Home Featured MLB Postseason Picture: Playoff field gaining clarity but plenty to watch in final days of the regular season

MLB Postseason Picture: Playoff field gaining clarity but plenty to watch in final days of the regular season

by Chris Brown

With just a few days remaining in the 2020 MLB regular season, the postseason picture is becoming increasingly clear, but that doesn’t mean everything is settled just yet. Let’s dive right in and take a look at where things stand in both leagues:

*All stats and standings accurate through the completion of MLB games on Sept. 22.

American League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. *Tampa Bay Rays (East-1) 36-20 (.643) 100%
2. *Chicago White Sox (Central-1) 34-21 (.618) 100%
3. ^Oakland Athletics (West-1) 33-21 (.611) 100%
4. *Minnesota Twins (Central-2) 34-22 (.607) 100%
5. *New York Yankees (East-2) 32-23 (.582) 100%
6. Houston Astros (West-2) 28-27 (.509) 99.8%
7. *Cleveland Indians (WC-1) 31-24 (.564) 100%
8. Toronto Blue Jays (WC-2) 28-27 (.509) 99.1%

* Clinched playoff berth  |  ^ Clinched division title

Six of the eight playoff spots on the AL side have been secured. A little context for each of those clubs:

  • Rays: It’s just the second time in franchise history that Tampa Bay has made the postseason in back-to-back years, and the club will be making its six playoff appearances since 2008, the fourth-most in any MLB team that span. Kevin Cash’s team holds a 3.5-game lead over the Yankees for the AL East lead and figures to lock up the division in the next few days.
  • White Sox: The team, which had posted sub-.500 records for each of the last seven years, became the first in the American League to clinch a playoff spot and are heading to the postseason for the first time in 12 years. The White Sox have dropped four of their last five games, lowering their division lead over the Twins to just half a game. 
  • Athletics: Oakland became the first team in baseball to clinch a division title, dethroning the Astros after three straight years on top of the AL West. Including this year, only the Dodgers (8) have been to the playoffs more than the A’s (6) since 2012. 
  • Twins: As mentioned, Minnesota is just a half-game back of Chicago for the AL Central lead heading into play on Sept. 23, though the White Sox do hold the tiebreaker. The club has clinched back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 2009-10.
  • Yankees: New York is set to make its fourth consecutive postseason appearance and is back to being one of the most feared teams in baseball. The team is almost certain to finish second in the AL East standings.
  • Indians: There will now officially be three AL Central clubs in the playoffs in 2020, as Jose Ramirez’s walk-off three-run blast against the White Sox on Tuesday night secured a fourth postseason berth in five years for Cleveland. The Indians have won five of their last six games but still appear slated for a Wild Card spot.

As for the Astros and Blue Jays, barring something absolutely stunning it’s only a matter of time before they lock up postseason spots. No other AL team has greater than a 1% chance of making the playoffs, per Fangraphs, so there’s no need to even get into any other clubs. The only real question that remains here is seeding, which of course determines Wild Card series matchups. The bracket above remaining is a likely scenario, but there is still some slight movement that could occur, particularly with regard to the AL Central race.

National League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. ^Los Angeles Dodgers (West-1) 39-16 (.709) 100%
2. ^Atlanta Braves (East-1) 33-22 (.600) 100%
3. *Chicago Cubs (Central-1) 32-23 (.582) 100%
4. *San Diego Padres (West-2) 34-21 (.618) 100%
5. St. Louis Cardinals (Central-2) 27-25 (.519) 86.7%
6. Miami Marlins (East-2) 28-27 (.509) 83.2%
7. Cincinnati Reds (WC-1) 28-28 (.500) 66.2%
8. Milwaukee Brewers (WC-2) 27-27 (.500) 68.3%

* Clinched playoff berth  |  ^ Clinched division title

Still in the hunt:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
San Francisco Giants 27-27 (.500) 51.7%
Philadelphia Phillies 27-29 (.482) 32.9%
New York Mets 25-30 (.455) 9.1%
Colorado Rockies 24-30 (.444) 1.8%

The NL picture remains much more fluid than its counterpart, but there is some clarity. The Dodgers and Braves clinched their respective divisions on Sept. 22 and the Cubs figure to lock up the NL Central in the next few days. The Padres are also heading to the playoffs and will be the 4-seed in the National League. A few other quick notes on those four teams:

  • Dodgers: This club has secured its eighth consecutive division title, the third-longest such streak in MLB history, and also locked up the 1-seed in the NL.
  • Braves: Atlanta will finish on top in the NL East for the third straight year, and the franchise’s 20 division championships are the most in MLB history.
  • Cubs: It will be the fifth postseason appearance in the last six seasons for the Cubs, who currently hold the NL’s 3-seed.
  • Padres: The second-longest playoff drought in the NL is over as San Diego is heading to the postseason for the first time in 14 years. 

After those four teams, though, it really gets interesting, with six (and perhaps a few more) clubs vying for the final four playoff spots. Realistically speaking, the Giants and the Phillies are the only two teams outside the NL playoff picture with a chance of getting in. All hope is not lost for the Mets and Rockies, though we’d need to see a very unlikely series of events take place for either to make the field.

Entering play on Sept. 23, four NL Central teams are in the playoff field. The Cardinals, Reds and Brewers are all within one game of each other and have all posted above .500 records in their last 10 games. St. Louis is most likely to claim the second spot in the division standings, though several possibilities still remain there. After splitting the first two contests, the Reds and Brewers are wrapping up a three-game series against each other on Sept. 23. Cincinnati will face Minnesota to end the regular season while Milwaukee and St. Louis will square off against each other this upcoming weekend.

The other key race to watch is with the NL East, where Miami leads Philadelphia by 1.5 games. The Marlins have lost three games in a row while the Phillies have dropped four straight to fall out of the playoff picture. The Phillies wrap up a four-game series against Washington on Sept. 23 before playing at Tampa Bay over the weekend. The Marlins don’t have an easy slate to wrap up the season, with two games against Atlanta and three versus the Yankees still on the schedule.

Finally there’s the Giants, who’ve stumbled in recent weeks to fall back to .500, tied with the Brewers who hold the tiebreaker. Fangraphs still gives San Francisco a greater than 50% chance of making the postseason.

At this point in the season, the most likely postseason field is the one that’s currently lined up. Ten of the 16 playoff spots have already been clinched, and others will be any day, but there are still a few key teams whose seasons are hanging in the balance in the final days of regular season action.

Photo courtesy of MLB.com

You may also like

Leave a Comment