Updated Playoff Chances for Each MLB Team 2 Weeks into 2020 Season
It may seem like the 2020 Major League Baseball season only just began. But two weeks into this year's 60-game schedule, the playoffs are already in sight.
Time to reassess each team's chances of getting there.
In case anyone missed it, this year's playoff field will be larger than usual. Sixteen teams—including the top two finishers in all six divisions—will be represented, meaning there are few actual long shots to make the postseason in 2020.
Nonetheless, we did our best to size up teams' chances of playing in October based on how they've played so far, how they might play in the future and what roadblocks are and aren't in their path.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Note: Stats and records are current through Thursday, August 6.
It's early, but things have taken a bad turn for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Both their offense and pitching bear responsibility for the club's minus-23 run differential. The former has a .640 OPS, while the latter has a 5.58 ERA.
And while the D-backs may have expected to be staring up at the Los Angeles Dodgers, they might not have expected the Colorado Rockies or San Diego Padres to also be among the National League's top squads.
At least on paper, however, this is still a better version of a club that won 85 games in 2019. And going forward, they can expect more from their Madison Bumgarner-led rotation and their Ketel Marte-led offense. As it happens, the second of those seemingly has some good luck to collect on.
Despite its strong early showing, Atlanta shouldn't get too comfortable.
The club's rotation didn't look unbeatable even at the start of the season. Now it's missing budding ace Mike Soroka (torn Achilles) and barely getting by with a 4.66 ERA.
On the plus side, Atlanta's offense has come through with 5.3 runs per game even though the team is still waiting on Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman to live up to their superstar billings. Brian Snitker's bullpen has also been quietly very good—to the tune of a 2.69 ERA.
Another thing working in Atlanta's favor is that presumed contenders such as the Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies have struggled to launch.
The Baltimore Orioles aren't necessarily good, but they've at least been better than expected.
This has much to do with their surprisingly effective offense, which is specifically being carried by Hanser Alberto and Rio Ruiz. And while his results have been shaky, the O's must be thrilled with All-Star John Means' huge velocity spike.
Yet buying into the Orioles being contenders requires ignoring their minus-nine run differential and the many gaps they have beneath their early standouts. And while the ol' stars-and-scrubs approach can work, their stars only inspire so much optimism.
Because of their strong start and the relative openness of the American League East, Baltimore isn't exactly a playoff long shot. Still, the team's peak is almost certainly happening right now.
Boston Red Sox
To this point, watching the Boston Red Sox pitch has been about as painful as lighting one's eyeballs on fire and then putting the fire out with sulfuric acid.
Their starters have a 6.04 ERA, and there's no hope of drastic improvement. Eduardo Rodriguez is out for the season, and the club's farm system is devoid of impact arms.
If the Red Sox are to have any shot at October, their offense will have to carry them. Though its modest early returns (a .733 OPS and 4.3 runs per game) don't impress, better things await if J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi can heat up.
If that does happen, Boston will have a road to at least a third-place finish in the AL East.
The Chicago Cubs are sort of like Atlanta, except their pitching problems are all in their bullpen.
No thanks to Craig Kimbrel's ongoing issues, Cubs relievers have posted a 7.30 ERA. Fixing that will require either a miracle or an all-in effort at the August 31 trade deadline.
Otherwise, however, things are going very well for the Cubs. Their offense is enjoying a renaissance marked by a .755 OPS and five runs per game. And while their starters likely won't keep up their 2.83 ERA, it'll be good enough if they keep downplaying the role that the club's bullpen has to play.
Factoring in new manager David Ross' immediate influence and the generally unimpressive state of the rest of the NL Central, the Cubs are in darn good shape.
Chicago White Sox
Despite their relatively modest 4.8 runs per game, the Chicago White Sox have one of baseball's top offenses.
They've gotten above-average production from most of their regulars, the end results of which include a .273 average and .766 OPS. Each of those figures is at or near the top of the league's offensive leaderboard.
Another thing that bodes well for Chicago's postseason chances is that Cleveland's offense has been one of the league's worst. That's slowed the club's progress and cleared the way for the White Sox to nab one of the AL Central's two playoff spots.
The White Sox must hope that Cleveland's offense doesn't wake up and that their own struggling rotation doesn't get worse.
It's been an up-and-down beginning for the Cincinnati Reds, but the rest of the NL Central hasn't taken advantage and buried them.
Indeed, they're arguably the best the division has to offer outside the Cubs. The Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals could change that eventually, yet both are dealing with their own issues.
For their part, the Reds have and should continue to thrive on a rotation that's dominated with a 2.57 ERA and huge strikeout totals. And in posting a 1.212 OPS and six home runs, Nick Castellanos has carried an offense that has more potential than it's shown.
If extra offense does indeed show up, the Reds can make a play for one of the NL Central's top two spots.
An inverse of the White Sox's offense indeed resides elsewhere in the AL Central in the form of Cleveland.
The club's hitters have mustered only a .192/.299/.287 slash line and 47 runs. They've scored two or fewer runs in nine of the team's first 14 games.
But as bad as things have been, Terry Francona's squad will almost certainly get more out of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes. If so, Cleveland's offense will at least rise to respectability.
Assuming that happens and Cleveland's rotation builds on its early 2.32 ERA, a playoff spot may well materialize.
After pretty much everything went wrong for them in 2019, the Colorado Rockies have been making everything right again in 2020.
Their starting rotation has been the primary beneficiary of that turnaround. Mainly by way of bounce backs from German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, Colorado starters have a 2.78 ERA. That's great in a vacuum, and it's downright superb for a club that plays half its games at Coors Field.
Of course, that's also the worrying part. It stands to reason that Rockies starters will eventually regress, at which point the team will need its offensive to improve on its average-ish performance.
To that end, Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and a rejuvenated Daniel Murphy may be equal to the task, in which case the Rockies could snatch one of the NL West's playoff spots.
Much like the Orioles, it's a nice change of pace to see the Detroit Tigers even so much as flirting with the .500 mark following their 114-loss campaign in 2019.
Yet there's something else that the Tigers have in common with the Orioles: Their record isn't made to last.
The Tigers have been outscored by 11 runs, which points to talent shortages on both sides of the ball. It's nice that Miguel Cabrera and JaCoby Jones have three homers apiece, but Tigers hitters have just a .669 OPS. The club's pitchers haven't done much better with a 5.08 ERA.
The Tigers might have something if pitchers Casey Mize and Matt Manning come up and establish themselves immediately. But even then, they'd likely only be the fourth-best team in the AL Central.
This is as vulnerable as the Houston Astros have been in some time.
After losing Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley during the offseason, their rotation is now missing Justin Verlander (forearm strain), and it shows in its 5.34 ERA. With reports out that Roberto Osuna needs Tommy John surgery, Houston's bullpen is also down an important piece.
And yet the Astros have stayed afloat in an AL West that has only one other obvious contender. What's more, they've done so without a fully functioning offense.
As it is, the Astros are already scoring 5.9 runs per game. Once Yordan Alvarez, who's out for undisclosed reasons, returns, and Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer inevitably heat up, they might at least keep that number from going any lower.
Kansas City Royals
It's not all bad for the Kansas City Royals.
Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler are continuing to anchor the club's lineup, which has recently gotten a boost from Adalberto Mondesi, as he's pulled out of an early funk. The Royals have also quietly enjoyed solid work from their relievers, including returning prodigal son Greg Holland.
But that's all. Even after dropping a 13 spot on the Cubs on Thursday, the Royals have still allowed 11 more runs than they've scored and, accordingly, lost more often than they've won.
Given how the rest of the AL Central looks, the Royals seem destined for a last-place finish.
Los Angeles Angels
Though the Los Angeles Angels have dug themselves an early hole, their odds of climbing out of it aren't that long.
Their rotation has put up a 4.81 ERA, yet Shohei Ohtani's latest throwing-arm injury might result in a case of addition by subtraction. Remove his two poor starts from the equation, and Angels starters have a 3.21 ERA.
Plus, the Angels' .717 OPS undersells the potential of their offense. Now that Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Ohtani and top prospect Jo Adell will be playing every day together, their regular lineup should start cranking out runs.
With neither the Astros nor the Oakland Athletics dominating like they did in recent years, the Angels will have a path to the top of the AL West if such things pan out.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though they've won nine of 13, the Los Angeles Dodgers' plus-33 run differential suggests they should be doing even better.
What's remarkable is that the Dodgers have that run differential even though they haven't really come together yet. They're waiting on Cody Bellinger to play like an MVP again, and Clayton Kershaw has made only one start.
That the Dodgers have succeeded anyway is a testament to their depth, and more specifically to what Corey Seager is capable of when he's healthy. He's been darn impressive in racking up a 1.008 OPS and three homers.
So even if the Rockies and Padres are making them sweat a bit, the Dodgers are indeed the superteam that most everyone expected them to be.
What to make of the Miami Marlins is frankly a good question.
The whole idea here is to assess teams based on what they've done and what they have. Now we come to the Marlins, who've played only seven games and whose roster has been rendered unrecognizable by a coronavirus outbreak.
We thus don't have a good sense of what they came into the season with, and what they have now is going to look drastically different in a couple of weeks' time.
But if nothing else, the Marlins have obviously given themselves an early leg up by winning six of their first seven games. Even if they only play so much as .500 ball the rest of the way, their hot start could be the difference between missing out on October and nabbing one of the NL East's top two spots.
Albeit not to the same degree as the Marlins, the Milwaukee Brewers have also had their season upended by the pandemic.
Other issues in Milwaukee include Christian Yelich's painfully slow start and a general lack of reliability on the mound in between ace Brandon Woodruff and closer Josh Hader.
But when (not if) Yelich gets hot and pitchers like Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom find their footing, the Brewers should stabilize and at least make a run at .500. Given the circumstances, even that could put them in the running for second in the NL Central.
Whether Chicago or Cleveland should be favored for the second spot in the AL Central, the choice is still between two flawed teams.
The Minnesota Twins, meanwhile, should remain out of reach for both clubs precisely because they don't have any flaws.
No glaring ones, anyway. They strengthened their pitching staff over the winter, and that effort is paying off in the form of a 2.97 ERA. For its part, the offense is scoring 5.2 runs per game even though only Nelson Cruz and Max Kepler are hitting consistently.
Minnesota's offense should more so resemble the 2019 unit that slammed 307 home runs by the end of the season, by which point the club should have first place well in hand.
New York Mets
It wasn't that long ago that the New York Mets looked like a potential World Series contender from certain angles.
But that was before Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) and Marcus Stroman (calf tear) got injured. Mets starters not named Jacob deGrom have a 5.63 ERA, and struggles on the parts of Pete Alonso and Edwin Diaz aren't helping matters.
As noted previously, however, the NL East is a fairly even battleground. In order to reestablish themselves, the Mets might only need Stroman to get healthy and for Alonso to once again grace their lineup with his trademark power.
If these things happen, the Mets could have a route to the NL East's second playoff berth.
New York Yankees
Despite their record, the New York Yankees do have things to worry about.
For one thing, All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez has looked lost at the plate. For another, their pitching staff has lost Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery) and isn't getting much from J.A. Happ or James Paxton, whose high-octane fastball has gone missing.
And yet much is going right, particularly in Aaron Judge's and Giancarlo Stanton's corner of the lineup. In combining for a 1.114 OPS and nine homers, they're finally living up to their assumed mega-duo status.
The Yankees also have some bright spots on the mound, such as newcomer ace Gerrit Cole and the bullpen trio of Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Greene. And given just how much dormant talent it has, the scary part is that this club probably hasn't peaked yet.
In the wake of their back-to-back 97-win seasons, the Oakland Athletics have looked relatively beatable even though they've won nine of their first 13 contests.
Their offense, in particular, hasn't been especially reliable. A's hitters are batting just .206 with a .667 OPS. Were it not for Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha, things would look even worse.
Matt Olson is starting to come alive, however, and the A's can assume that Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman will also wake up eventually. In the meantime, they don't have much cause to worry about a pitching staff that has a 2.90 ERA, especially now that super-rookie Jesus Luzardo is finally starting.
With the Astros limping along, this may be the year that the A's finally take them down a peg.
Because their fate got entangled with that of the Marlins in MLB's opening week, we don't know much more about the Philadelphia Phillies now than we did on Opening Day.
One thing that's already clear, though, is that their bullpen is a problem. Its 7.89 ERA is the worst in baseball, and there generally isn't much talent underneath closer Hector Neris.
Otherwise, things could be worse for the Phillies. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have looked like a legit one-two rotation punch, while Bryce Harper's hot start has paced a charge to a solid .779 overall OPS.
It should also be any day now that the Phillies are reinforced by top prospects Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard. By then, they'll be equipped to overcome their pen issues and make a run at a playoff spot.
There actually are some nice things to say about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For instance, Colin Moran and Phillip Evans have emerged as an unlikely two-headed monster. The former has clubbed five homers, while the latter is hitting .344. The Bucs are also getting a nice rebound year from Trevor Williams, who struggled in 2019 after quietly thriving with a 3.11 ERA in 2018.
But apart from these things, both Pittsburgh's record and its minus-19 run differential pretty much say it all.
This is simply not a good team, and the only reason its playoff chances aren't completely hopeless is there's only one obvious World Series contender elsewhere in the NL Central.
San Diego Padres
If it feels like the San Diego Padres are better than their record, it's not just you.
Fernando Tatis Jr., Wil Myers and Trent Grisham have homered four times apiece to lead the club's offense to a respectable .768 OPS, and that number may only go higher once Eric Hosmer (gastritis) gets healthy and Manny Machado heats up.
The Padres are also getting a 2.20 ERA out of Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet. Their underperforming bullpen, meanwhile, will have potential well beyond its current 5.96 ERA if MacKenzie Gore joins fellow top prospect Luis Patino in its depth chart.
While they may be playing third fiddle, these Padres are more balanced than the Rockies and could give the Dodgers a run for the NL West lead.
San Francisco Giants
How the heck are the San Francisco Giants flirting with .500 even though they've allowed 16 more runs than they've scored?
To give credit where it's due, they have a halfway decent offense. Mike Yastrzemski has provided the bulk of the power with a 1.105 OPS and three long balls, while Donovan Solano is flying under the radar with a .465 average.
In light of their recent history, it's ironic that the Giants lack pitching. Their hurlers simply need to do better than a 5.09 ERA, and the shortage of talented arms in the organization raises doubts about that possibility.
As such, it could be tough for the Giants to outlast even the Diamondbacks, much less the Dodgers, Rockies and Padres.
The Seattle Mariners have their bright spots, specifically in their everyday lineup.
By far the most promising development of their season is Kyle Lewis carrying over his 2019 breakthrough to the tune of a 1.016 OPS and three homers. Fellow youngster J.P. Crawford is getting on base at a .410 clip, while Kyle Seager leads the club with 14 runs batted in.
Trouble is, there might not be a worse pitching staff in baseball than Seattle's. It features little in the way of young or veteran talent, so it's hard to imagine a dramatic improvement on the club's 6.00 ERA.
The Mariners can thank the Angels and Rangers for opening a path to a playoff spot, yet there should be no mistake that it's a narrow one.
St. Louis Cardinals
Though theirs thankfully wasn't as widespread as Miami's, the St. Louis Cardinals are only now preparing to return from their own coronavirus outbreak.
The NL Central didn't do a whole lot to put the Cardinals at a disadvantage in the interim. To wit, it'll only take a couple of wins for them to gain an edge on Cincinnati or Milwaukee.
And yet the Cards had real issues even before they had to take a break. One is a somewhat undermanned pitching staff, yet surely the more concerning problem is that their offense hasn't improved on its mediocre performance from 2019.
It's good that Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O'Neill are fighting the good fight, and top prospect Dylan Carlson should join it soon. But if more runs don't come, these Cards won't fly.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are making it too easy to ask, "Is this all there is?"
Their seemingly endless depth made them a sleeper World Series pick at the outset of the season, and there have been times when those high hopes have manifested on the field. Nonetheless, they're a losing team with only a plus-one run differential.
Yet the Rays have pitched well en route to a 3.63 ERA. They just need their offense to do better than its .668 OPS and 4.3 runs per game. That's where a healthy Austin Meadows should help, and there is potential for manager Kevin Cash to turn the team's misfit instruments into a beautiful orchestra.
If the Rays do find their footing, there won't be much in their way to the AL East's No. 2 spot.
If there are angles for optimism with the Texas Rangers, we can't find them.
They were only going to contend in 2020 if everything from A to Z went right. That hasn't been the case, and their biggest problems include such things as Corey Kluber's shoulder tear and an offense that's scoring only 3.3 runs per game.
Rangers starters (and Lance Lynn, especially) deserve credit for their 3.50 ERA, but it just won't matter in the long run if Joey Gallo doesn't get more support in the club's lineup. To be blunt, it's hard to discern where said support will come from.
Ultimately, the Rangers look like at best only the No. 4 contender in the AL West.
Toronto Blue Jays
After losing 95 games in 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays are taking a step forward in 2020.
This largely comes down to an improvement on the mound, where their Hyun-Jin Ryu-infused pitching staff has greatly reduced its ERA from a year ago. Offense has been harder to come by, but they have to like how Teoscar Hernandez has swung the bat en route to four early homers.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays can't be thrilled that Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio have combined for a .211/.244/.360 slash line. That's far from the breakout that was inherently promised by their encouraging breakthroughs in 2019.
Maybe that will change. But if it doesn't, a playoff spot will remain out of Toronto's reach.
Though the Washington Nationals have looked flat, the thing to keep in mind is that they haven't been at full strength yet.
They didn't have Juan Soto in their lineup until Wednesday, and they're still waiting on Stephen Strasburg to return from a nerve issue in his right hand. In the meantime, they must hope that fellow ace Max Scherzer's hamstring injury is as minor as they believe.
It bodes well that the reigning champs have been able to tread water despite all this. They should be especially thrilled with their bullpen, whose 1.53 ERA marks a staggering 180 from its 2019 performance.
Less encouraging is the reality that Anthony Rendon's absence will likely loom all season. Even still, the Nats have a good shot at one of the NL East's top two spots.