The Best, Worst and Most Outrageous 2020 MLB Playoff Hot Takes
For this week's MLB mailbag, we asked Bleacher Report app users to give their best MLB playoff hot takes, and they delivered.
A struggling outfielder leading his team to a first-round upset, a No. 7 seed reaching the World Series on the strength of stellar starting pitching and a Cy Young favorite struggling in his postseason debut.
Ahead we've provided background and analysis for some of the best hot takes in an effort to set the stage for what promises to be a thrilling MLB postseason.
Let's get started.
Shane Bieber Struggles, Yankees Advance
User Comment: "Shane Bieber went against a weak AL and NL Central. Yankees win the series." (@cotes_mcgotes2)
Calling the AL and NL Central weak when they account for nearly half of the playoff field is just silly.
While it's true that Bieber made five starts against the lowly Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, his other seven starts all came against playoff teams.
In those seven starts, he went 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.
On the AL side of the bracket, he had three quality starts against the Minnesota Twins, and he struck out 18 batters in 11 innings against the Chicago White Sox high-powered offense.
However, this hot take—at least the first part of it—proved to be spot on.
Bieber was shelled by the New York Yankees in his playoff debut on Tuesday night, allowing nine hits, two walks and seven earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. He had not allowed more than three runs in a start all season.
The Indians now face elimination in Game 2, but the remaining pitching matchups could still be advantage Cleveland with Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac squaring off against Masahiro Tanaka and either J.A. Happ or Deivi Garcia.
Lewis Brinson Leads Marlins Past Cubs
User Comment: "Marlins will beat the Cubs on the back of Lewis Brinson's sudden breakout." (@Dale_Gribble)
The Miami Marlins have some legitimate upset potential thanks to the young trio of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez headlining their starting rotation.
On the offensive side of things, the Marlins plated 4.5 runs per game in September and Brian Anderson (.865 OPS, 6 HR, 19 RBI), Jesus Aguilar (.839 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI) and Garrett Cooper (.834 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI) all had strong final months.
However, Lewis Brinson is still searching for answers at the plate.
The 26-year-old former top prospect spent most of the season platooning with veteran Matt Joyce in right field, finishing with a .226/.268/.368 line that included three home runs and 12 RBI in 112 plate appearances.
That actually represented an improvement over his .183/.238/.293 line in parts of the past three seasons, and he lowered his strikeout rate from 29.8 percent during that three-year span to 26.8 percent in 2020.
Still, he closed out the season in a 1-for-23 slump, so as far as bold predictions are concerned this is a bona fide 10/10 on the bold scale.
Both AL West Teams Get Swept in the Wild Card Series
User Comment: "Both AL West teams get swept in the Wild Card Round, leading into a tumultuous offseason for both." (@BigJuiceDaSip)
The AL West teams split their Game 1 showdowns on Tuesday night, with the Chicago White Sox beating the Oakland Athletics 4-1, while the Houston Astros bested the Minnesota Twins by the same score.
However, looking ahead to the remainder of the Wild Card Series, both teams face a tall task.
The White Sox stumbled down the stretch to fall out of the AL Central lead and down to the No. 7 seed, but they still have a loaded roster with a potent lineup and they'll have another ace-caliber arm on the mound Game 2 when Dallas Keuchel takes the ball. They looked like the best team in the American League before a shaky finish, and they're more than capable of returning to that form.
As for the Twins, they got a strong start from Kenta Maeda before the bullpen let them down. With that said, they still have home-field advantage and they went 24-7 at Target Field during the regular season.
Jose Berrios pitched extremely well down the stretch, with Rich Hill or Michael Pineda to follow if they can push it to Game 3, while the Astros have already used their best starter in Zack Greinke and will now need someone to come through behind him.
Regardless of how things play out, major decisions await both AL West teams this winter.
Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien and Houston center fielder George Springer are among the top upcoming free agents, and both teams have roster holes to fill beyond those potential departures.
Giancarlo Stanton Catches Fire, Leads Yankees to Title
User Comment: "Giancarlo Stanton will have the best postseason we've seen since Carlos Beltran in Houston. Only difference. There will be a ring at the end for Stanton." (@freddy0710)
This particular app user was not alone in their belief that Stanton could rewrite his Yankee story this October. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post offered up the following on Monday:
"Giancarlo Stanton, set to launch his third Yankees postseason on Tuesday, can overcome his history, his streakiness, his physical fragility and any other obstacles that stand in the way of meeting the expectations that accompanied him to The Bronx nearly three years ago.
"It can happen because if Alex Rodriguez blew up a similar narrative after a far longer and more arduous journey through the pinstriped griddle, then his fellow Most Valuable Player Stanton can follow A-Rod’s lead."
The 30-year-old is a .235/.325/.412 hitter with two home runs and three RBI in 10 postseason games to this point in his Yankees career, and he once again spent a sizeable portion of the season watching from the sidelines.
After homering in his first two games and posting a 1.038 OPS through Aug. 8, Stanton missed 32 games with a hamstring injury, and he hit just .200 with one home run in 40 plate appearances after returning on Sept. 15.
If he gets hot, it would be a significant boon to a Yankees offense that has leaned heavily on the contributions of DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit.
That said, starting pitching still remains the biggest X-factor in their title hopes.
Braves Win NL Pennant Behind Young Starters
User Comment: "Braves win the NL because the young pitchers step up." (@el_trapo)
If the Atlanta Braves do in fact advance to the World Series, the young pitching will need to have shouldered a significant load.
Max Fried is ready to go for Game 1 after escaping a rolled ankle in his final start without significant injury, and he will be the seasoned veteran of the postseason staff at all of 26 years old and with 50 MLB starts under his belt.
Behind him will be rookies Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright in the Wild Card Series, while Bryse Wilson appears to be the most likely candidate for a future Game 4 start as things currently stand.
Anderson, 22, went 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and strong peripheral numbers including a 2.54 FIP in six starts after making his MLB debut on Aug. 26.
Wright, 24, entered the season with a 7.71 ERA in 25.2 career innings in the majors. He struggled to a 7.20 ERA and 2.08 WHIP in his first six starts, but finally started to find his groove down the stretch with strong outings on Sept. 20 (6.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER) and Sept. 25 (6.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER).
The Braves are capable of scoring runs in bunches, and their relief corps ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.50 ERA. So if those young starters can keep them in the game for five innings, they'll have a chance to make a run.
Walker Buehler Leads Dodgers to WS Title over Rays
User Comment: "Walker Buehler will have a MadBum type postseason. With solid performances from Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, the Dodgers beat the Rays in 6." (@Beau_Nersauss)
Walker Buehler missed two weeks with a blister issue earlier this month before returning to throw four innings of one-hit ball against the Oakland Athletics in a postseason tune-up on Sept. 24.
In part due to the ongoing blister questions, Buehler was named the Game 1 starter for the Wild Card Series.
"There was a lot that went into it but we just feel that puts us in the best spot in those two games and also going forward," manager Dave Roberts told reporters. "It could've been interchanged. Honestly, it's one and the same to be quite honest."
The logic there is that if Buehler needs to exit early, the Dodgers bullpen will be fully rested to pick up the slack in Game 1 of the series.
Since getting knocked around in his postseason debut back in 2018, Buehler has posted a 1.72 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 31.1 innings in his last five playoff starts.
As long as his finger cooperates, Buehler is capable of putting together a memorable postseason run and carrying the Dodgers throughout October.
Starting Staff Leads Reds to World Series
User Comment: "The Reds will go to the NLCS off of Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Luis Castillo all clicking at the right time." (@allrisehekker)
If any team is going to pitch its way to a World Series title this year, the Cincinnati Reds look like prime candidates.
Here's a look at their projected playoff rotation:
- Trevor Bauer: 11 GS, 5-4, 1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 100 K, 73.0 IP
- Luis Castillo: 12 GS, 4-6, 3.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 89 K, 70.0 IP
- Sonny Gray: 11 GS, 5-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 72 K, 56.0 IP
- Tyler Mahle: 9 GS, 2-2, 3.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 60 K, 47.2 IP
Mahle would be the Game 2 starter for multiple teams in this year's playoff field, and he likely won't see the mound as a starter until a potential Game 4 of the NLDS.
The 2005 Chicago White Sox are the perfect example of a team that led a rock-solid starting rotation—Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland—to a World Series title.
The Cincinnati offense has been a disappointment this year after a busy offseason that included the additions of Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama, but they're still alive thanks to their terrific starting rotation.
Padres 'Embarrass' Dodgers in NLDS
User Comment: "Padres embarrass the Dodgers in Round 2. Won't even be a series." (@jpitt44)
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are on a collision course in the NLDS, provided they can first make it past the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in their respective Wild Card Series matchups.
The Dodgers won the season series 6-4 with a plus-12 run differential, including taking two of three at Petco Park earlier this month.
Can the Padres take charge in October?
The health of Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet is the clear X-factor for their postseason, and if both pitchers are healthy and pitching at a high level alongside Zach Davies and Chris Paddack in the starting rotation, San Diego is going to be awfully tough.
That said, it's hard to envision anyone "embarrassing" this Dodgers team. They never lost more than two consecutive games all season and didn't lose a single game by more than five runs.
In years past, the bullpen has been shaky ahead of closer Kenley Jansen, but it was a clear strength this year with a 2.74 ERA that led the National League.
The Padres are capable of pulling off the upset and advancing on to the NLCS if they can find the magic they showed earlier this year, but no one is embarrassing a Dodgers team that is far and away the most complete roster in this year's postseason field.