It’s July 24. You just turned on SportsCenter on ESPN and there’s breaking news regarding the MLB. You think the worst, but then you get a pleasant surprise: the MLB will have a 60% growth in postseason teams this year after the MLB and the MLBPA approved a 16-team playoff format for the 2020 season. All teams will be required to play a best-of-three Wild-Card series set to begin Sept. 29. The additional round of games will be televised on ESPN or TBS. The league goes on to clarify that the eight teams to make the playoffs will consist of three division winners, three second-place teams, and a pair of wild-card contenders. After the wild-card games, the remaining teams will play traditional playoff baseball with a best-of-five divisional series, a best-of-seven pennant series, and the best-of-seven World Series.
OK, that was fun. Back to reality.
It has been quite a unique season for baseball in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols. Here is what the postseason would look like if the season ended Sept. 10:
- Tampa Bay Rays (28-14)
- Oakland A’s (26-15)
- Chicago White Sox (27-16)
- Cleveland Indians (26-17)
- Toronto Blue Jays (24-19)
- Houston Astros (22-22)
- Minnesota Twins (27-18)
- New York Yankees (22-21)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (32-12)
- Atlanta Braves (25-18)
- Chicago Cubs (25-19)
- San Diego Padres (28-17)
- Philadelphia Phillies (21-18)
- St. Louis Cardinals (18-17)
- SF Giants (23-21)
- Miami Marlins (19-19)
And now, here are my predictions on how the playoffs will pan out:
AL Playoff Prediction
(1) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (8) New York Yankees (Winner: Rays 2-0)
The Rays sweep this series due to their elite pitching staff. Period. The Yankees are hurting due to injuries and lost to the Rays in eight of 10 regular season meetings.
(2) Oakland A’s vs. (7) Minnesota Twins (Winner: Twins 2-1)
The Twins will win by edging out the A’s in Game 3. The Twins have a better rotation and have faced more difficult opponents throughout the regular season. The A’s caught fire too early and will definitely slow down once the postseason starts.
(3) Chicago White Sox vs. (6) Houston Astros (Winner: White Sox 2-0)
No contest here! The White Sox climbed their way up to first place in a tight AL Central division and the Astros are barely holding on to a .500 record. Pitching and hitting will both be key for Chicago to sweep the Houston Asterisks.
(4) Cleveland Indians vs. (5) Toronto Blue Jays (Winner: Toronto 2-1)
This is the biggest toss up of the opening round. The Indians would have been my top pick with a league best combined era (2.84) but that was two weeks ago. Since then, they traded SP Mike Clevinger and hurt themselves in their pitching rotation. The Blue Jays have caught fire in the back half of the season and their bats are hot. I like Toronto for an upset here in the opening round.
(1) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (7) Minnesota Twins (Winner: Rays 3-1)
Tampa Bay keeps rolling after sweeping their division rival and should go on to handle the Twins. They have more talented arms and will be able to rest their starters an extra game.
(3) Chicago White Sox vs. (5) Toronto Blue Jays (Winner: White Sox 3-1)
The White Sox are the only team this season to be ranked Top 5 in both team batting average and ERA. This will be too much for the young Blue Jays to take on as their Cinderella story ends.
(1) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (3) Chicago White Sox (Winner: Rays 4-3)
This is going to be one of the best series of the postseason. The Rays’ pitching staff, superior coaching, and higher levels of stamina will carry them to a game seven win over Chicago.
NL Playoff Prediction
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (8) Miami Marlins (Winner: Dodgers 2-0)
Dodgers win easy. No debate. Next.
(2) Atlanta Braves vs. (7) SF Giants (Winner: Braves 2-0)
Braves get an easy sweep. This team almost broke the record for most runs scored in a game this season (29) and seems to have some of the hottest bats late in the season. Their pitching is average at best, but it will still be enough to outlast a Giants team that is rebuilding.
(3) Chicago Cubs vs. (6) St. Louis Cardinals (Winner: Cardinals 2-1)
Cardinals take the upset victory and avenge their 2015 season, which resulted in a loss to the Cubs in the Division Series. This squad has wicked chemistry and they know their division rival well — great combo! These two teams split 10 games during the 2020 season, but the Cardinals bats will come alive and pull this one out.
(4) San Diego Padres vs. (5) Philadelphia Phillies (Winner: Padres 2-0)
Sign. Sealed. And delivered! The over-hyped Phillies fall quick and hard to the Padres in a two-game sweep. Better pitching, hitting, and coaching from the Padres will all outweigh the Phillies postseason track record.
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (6) St. Louis Cardinals (Winner: Dodgers 3-1)
History would say to bet on the Cardinals. Wrong. The Dodgers have the best bullpen in the National League and the Cardinals won’t pull out any late inning heroics against this squad. Dodgers win and move on to the pennant, yet again.
(2) Atlanta Braves vs. (4) San Diego Padres (Winner: Padres 3-1)
Clevinger, SP Zach Davies, and SP Garrett Richards make the difference here in this series. The trade right before the deadline has boosted the Padres chances to win it all this season and will allow them to handle the Braves in four games.
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (4) San Diego Padres (Winner: Dodgers 4-3)
Not to be an LA Homer but, honestly, this shapes up to be the best match-up of the postseason. Division rivals squaring off in the NLCS with World Series aspirations on the line. The Dodgers have more experience and greater depth to reach the World Series for the third time in four years.
World Series Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2)
Dodgers finally pull it off in a shortened 2020 season. This team will have plenty of fire left in the tank and a bullpen to match the Rays. The boys in blue are ranked second in team ERA right behind the Indians. Superior bats, extraordinary pitching, and a hall-of-fame manager puts the Dodgers in the driver seat in the World Series.
Cover Photo by Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP September 9, 2020.
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