Section: Sports

MLB postseason set to begin Sept. 29

MLB postseason set to begin Sept. 29

The MLB postseason returns next week as fans watch from home. | COURTESY OF PIKIST

MLB playoffs start next Tuesday and, just like everything else in 2020, the postseason will look a little different. 

One of the major changes is that the playoffs are expanding from five to eight teams in each league. In the first round this year, all of the teams in both leagues will play a best of three. The next three rounds will be the same as every year: best of five, best of seven and best of seven.

Below are power rankings of the eight teams with the best chances of lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy. These rankings are based on many factors, including 2020 regular season statistics from to and previous playoff experience. 

The odds-on favorite is the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lead the league in most pitching metrics: Earned Runs Average (ERA), Walks + Hits per Inning Pitcher (WHIP) and Batting Average Against (BAA). In recent years, fans have repeatedly heard that the Dodgers are the most likely team to win the World Series, though they have continued to fall short, with their last World Series win having occurred in 1988. This year, though, the Dodgers made a blockbuster trade in the offseason for 2018 American League (AL) MVP Mookie Betts to join forces with the 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger. The pair of MVPs have a great chance to propel the team to its next World Series win. 

The Chicago franchises are the next best bets. With all due respect to the team from the South Side, the North Side’s club has the better chances. The Cubs have excelled for the better half of the decade, while the White Sox’s last season above .500 occurred in 2012. This season, however, the Sox have a slight statistical advantage in pitching (fourth vs eighth in ERA, fifth vs sixth in BAA), and a substantial one in hitting: They are third in batting average (AVG) and fourth in slugging (SLG), whereas the Cubs are 27th and 23rd, respectively. Based on the regular season, the Sox should go deeper into the playoffs, but the Cubs still have a chance, due to their playoff experience in recent years. The White Sox are perfectly capable of winning a series against any team in the MLB, but their lack of playoff experience makes this an unlikely prospect.

The Tampa Bay Rays are an interesting team: Currently, they have the second-best record in the AL, and lead the league in saves and wins. Their hitting, however, is a different story. They rank 20th in both AVG and OBP and 12th in SLG. If they win in the playoffs, it will be because of their good pitching, something that matters greatly in October. However, they will likely lose in the playoffs, as their offense pales in comparison to other teams’ like the White Sox or New York Yankees.

The San Diego Padres have the second-best record in the National League with no significant weaknesses. Much like the White Sox, they have good offense (seventh-best AVG, sixth-best OBP, second-best SLG) and defense (seventh ERA, third WHIP, ninth BAA). The Padres have a similar level of playoff experience, but they lack an ace like the Sox’s Lucas Giolito — that could be the reason they watch the Fall Classic from their homes. There is also a very good chance that they will be playing the Dodgers in the first round; they would likely fall in that matchup.

The Yankees have dealt with injuries all year long. Despite this, they have the fourth-best record in the AL, are fourth in OBP and fifth in slugging. Their pitching is not bad either; they are tied for seventh in BAA and are seventh in WHIP. The Yankees have made some strong runs for the pennant before, and with the AL wide open, it could be their experience and deep bench that carries them to their first championship win since 2009. That being said, due to the pandemic, they will not play in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium this year if they reach the later rounds, so a team with better pitching could bounce them from the playoffs.

The Atlanta Braves lineup is solid: They are second in batting average, second in OBP, first in OPS. Their pitching, on the other hand, is only okay (they’re 16th in ERA, 19th in BAA, 17th in WHIP), so they could be practicing their golf game soon if their offense goes dormant. But if the Braves can keep their offense going, they could achieve success in the postseason. 

The Oakland Athletics (A’s) are the last division winners on the list. Their offense is below average, but their pitching is solid (fifth in ERA, tied for third in saves, ninth WHIP, 15th in BAA). Traditionally, bullpens have consisted of failed starting pitchers, but that is not always the case in today’s league. Hard-thrower Liam Hendriks leads the league in saves with 13. The A’s always seem to make the most with very little. However, ultimately, the A’s will probably lose to a team that either has more resources (Yankees) or is just a better team (Sox). Would it be a surprise to see them go the distance? No, but it’s not the most likely outcome, either. 

A key factor of this postseason will be neutral site games. Some teams might benefit from the neutral ballparks, while others might suffer. Some parks are good for pitchers, while others favor hitters. The National League Division Series (NLDS), National League Championship Series (NLCS) and the World Series will be played at Globe Life Field, Texas Rangers’ stadium. The ALDS and ALCS will be played at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) and Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers) will host the NLDS and ALDS, respectively. 

It is yet unclear whether fans will be allowed in the ballpark, and whether the season will have an asterisk next to it is a question that has yet to be answered. But one thing is certain: At the end of October, one team will be lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy.



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