16 teams, with records between 29-31 and 43-17 will contest the 2020 Postseason, starting with 3 game wildcard games based on seeding.
The expanded Playoffs, which may be here to stay, have certainly divided opinion. From looking at the standings, there doesn’t seem to be 16 teams in Major League Baseball who are actually good enough to compete in the Playoffs, with the Astros and Milwaukee, both under .500, benefitting in particular.
What would be more 2020 than the previously disgraced and under .500 Astros winning it all?
That the first round is best of three will almost certainly be both extremely exciting to watch, particularly with the four games back to back every day, but they will also throw up some results that will seem unfair to teams that dominated the regular season, particularly as home field advantage does not apply as much without fans.
The Rays and Dodgers, the two best teams in the Majors, each lost just one three game series in 2020, but they were against the mediocre Orioles and Rockies respectively, showing that anything can happen in these mini series.
The system of seeding that prioritised division winners has produced some interesting matchups. The White Sox are the seventh seed with a 35-25 record who play in Oakland (36-24 in the first round). This one has massive upset potential (in terms of seeds).
The White Sox had the second highest wRC+ in the AL and will start Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel in games one and two. The As meanwhile are likely to start Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea in two games, and the White Sox hit 284/.361/.527 vs lefties this year.
Whether that would be an upset is debatable, since the White Sox were on for the top seed before a poor last few weeks.
A bigger upset would be the Reds beating the well fancied Braves. Cincinnati surged into the first Wildcard in the final two weeks on the strength of their starters, which will suit the three game series. The Braves have Freddie Freeman, the game’s hottest hitter, but they will have to beat two of Trevor Bauer (the likely Cy Young winner), Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo to progress.
Their ERAs are 1.73,2.65 and 3.05 respectively and they can drag the 23rd ranked offence through the short round.
In terms of the top seeds, the Rays and Dodgers, they face the Blue Jays and Brewers. The Brewers would have been a tougher challenge had ace Corbin Burnes not been ruled out for the entire Postseason, whilst the Jays did well to make the Playoffs, but probably do not have quite enough pitching to match the Rays.
Possibly the most interesting game in the wildcard is the Yankees facing the Indians. The Yankees were only one loss away from having to play the Rays, but ended up having to beat two of Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco and Zac Plesac to advance. There is recent Postseason history here, and it puts the AL’s strongest offence against its strongest pitching staff.
The Yankees have the stars back from the injured list,and will hope their sometimes streaky offence catches fire.
Hopefully, the expanded Postseason is a one off, since it devalues the regular season and the overall achievement of actually reaching the Playoffs. If the new format does catch on, it would be interesting to resurrect the idea of top seeds picking their opponents, as I assume some of the higher seeds this year will not be thrilled with their matchups (Oakland). Whatever your view of this Playoff format, the idea of watching four back to back games with almost every team starting their ace will be extremely exciting, and should be enjoyed.