From the top contenders all the way down to the losing teams that snuck into October, every team has a few question marks.
The wild-card round is here, and Major League Baseball is beginning a postseason unlike any other. We have no idea what to expect, and that’s what’s so fun about it.
Is this finally the Dodgers’ year? Will the Marlins remain undefeated in postseason series? Will we move from our couches once during Wednesday’s eight-game frenzy?
Here is one question for each of the 16 (!!!) playoff teams as we enter the great unknown of pandemic postseason baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays: Can the Rays score more than three runs in a game?
They are 32–7 this season in games when they’ve scored at least 4 runs. That’s how good their pitching staff has been this year. If Tampa scores four runs per game this postseason, it has a great shot to win the first World Series in franchise history.
Oakland Athletics: Are the A’s as good as their record, or is the AL West just … bad?
This season, they went 26–14 against the AL West, but they were the division’s only winning team. They finished 10–10 in interleague play against the five NL West teams. Only two teams Oakland played—the Dodgers and Padres—had winning records this year, and it went 1–2 against both of them. Small sample size? Yes. But the A’s will need to show they are better than just a club that bullies the bad teams.
Minnesota Twins: Is balance better than absolute power?
The Twins are not the same home-run-hitting team as they were a year ago, but they have made up for it with a better pitching staff. Led by Kenta Maeda, their rotation’s 3.54 ERA ranks fifth in the majors, and their bullpen’s 3.62 mark is sixth. Their offense has come alive over the past few weeks, enough to get them the AL Central title over the Indians and White Sox.
Cleveland Indians: Will the Indians provide enough run support for their elite rotation?
No team has allowed fewer runs per game than Cleveland’s 3.48, but it has also scored fewer runs per game (4.13) than any other AL postseason team.
New York Yankees: Can they beat Shane Bieber?
No single matchup is less favorable for the Yankees than a three-game series against Cleveland’s elite pitching staff. They have both MLB’s batting champion (DJ LeMahieu) and home run leader (Luke Voit) on their roster, as well as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres. But if the bats go cold against Bieber, the best pitcher in baseball this year, they’ll be facing elimination just as the postseason begins.
Houston Astros: Are they any good?
The Astros are the only AL team to make the playoffs with a losing record after going just 4–13 against teams above .500 this year. Now, they’ll travel to Minneapolis to play the 36–24 Twins. Good luck.
Chicago White Sox: Can they get hot again?
The White Sox were the first AL Central team to clinch a postseason berth and then lost eight of their final 10 games, dropping from first to third in the division. That was still good enough to go to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but the South Siders are too talented to settle for a wild-card round exit.
Toronto Blue Jays: Do the Blue Jays have the pitching?
Their lineup is exciting, but after Hyun-jin Ryu, the Toronto pitching staff is a whole lotta meh.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Is this Clayton Kershaw’s year?
The Dodgers unquestionably are the best team in baseball, and Kershaw is once again their ace. This is his chance to rewrite his legacy, and his team’s chance to win its first World Series since 1988.
Atlanta Braves: Does an elite offense compensate for dreadful pitching?
The Braves led the majors with an .832 OPS and a .355 wOBA this season, and they ranked second in runs per game (5.80). However, their rotation’s 5.51 ERA was the third worst in MLB, better than only the Tigers and Angels. They have lefthander Max Fried as their ace, but after him, it gets pretty rough.
Chicago Cubs: How much production will they get from Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez?
The Cubs won the deep NL Central despite their three best players all having down years. Rizzo has been heating up (1.016 OPS) over his last seven games, and Bryant came alive this past weekend against the White Sox. If this trio gets going, the Cubs could be dangerous.
San Diego Padres: How serious are injuries to Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet?
The Padres say they are optimistic about both pitchers, but both injuries should be at least somewhat concerning. Clevinger has a right elbow impingement, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll return for the wild-card round. Lamet left Friday’s start with right biceps tightness. He is expected to pitch in the wild-card round against the Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals: Will they hit enough to support their strong pitching staff?
The Cardinals are the Indians of the National League, though their best pitcher, Jack Flaherty, has not pitched like an ace this year (4.91 ERA). They hit the fewest home runs (51) in baseball in an era when teams are more dependent on the long ball.
Miami Marlins: Are they for real?
Sure! They are not the most talented team, but they are quite fun to watch. They bunt and run and clearly have fun playing baseball. If they can overcome their COVID-19 outbreak and, against all odds, win the World Series in 2020, there may be hope for us yet.
Cincinnati Reds: How many games will Trevor Bauer pitch?
The favorite to win the NL Cy Young award has said many times that he can pitch effectively on short rest. That could be really important in the bubble, when there are no off days built in for travel. Stephen Strasburg pitched six times for the Nationals last postseason. The Reds would love it if Bauer did the same this year.
Milwaukee Brewers: Do they have a chance against the Dodgers?
Probably not. But if the Dodgers’ bats go cold and the Brewers can ride Josh Hader, Devin Williams and the rest of their bullpen in the wild-card round, anything could happen. After all, it is 2020.
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