Home Featured MLB Postseason Picture: Yankees in danger of losing playoff spot, Marlins and Giants are Wild Card teams with less than three regular season weeks remaining

MLB Postseason Picture: Yankees in danger of losing playoff spot, Marlins and Giants are Wild Card teams with less than three regular season weeks remaining

by Chris Brown

We all knew the expanded MLB playoff field this season would likely lead to a few teams around .500 making the postseason. What no one predicted would be that as of Sept. 9, one of the teams benefiting most from that structure change would be the preseason World Series favorite New York Yankees, who’ve added new intrigue to the final weeks of the 2020 season.

Each Wednesday for the remainder of the regular season, 110 Sports will be breaking down the MLB playoff picture, explaining what’s settled and what’s still to be determined leading into October. Let’s get right to this week’s edition:

*All stats and standings accurate through the completion of MLB games on Sept. 8.

American League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. Tampa Bay Rays (East-1) 28-15 (.651) 100%
2. Oakland Athletics (West-1) 25-15 (.625) 99.9%
3. Cleveland Indians (Central-1) 26-16 (.619) 99.7%
4. Chicago White Sox (Central-2) 26-16 (.619) 99.7%
5. Toronto Blue Jays (East-2) 24-18 (.571) 92.8%
6. Houston Astros (West-2) 22-21 (.512) 96.7%
7. Minnesota Twins (Wild Card-1) 27-18 (.600) 99.5%
8. New York Yankees (Wild Card-2) 21-21 (.500) 83.1%

Still in the hunt:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
Baltimore Orioles 20-21 (.488) 11.9%
Detroit Tigers 19-21 (.475) 8.8%
Seattle Mariners 19-23 (.452) 4.0%

As you can see, though seeding isn’t close to determined yet, the playoff field on the AL side is largely settled at this point. The Rays and A’s are nearly a lock to win their divisions. The Indians, White Sox and Twins all still have a strong shot of winning the AL Central, but all three teams will be playing in October regardless of how they finish in the division standings. It’s looking more and more likely by the day that the Blue Jays, who’ve won 17 of their last 24 games, will claim the second spot in the east standings, though barring an epic collapse, they’ll make the playoffs even if they lose that spot. 

Now’s where things start to get more interesting. Fangraphs still gives the Astros a nearly 97% chance of making the postseason, though the team is only 2.5 games ahead of Seattle for the second spot in the west standings after dropping six of their last seven games. The Mariners, meanwhile, have won six of their last seven contests and all of the sudden are just a few games back of both the Astros and a wild card spot. Their playoff odds remain under 5%, though.

The biggest takeaway from the field as it stands now: the Yankees are in big trouble. Aaron Boone’s club has dropped five straight to fall to .500 on the season, marking the latest calendar date with a .500 or worse record for the Yankees since 1992. Through Aug. 17, the Yankees were 16-6. Then the injuries started to really pile up, and the team simply couldn’t keep playing at a high level despite them like last season. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton among those sidelined and Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner among those underperforming, New York has gone 5-15 since that date. As Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe noted, the Yankees are 7-0 against the Red Sox (15-29) this season but 14-21 against everyone else. 

The Yankees need to get things figured out in a hurry, because there are multiple surprise teams making a push for that final Wild Card spot. The rebuilding Orioles have won four in a row and six of their last eight contests to move to just a half-game behind the Yankees. Rookie outfielder Ryan Mountcastle (1.004 OPS) and shortstop Jose Iglesias (.396 AVG) have been huge parts of the team’s success. In addition to the Mariners, there’s also another rebuilding club, the Detroit Tigers, just a few games out of a playoff spot despite a recent cold streak. First baseman Jeimer Candelario (.319 AVG) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (8 HR) have been key for that team as they attempt to pull off a surprise upset for that playoff spot as well.

At this point, something resembling the table above looks like the most likely scenario for the AL playoff field. But the recent struggles of the Astros and Yankees have opened the door enough for several rebuilding teams to at least make things interesting down the stretch.

National League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (West-1) 31-12 (.721) 100%
2. Chicago Cubs (Central-1) 25-18 (.581) 98.7%
3. Atlanta Braves (East-1) 24-18 (.571) 97.9%
4. San Diego Padres (West-2) 27-17 (.614) 99.9%
5. Philadelphia Phillies (East-2) 21-18 (.538) 89.4%
6. St. Louis Cardinals (Central-2) 18-17 (.514) 79.4%
7. Miami Marlins (Wild Card-1) 19-18 (.514) 46.9%
8. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card-2) 22-21 (.512) 66.7%

Still in the hunt:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
Colorado Rockies 20-22 (.476) 26.8%
Milwaukee Brewers 18-22 (.450) 38.3%
New York Mets 19-24 (.442) 31.1%
Cincinnati Reds 18-24 (.429) 21.2%


There’s much less certainty in the back half of the NL field than its AL counterpart at this point. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s touch on the virtual locks for the postseason. The Dodgers are the best team in baseball and essentially guaranteed the No. 1 seed in the National League. The Cubs and Braves each have a roughly two-thirds chance of winning their divisions and should make the playoffs regardless. One of the most exciting teams in baseball, the San Diego Padres, is set to make the postseason for the first time in 14 years. 

Before the dropoff into major uncertainty for the NL Wild Card spots, there’s the Phillies and Cardinals, who figure to take the second spots in their division but still could face competition from other teams in the central (MIL, CIN) and east (NYM) divisions, respectively. 

And now, as the odds above show, we get into the spots that remain completely up in the air. If the season ended today, the Marlins and Giants would be the two Wild Card teams. Fangraphs gives the Giants a two-thirds chance of making the postseason, but the Marlins, despite currently holding a postseason spot, are below 50%. Let’s take a very brief look at the two clubs currently occupying the Wild Card spots and the four closest teams on the outside looking in:

Marlins: Don Mattingly is probably the front-runner for NL manager of the year right now. His team ranks 26th in both OPS and runs scored in baseball but ninth in ERA thanks to an exciting group of young pitchers that includes Pablo Lopez (3.05 ERA), Elieser Hernandez (3.16), Sixto Sanchez (1.80) and Sandy Alcantara (3.78). 

Giants: The Giants have found their success in basically the opposite way, with a team ERA (4.85) that ranks 21st in MLB but an offense that’s scored the fourth-most runs in the game. Brandon Belt (1.086 OPS), Mike Yastrzemski (8 HR), Donovan Solano (.353 AVG) and Wilmer Flores (8 HR) have been big parts of the team’s surprisingly great lineup.

Rockies: Colorado got off to an 11-3 start but has gone 9-19 since and will need to get back on track in a hurry to make the postseason. After a great start to the season, the Rockies’ pitching staff has come crashing back down to earth and fallen to 29th in the majors in team ERA (5.66). The team’s offense has been above average, but not by much.

Brewers: Milwaukee has major concerns in its lineup behind Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura. Only the Cardinals — who’ve played five fewer games — and the Rangers have scored fewer runs than the Brewers this season, and the team hasn’t displayed the pitching staff to make up for that. Despite all this, the Brewers are just 2.5 games back of St. Louis for the second spot in the NL Central standings.

Mets: The Mets are having another Mets kind of season. The team’s offense is above average with the ability to be even better, but the lack of basically any quality rotation arms behind Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom has been too much to overcome thus far. The team still holds a nearly one-third chance of making the postseason, though.

Reds: The Reds have underperformed perhaps more than any other team in baseball this year. The top three in Cincinnati’s rotation (Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo) measure up against most any in the game, and the team’s offense features plenty of talent (Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas, Jesse Winker, Joey Votto, etc.). The offense in particular just hasn’t performed, though, ranking 25th in baseball in runs scored. The Reds are 6.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central but 3.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. 

Even in the National League, four (and probably six) playoff spots are already essentially settled. But with four teams currently outside the playoff picture holding an above 20% chance of playing in October, there’s clearly still plenty that could change in the next few weeks.

Photo by “slgckgc” / Flickr

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