after their surprising 101-win season last year and the loss of starter Kyle Bradish for at least the earliest part of the season — although the latest news on him seems positive —  but they’re still pretty clearly the best team in the division. While I don’t have them winning 100 games, I think they’re going to hold up pretty well. The offense will almost certainly be better, even without Jackson Holliday or Heston Kjerstad on the Opening Day roster. The bullpen will be worse — even just going from Félix Bautista to Craig Kimbrel is a big downgrade — and the rotation is strong but fragile, without much in the system to fill in if Bradish or anyone else misses significant time. I think they score 850+ runs and still take the division.

The Rays did lose three-fifths of their 2024 rotation to blown elbows and then traded away Tyler Glasnow, and that should make them worse … but how much worse? I could see Ryan Pepiot giving them 80 percent of the production they got from Glasnow, and they should get Shane Baz back at some point, plus they get a full season of Aaron Civale and most of one from Taj Bradley. I’m just saying I’m not going to underestimate this team, at least not on the run-prevention side. Junior Caminero’s demotion wasn’t unreasonable given the rest of the roster, but I’m guessing he still gets 300 at-bats somewhere this year.

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The Blue Jays probably should have done more this winter, and they still would benefit substantially from making a big short-term offer to Jordan Montgomery, but nothing will help them more than Vlad Guerrero Jr. hitting like he did in his 2021 near-MVP season again. They have holes — second base could make the Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory list by year-end, their fifth starter has a career 4.90 ERA in Triple A, and their bullpen is banged up already — and in a tough division they could easily end up sliding to fourth or fifth place without some internal improvements or some outside additions.

The Yankees are already beat up but they do have Juan Soto this season. (Kim Klement Neitzel / USA Today)

I’m betting the under on the Yankees. I see over/under lines at 90 or 91 wins, and with Gerrit Cole out at least two months — maybe the whole year, let’s be honest — and Aaron Judge already banged up, I don’t see how they get to 90 wins without some serious luck on the health side. Juan Soto helps a ton, obviously, and I expect some incremental progress from Anthony Volpe in year two. They’re giving a lot of at-bats to guys who are pretty old or get hurt a lot, and Marcus Stroman is the only starter likely to qualify for the ERA title. They have the potential to be an 88-win team, if everything goes right, but how often does that happen?

The Red Sox have shored up the offense and really shored up the defense, but they’re rolling out three-fifths of a rotation, with relievers-in-sheep’s-clothing Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock in the last two spots and no real options right behind them. Ceddanne Rafaela is going to catch a lot of balls in center field, and putting him on the roster gets Masataka Yoshida off the field, so that’s an easy upgrade. I liked the pickup of Vaughn Grissom to play second base. I don’t know why Bobby Dalbec, who has a 37 percent strikeout rate in 951 career major-league PA, is on this roster, but perhaps he goes when Grissom’s off the IL. They could sneak into 85 wins based on the run-scoring and the defense, but I can’t see this pitching staff holding opponents much under 780-800 runs and that won’t let them contend.

American League Central

Team Wins Losses
Minnesota Twins 90 72
Cleveland Guardians 80 82
Detroit Tigers 78 84
Kansas City Royals 72 90
Chicago White Sox 60 102

The Twins winning the AL Central may be the best lock of all six divisions. They are a genuinely good team, and they’re also the only team that seems to be trying to win the division currently. I’m hopeful that Byron Buxton returning to the field will go well for player and team — he’s such an electric defender that it feels wrong to have him DHing, even though that was obviously about protecting his health. They’ve done well with maximizing players with limited skill sets, like Matt Wallner (a platoon player at best), and have to avoid falling into the trap of letting those guys play more than they should. They’re also betting on Chris Paddack — whose only full healthy season as a starter came in 2019 — and Louie Varland — who gave up 16 homers in 68 innings last year — to be 40 percent of their rotation, which seems optimistic.

The Guardians could have a short rebuild if they can trade Shane Bieber for some young bats — preferably with power, although you take what you can get. This season will probably see them breaking in several of their own hitting prospects, notably Brayan Rocchio (on the Opening Day roster) and Kyle Manzardo (in the minors, but probably not for long). The pitching staff should keep them relevant and gives them an outside shot at contention, with the gap between them and the Twins on paper too much for me to see them hanging with Minnesota all season.

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The Tigers are definitely the non-contender I’m most likely to watch this year, with fun and interesting young players on both sides of the ball. Riley Greene was outstanding last season when he was healthy; he’ll do that for a full year and make an All-Star team. Spencer Torkelson may never be a star but he’s at least a solid regular. Parker Meadows can go get it in center and has massively improved his swing to let some of his power show. Kerry Carpenter can hit, and that’s the kind of scouting and development success story that sets good teams apart. Tarik Skubal was an ace for half a year in 2024. Casey Mize is back, and there’s always hope that Matt Manning will string together 20 or so healthy starts (he’ll begin the season in the minors but should still contribute to the big-league team this year). I could see them cracking .500 under A.J. Hinch, although I’m more confident they’ll get there in 2025.

Bobby Witt Jr. will be a Royal for a long time. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

The Royals did what more non-contenders should do: They invested in short-term deals to make the major-league team better without hurting their building process at all. Kansas City spent a lot of time and resources trying to build pitching from within, but it hasn’t worked out, so they went out this winter and signed Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha to slot in behind emerging ace Cole Ragans. Bobby Witt Jr. is a dark-horse MVP candidate, and I expect more production from both infield corners. They’re just short a number of impact bats, both in terms of OBP and power, and they don’t have the run-prevention to overcome that.

The White Sox finally decided to rebuild, and things are going to get worse before they get better at the perfectly adequate stadium that Jerry Reinsdorf wants Illinois taxpayers to pay to replace. They’d be better off if they just kept trading the veterans — Luis Robert Jr. would return a king’s ransom, and Yoán Moncada and Eloy Jiménez should return, maybe, a viscount’s ransom. Ultimately, this is a year of giving players trials and seeing who’s a keeper. Nick Nastrini, Drew Thorpe, Jared Shuster, and Dominic Fletcher are all worth evaluating, and Andrew Vaughn really needs to start producing if he’s going to be anything but the next Dominic Smith.

American League West

Team Wins Losses
Houston Astros 93 69
Seattle Mariners 87 75
Texas Rangers 84 78
Los Angeles Angels 72 90
Oakland A’s 62 100

I do have the Astros winning the division, but they look vulnerable for the first time since 2016, the last full season when they didn’t take the AL West title. They’re still good, just shakier than we’re used to seeing, with two of their five projected starters already on the IL, leaving them more dependent on Cristian Javier to have a bounceback year or Hunter Brown to not be so awful from the stretch. They’re also sticking with José Abreu at first even after he looked feeble at the plate last year, and their biggest move was signing Josh Hader to a five-year deal, even though the history of deals of that length for relievers is just awful. Giving Yainer Diaz the regular catching job over the departed Martín Maldonado may be the best move they made all winter.

Seattle didn’t go get a big bopper this winter, which was probably the best move they could have made, instead patching around the edges with the additions of Jorge Polanco, Mitch Haniger, and Mitch Garver, all smaller upgrades and perhaps one with some upside if Haniger plays even 100 games. Julio Rodríguez is likely to be better this year, maybe a lot better, and their rotation will probably be among the top three in the American League. It’d be nice if Gregory Santos pitches most of this year, since they just traded for him about five minutes before the injury, and they’re not getting enough offense out of the infield corners. They’re contenders for the wild card who could sneak into the division title with a little luck and a lot of health.

The Rangers won the World Series. You can stop reading now if you’re among their fans. Really, it’s OK. I don’t mind. Go outside. Get some sun before it’s 110 degrees. Tell your neighbors that your team is the reigning champs. Now, for everyone else: This is a championship lineup and a rotation that’s mid, at best. Max Scherzer’s hurt and old. Jacob deGrom is coming back from elbow surgery. Nate Eovaldi threw 435 innings over the last three years; the last time he did that, he blew out and missed a season, and now he’s 34. Dane Dunning has long had trouble getting lefties out. Andrew Heaney has long had trouble keeping righties in the ballpark. I love the Michael Lorenzen signing — he absolutely should have gotten multiple years, but a tough finish after his no-hitter plus a brutal market for starting pitchers left him out there for the Rangers to sign to a one-year deal. Even with him on board on such a low-risk contract, I think they’re going to allow a lot more runs than they did last year, so even if they approach 900 runs scored again — and they very well might — they’re probably not a 90-win team.

Will Mike Trout ever reach the playoffs again with the Angels? (Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

The Angels … sigh. I hope they didn’t waste peak Mike Trout, but I think they did. And now that Shohei Ohtani has left for bluer pastures, they’re one major Trout injury away from 95 losses. There are players to watch here — Zach Neto quietly posted a 1.6 WAR season in about half of 2024, Nolan Schanuel is less than a year out of college and starting every day, Reid Detmers still hasn’t come close to his potential — but the overall scene is just depressing.

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The A’s are going to play in front of 20 fans this year. Total. They’re also just not that good — it’s going to be hard to find an All-Star to represent them in Arlington, Texas, in July. FanGraphs projects only two A’s to reach 2.0 WAR, and none to top 2.4. I’m always interested in what they can do with reclamation projects, with J.J. Bleday or Miguel Andujar or Aledmys Díaz if either of the latter two get healthy, or other efforts like moving Mason Miller to the bullpen (where he might indeed become their All-Star). They’re just going to give a lot of playing time to guys who wouldn’t sniff the lineup with most other teams.

National League East

Team Wins Losses
Atlanta 94 68
Philadelphia Phillies 87 75
New York Mets 79 83
Miami Marlins 74 88
Washington Nationals 65 97

Am I the only person who looks at Atlanta’s rotation with any concern about who’s behind the first two? Spencer Strider is one of the best pitchers in the NL, and a healthy Max Fried is, too, but after that, it’s 40-year-old Charlie Morton, Chris Sale, who hasn’t had a full and effective season since 2018, and Reynaldo López, who last worked in the rotation in 2019 and has a career 4.73 as a starter. The depth isn’t great either, and their capacity to swing huge trades is diminished by years of making huge trades. Besides, it’s not like Oakland has an ace to deal them. The offense could be among the best in the NL again; their weakest spot might be DH, and that’s not that hard to fix if your GM is a ninja. All that aside, if they get to the playoffs unscathed, they’re as well-built to win in October as any team in baseball.

The Phillies would have been at 90 wins except that Bryce Harper’s back has flared up this week and now Taijuan Walker is on the shelf, testing their limited starting pitching depth already. I do believe Cristopher Sánchez is going to be an above-average starter this year, which is a hell of a story for him and the Phillies’ player development staff. I think they’re going to mash, although one hopes that their NLCS showing will at least lead to some adjustments to their approaches at the plate. You know other NL clubs were taking notes.

The Mets look like they’re going to score plenty of runs, but give up plenty more, especially if Kodai Senga’s shoulder injury costs him more than a month. Tylor Megill led all of their other starters with 25 starts and 126 1/3 innings last year, but it came with a 4.70 ERA. All five of their projected starters are likely to break, or have already broken, at some point, although the silver lining is that Christian Scott, Dominic Hamel and Mike Vasil should get shots at the rotation. They should get above-average production from five or six positions, although I wish they’d left the DH spot open for Mark Vientos so both he and Brett Baty could get lengthy trials this year before the Mets are truly competing again.

Jesús Luzardo leads a Miami rotation dealing with a lot of injuries. (Rich Storry / USA Today)

The Marlins made the playoffs last year, but were outscored on the season, and their rotation is already in shambles with three starters on the shelf. They could easily end the year with only two league-average regulars in Luis Arraez and Jazz Chisholm, Jr. with Chisholm only getting there because of his defense. It is time for Chisholm to change his plan at the plate, and also to work harder to stay on the field. He’s a 2-WAR player in a 7-WAR body. Anyway, the Marlins should be sellers by June. A serious contender does not start Christian Bethancourt behind the plate.

The Nationals won’t be good, but they should be interesting. C.J. Abrams and Keibert Ruiz are solid players with upside remaining. Josiah Gray and Mackenzie Gore are solid starters with upside remaining, Gray if he cuts his walks and Gore if he reduces his reliance on his four-seamer. Dylan Crews will debut sooner than later; James Wood, Brady House and Cade Cavalli will all be up this year. This does seem like make-or-break years for Victor Robles, a top-10 prospect who just doesn’t make hard enough contact, Luis García, who was a top-150 prospect as a teenager, and Nick Senzel. They won’t win 70 games but there will be plenty of reasons to watch them.

National League Central

Team Wins Losses
Chicago Cubs 90 72
Milwaukee Brewers 84 78
St. Louis Cardinals 83 79
Cincinnati Reds 79 83
Pittsburgh Pirates 74 88

Either everyone is sleeping on the Cubs, or I’m high. (On the Cubs, I mean.) This team doesn’t have any obvious strengths, but I don’t think it has any real flaws, and in the NL Central that’s probably more than enough to win the division. They’re also very well-positioned to swing a big trade at the deadline, or sooner. I didn’t pick Miguel Amaya to break out this year because I’m not sure he’ll get the playing time, but I buy the bat and think he’ll be better than projections say. The Cubs may only be below-average at third base, but if that’s so, one of their top prospects, Matt Shaw, could be up by midyear. The rotation looks strong even if Jameson Taillon misses time, with Javier Assad good enough to make a lot of other clubs’ starting fives and some depth behind him in swing types like Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown. This division is won with 90 wins and they have the best chance to get there.

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The Brewers are down from last year, but I wouldn’t count them out, even after losing their manager — Craig Counsell grew tremendously over the course of his time there to go from “well, he’s not hurting the team” to a really strong manager in-game and in the clubhouse — and their No. 1 starter. They’re still going to be among the best defensive units in the NL, and they’ve got some surpluses on the diamond, with Tyler Black lacking a place to play right now, two real shortstops in Willy Adames and Joey Ortiz, and one of the better fourth outfielders in baseball in Joey Weimer. I’m having a very hard time seeing how they’ll piece together 162 starts from this roster, though, with only one guy (Freddy Peralta) who threw 150 innings last year — and he missed half of 2022.

The Cardinals won just 71 games last year, so I’m calling for a big improvement, although I’m sure that’s not big enough for the team or its fans. They look like they’ll score a lot more runs, at least 50-75 more than last year, but this rotation is banking on five guys who’ll be age 33 or older, and I’d only bet on Sonny Gray to post an ERA below 4. I do think they’ve got some young hitters to watch for steps forward — Jordan Walker made my breakouts column this year, I’ve expected more from Dylan Carlson since his sophomore year (though now he’ll have to overcome a shoulder injury), and Iván Herrera is a good enough hitter to split time with Willson Contreras and let the veteran DH some days.

Elly De La Cruz is one of the Reds’ electric players, but they need more stability on the pitching side. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

FanGraphs projects the Reds’ starters to have a 4.51 ERA, the worst in the division, and I don’t think that’s a controversial projection — Nick Lodolo doesn’t get righties out and has been hurt pretty often in the last two-plus years, Graham Ashcraft doesn’t miss enough bats, and even Andrew Abbott, who has the best command and feel on the staff, gives up too many homers. They need Hunter Greene to take a big step here, whether via the new splitter or something else, because MLB hitters have been quite clear that they are not impressed by 104 mph. The logjam created by signing Jeimer Candelario has eased temporarily with Noelvi Marte’s suspension and Matt McLain’s injury, but by July they’re going to have six guys for four spots. Maybe Jonathan India will hit like he did as a rookie and create some trade value. Keep an eye out for Rhett Lowder, their 2024 first-round pick who was absolutely electric in their Breakout game against the Rangers.

The Pirates announced that rookie Jared Jones made their rotation and last year’s No. 1 pick, Paul Skenes, will start Opening Night for Triple-A Indianapolis, so their rotation could be pretty fun in a month or so. They’ll have Oneil Cruz back, doing what he does best (being tall and crushing baseballs), although I remain a firm skeptic that he can stay at shortstop. Henry Davis returns to his natural position at catcher, and I won’t be surprised if that helps his bat. Jared Triolo won the second base job and should provide plus defense and some OBP, albeit with no power. They’re not contenders and still need some real thump in the lineup to even get close to there, but this is the most intriguing Pirates’ roster in probably five years.

National League West

Team Wins Losses
Los Angeles Dodgers 97 65
Arizona Diamondbacks 87 75
San Diego Padres 85 77
San Francisco Giants 83 79
Colorado Rockies 61 101

The Dodgers … I mean, they could (hypothetically, calm down) lose Shohei Ohtani for half the season to a suspension and still win this division. They’re the best team in baseball, and they have depth almost everywhere. I could pick apart the rotation, which is leaning on a few guys who’ve got long injury track records, but they do have some options if, say, Tyler Glasnow misses some time, with Gavin Stone, Landon Knack and Kyle Hurt all around to pick up some slack. If Stone’s issues last year were really just about tipping pitches, he could contend for Rookie of the Year. Anyway, the Dodgers aren’t interesting to talk about because they’re so good. Let’s move on.

The Diamondbacks’ postseason run last year was not a mirage, but they return to reality a bit in a division that’s at least as competitive as it was last year, perhaps more so, and they’re probably looking at some regression to the mean from a handful of key contributors. Losing Eduardo Rodríguez for some time does hurt, but they signed Jordan Montgomery to a comically team-friendly one-year deal (with a vesting option, so what, that’s team-friendly, too) just hours before this post went live, so now they have some real starting pitching depth and can use Ryne Nelson as a swing man while they continue to try to develop him as a long-term starter. I wonder how long they’ll stick with Geraldo Perdomo at shortstop if he’s still not producing with the stick and Jordan Lawlar is going bananas playing in 0.1G at Reno.

Corbin Carroll and co. face an uphill climb to repeat as NL champs. (Raymond Carlin III / USA Today)

It feels like this is a critical year for the Padres, as they couldn’t make the playoffs with their strongest roster of the A.J. Preller era last year, then traded Juan Soto’s walk year for a five-player package that provided them with additional depth — some of which they used to pick up Dylan Cease, shoring up a rotation weakened by the losses of Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha. This was a 92-win team by runs scored/allowed last year, and while the net result of all of the offseason moves is negative, I don’t think it’s that negative.

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The Giants, on the other hand, had a great offseason, and they at least made themselves contenders with those moves. They are probably a great run-prevention team that hopes to score enough runs to get to the postseason. Signing Snell to a crazy team-friendly deal was a no-brainer, and adding Jung Hoo Lee to provide some needed OBP was a good move, too. Consider me un-sold on signing Jordan Hicks to be a starter, but if they just stick him in the bullpen they’ll be better off — and so will he. I don’t think they’re going to be above-average offensively at too many positions, though, and could — should? — still look to upgrade at first base.

The Rockies are really at the start of a building process, although they’ve found some solid pieces and locked up Ezequiel Tovar as one of the players around whom to build. For this year, though, it might be ugly in Denver, with a good chance they don’t have a league-average (adjusted for ballpark) starter in the rotation and an offense that projects to be among the worst in baseball (the worst, per FanGraphs’ projections). Their Double-A Hartford club may be the most interesting team to watch in the system, including the major-league one.

Playoff predictions

Will the Dodgers finally break through with a title? (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today) Wild Card Round

American League National League
Twins over Blue Jays Cubs over Padres
Mariners over Rays Phillies over Diamondbacks

Division Series Round

American League National League
Orioles over Twins Atlanta over Cubs
Mariners over Astros Dodgers over Phillies

Championship Series Round

American League National League
Orioles over Mariners Atlanta over Dodgers

World Series

Winner Loser
Atlanta Orioles

Awards Predictions

American League MVP: Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles

I think he’s going to hit 30 homers if he plays 140-150 games, and of course he’ll do it with a high OBP and great defense. You do that on a division winner and you’re a pretty strong candidate for the MVP award. Other contenders include Julio Rodríguez, Bobby Witt Jr., Juan Soto; and the usual suspects like Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Corey Seager.

National League MVP: Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta

With his reigning-MVP teammate already seeing a flareup in his knee this spring, I’m leaning in a different direction, and Riley — whose huge adjustments to his approach I detailed in a 2021 article — looks primed for a huge year. As for non-Atlanta possibilities, I’m always expecting Fernando Tatis Jr., to turn in an MVP-level season; the Dodgers have three candidates in their lineup; and I expect a much better year from Trea Turner than he had in 2024.

Can the Cy Young Award return to the Emerald City? (Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)

American League Cy Young: George Kirby, Seattle Mariners

Kirby had the lowest walk rate among AL starters last year, which is impressive in and of itself, but more so when you consider just how good his stuff is. It’s actually hard to believe he had a 3.35 ERA; with his stuff and command, it should be half that. He’s got two teammates who are candidates for this too in Luis Castillo and Logan Gilbert, while Kevin Gausman has been vying for this honor for several seasons now.

National League Cy Young: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

I’m almost worried Wheeler has been too good for too many years and that he can only go down from here, but he’s also the best pitcher in baseball right now who hasn’t won the honor, and he’s just got this unholy combination of stuff, command, and competitiveness. I picked Aaron Nola last year and he had one of the worst years of his career, but hope springs eternal and I think he’ll bounce back. Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Zac Gallen, and Dylan Cease are all possibilities. I don’t think Blake Snell will repeat, though.

American League Rookie of the Year: Wyatt Langford, Texas Rangers

I think Langford will be the best rookie in the AL this year, even though I think the expectations for him have gotten out of control. Don’t sleep on Colt Keith, or on the Orioles’ Colton Cowser (who made the Opening Day roster) or Jackson Holliday (who is probably up before Mother’s Day).

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National League Rookie of the Year: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Los Angeles Dodgers

Yamamoto and Jung Hoo Lee have to be heavy favorites given their ages and experience levels, putting them miles ahead of the best prospects in this race — San Francisco’s Kyle Harrison and Milwaukee’s Jackson Chourio, in particular. Shota Imanaga of the Cubs could end up in the mix as well, although I don’t think he has the kind of upside Yamamoto does.

(Top photo illustration (left) Austin Riley and (right) Wyatt Langford: Brett Davis and Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

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Keith Law is a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. He has covered the sport since 2006 and prior to that was a special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s the author of “Smart Baseball” (2017) and “The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves” (2020), both from William Morrow. Follow Keith on Twitter @keithlaw

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