Updated 2020 MLB Playoff Standings and Predictions with 3 Weeks to Go

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 7, 2020

Updated 2020 MLB Playoff Standings and Predictions with 3 Weeks to Go

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    Call it a hunch, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are probably going to make the postseason.
    Call it a hunch, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are probably going to make the postseason.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The 2020 Major League Baseball season only started on July 23, but the abbreviated 60-game schedule is already hurdling toward its conclusion.

    As such, it's time for a fresh assessment of the league's postseason picture.

    Because of this year's expanded playoff field, the American League and National League will each be sending eight teams to October. Those will include the top two teams from each division, plus two wild-card clubs.

    Let's begin with the standings right now, and then we'll break down our picks for which 16 teams will ultimately qualify for the playoffs.

The Current Standings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    *Would be in playoffs if season ended today.

    American League East

    • 1. Tampa Bay Rays: 28-13*
    • 2. Toronto Blue Jays: 22-18 (5.5 GB)*
    • 3. New York Yankees: 21-19 (6.5 GB)*
    • 4. Baltimore Orioles: 19-21 (8.5 GB)
    • 5. Boston Red Sox: 14-28 (14.5 GB)

          

    American League Central

    • 1. Chicago White Sox: 26-15*
    • 2. Cleveland: 25-15 (0.5 GB)*
    • 3. Minnesota Twins: 25-17 (1.5 GB)*
    • 4. Detroit Tigers: 18-20 (6.5 GB)
    • 5. Kansas City Royals: 14-27 (12.0 GB)

          

    American League West

    • 1. Oakland Athletics: 23-14*
    • 2. Houston Astros: 21-19 (3.5 GB)*
    • 3. Seattle Mariners: 18-22 (6.5 GB)
    • 4. Los Angeles Angels: 17-25 (8.5 GB)
    • 5. Texas Rangers: 13-26 (11.0 GB)

          

    Wild Card

    • 1. MIN
    • 2. NYY
    • 3. BAL (2.0 GB)
    • 4. DET (2.0 GB)
    • 5. SEA (3.0 GB)
    • 6. LAA (5.0 GB)
    • 7. KCR (7.5 GB)
    • 8. TEX (7.5 GB)
    • 9. BOS (8.0 GB)

          

    National League East

    • 1. Atlanta: 24-16*
    • 2. Philadelphia Phillies: 19-17 (3.0 GB)*
    • 3. Miami Marlins: 17-18 (4.5 GB)
    • 4. New York Mets: 19-22 (5.5 GB)
    • 5. Washington Nationals: 14-25 (9.5 GB)

          

    National League Central

    • 1. Chicago Cubs: 23-18*
    • 2. St. Louis Cardinals: 17-15 (1.5 GB)*
    • 3. Milwaukee Brewers: 18-21 (4.0 GB)
    • 4. Cincinnati Reds: 18-23 (5.0 GB)
    • 5. Pittsburgh Pirates: 13-26 (9.0 GB)

          

    National League West

    • 1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 30-12*
    • 2. San Diego Padres: 25-17 (5.5 GB)*
    • 3. Colorado Rockies: 20-20 (9.0 GB)*
    • 4. San Francisco Giants: 20-21 (10.0 GB)*
    • 5. Arizona Diamondbacks: 15-26 (15.0 GB)

          

    Wild Card

    • 1. COL
    • 2. SFG
    • 3. MIA (0 GB)
    • 4. NYM (1.0 GB)
    • 5. MIL (1.0 GB)
    • 6. CIN (2.0 GB)
    • 7. ARI (5.0 GB)
    • 8. WAS (5.0 GB)
    • 9. PIT (6.0 GB)

American League East

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    First Place: Tampa Bay Rays

    It took a couple of weeks for the Rays to hit their stride, but they've since won 22 of their last 27 contests dating back to the second game of a double-header against the New York Yankees on August 8.

    This is largely due to an offense that's better than the sum of its parts, though the club's pitching has mustered a solid 3.79 ERA despite a modest 4.24 ERA from aces Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. If those three find their rhythm, Tampa Bay can run away with first place in the AL East.

         

    Second Place: Toronto Blue Jays

    The Yankees entered 2020 as the popular favorite to win (well, "win") the AL East, but they're unsurprisingly having a hard time overcoming Gerrit Cole's recent struggles and a rash of injuries that's claimed Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and Gio Urshela.

    The Toronto Blue Jays are in position to take advantage of New York's woes. Losing ascendant star Teoscar Hernandez to a reportedly serious rib injury definitely hurts, but the pending returns of young shortstop Bo Bichette and pitchers Ken Giles and Nate Pearson will only help the Jays weather it and nab the AL East's second playoff spot.

American League Central

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    First Place: Minnesota Twins

    The AL Central race is the best in baseball, but there is a proverbial fly in the ointment: Because the expanded playoff field has room for all three, it doesn't really matter how the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland ultimately finish.

    The Twins, though, have the advantage of winning records against both of their top rivals. Between that and how their roster combines excellent pitching (3.67 ERA) and a powerful offense that recently regained 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, their upside for the season's final weeks shouldn't be underestimated.

         

    Second Place: Chicago White Sox

    Cleveland lost one of its best pitchers (Mike Clevinger) at the trade deadline and just hasn't been able to maintain a reliable offensive attack. Such things make the club's odds of finishing in first or second look longer than they should.

    For their part, the White Sox are easily the best offensive team in the American League. Yet equally exciting is the run their pitchers have been on with a 3.00 ERA over their last 20 contests. If not to first place, the team's momentum can at least carry it to a second-place finish in the division.

American League West

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    First Place: Oakland Athletics

    Between their coronavirus scare and losses in six of their last 10, the A's have had a rough go of it lately. They're also in for somewhat of a rough landing that includes five straight games against the Houston Astros and three against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    And yet, the A's can hope to continue riding a pitching staff that's excelled with a 3.66 ERA. It's also not for lack of talent that their offense has been so inconsistent, so a hot run-scoring streak may yet be in the cards. Add these things up, and they're reasonably safe in first place.

           

    Second Place: Houston Astros

    This version of the Astros isn't the juggernaut that won over 100 games in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In large part thanks to injuries, the depth just isn't there like it was in the previous three seasons.

    Still, the Astros can rest easy knowing they and the A's are the only real contenders in the AL West. They can also rest easy knowing they stand to get Alex Bregman and possibly Justin Verlander off the injured list for the stretch run. It would be a surprise if they didn't hold on to the division's second playoff spot.

American League Wild Cards

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Wild Card 1: Cleveland

    Even without Mike Clevinger, Cleveland's Shane Bieber-led pitching staff may well be able to maintain its MLB-best 2.78 ERA. And while its offense isn't necessarily good, it's at least been better in scoring 4.8 runs per game in 11 games since August 25.

    In other words, there's no reason to believe Cleveland will plummet out of the playoff race even if it can't claim one of the AL Central's two playoff spots.

         

    Wild Card 2: New York Yankees

    Look, this is basically a choice between the Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. The Yankees are the only serious contender of the three, and a steady trickle (knock wood) of stars coming off the IL should help them at least tread water until October.

National League East

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    First Place: Atlanta

    Frankly, Atlanta should be worried about its standing in the National League East. The club's starting pitching depth is still suspect, and the Philadelphia Phillies are playing good baseball right now.

    On the plus side, Atlanta has a soft remaining schedule that notably includes zero games against Philadelphia. The club's offense is also at full strength at the moment and looking the part with 65 runs scored in its last eight games. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, Atlanta should maintain its division lead.

         

    Second Place: Philadelphia Phillies

    Neither the Miami Marlins nor the New York Mets should be ruled out as players for the NL East's second playoff spot. But right now, the Phillies have a leg up and at least two things to help them sustain it.

    One is a Bryce Harper-led offense that's been producing on an admirably consistent basis. Another is the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo, out of which has sprung a 2.49 ERA in 16 total starts. So even though games against Tampa Bay and Toronto loom on the horizon, the Phillies are on solid ground.

National League Central

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    First Place: Chicago Cubs

    The Cubs started strong, but they're only 10-15 since August 14. That's not terribly surprising, given that their faults include a top-heavy rotation, a vulnerable bullpen and an offense that's suffering through a drastic absence of production from Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.

    And yet the Cubs' hot start still counts toward the standings, and nobody else in the National League Central is equipped to really push them for first place. So while the Cubs must beware remaining games against Cleveland, Minnesota and the White Sox, they can probably get away with treading water the rest of the way.

            

    Second Place: Cincinnati Reds

    The St. Louis Cardinals hold second place right now, but they're a flawed team with a remaining schedule that includes six double-headers. Neither the Cincinnati Reds nor Milwaukee Brewers are perfect in their own right, but we just can't help but look at the Reds and see a team that should be better.

    Cincinnati's rotation is better than even its 3.83 ERA indicates. Consistent offense is what the Reds have been missing, but perhaps not for much longer if Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez stay hot and Mike Moustakas can get his own bat to heat up. With that kind of push, the Reds can pull off a comeback.

National League West

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    First Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

    It's a credit to the San Diego Padres that the National League West race is remotely close. But as fun as it would be to see the Padres (who are themselves quite fun) pull off the upset, the Dodgers are simply too good.

    Vintage seasons from Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen have helped propel Los Angeles' mound staff to an NL-best 2.88 ERA. And even with disappointing returns from Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy, Mookie Betts and plenty of unsung heroes have been at the heart of one of the league's most consistent offenses. Hence why the Dodgers would be on pace for 116 wins in a regular year.

         

    Second Place: San Diego Padres

    First place may be out of reach, but there isn't much doubt at this point that the Padres will get into October via the NL West's second-place playoff berth.

    San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr.-led offense is the best in baseball, and no team did more to improve at the trade deadline. The Padres added an ace (Mike Clevinger) and numerous role players, ultimately making their roster both star-laden and deep. So despite their second-fiddle status in the NL West, they're an elite club.

National League Wild Cards

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Wild Card 1: Colorado Rockies

    The NL wild-card race is such that picking names out of a hat might actually be a better way of making predictions than trying to read the tea leaves. But even if their West-based schedule offers little in the way of light opponents, the Rockies should have enough to maintain as a wild-card club.

    Their front three of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela makes for a good pitching backbone. There are fewer sure things in Colorado's offense, but even now it must be a matter of time before Nolan Arenado gets hot. The 210-point drop-off in his OPS from 2019 to 2020 is too bad to be true.

            

    Wild Card 2: St. Louis Cardinals

    It's definitely cause for concern that the Cardinals will have to play 28 games between now and the end of the regular season on September 27. That's a huge workload for three weeks' worth of action.

    Still, perhaps a pitching staff that's thus far posted a 3.48 ERA will be up to the challenge of carrying the team through its upcoming gauntlet. It's also worth having faith in Paul Goldschmidt, who's rocking a .966 OPS even though he hasn't even gotten his power (i.e., four home runs) going yet.

             

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and are current through Sunday, September 6.