Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. Despite all the obstacles, all but two teams (St. Louis and Detroit) managed to play the full 60 game slate. Now 16 teams will embark upon a modified playoff journey suitable to this most unique 2020 season. Who will be left standing at the end, raising the World Series trophy in Arlington, Texas at the end of October?
Join us as we preview each MLB playoff series, diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.
So, let’s check-in ahead of the Wild Card series between the New York Yankees and the Baseball Team in Cleveland.
These two teams have been frequent guests to the postseason party. The Yankees have made the playoffs for the past four seasons, while Cleveland has made it four out of the last five.
They last met in the 2017 ALDS with the Yankees winning in five games.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona also faced the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS while he was with the Red Sox. It went well.
Cleveland’s Keys to Victory
Shane Bieber is very good. He led the AL in Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts, and had the highest WAR of any player in the AL. Cleveland has two other strong starters in Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac going in Games 2 and 3 (if necessary).
And if they are able to take a lead into the late innings they have rising star reliever James Karinchak (~18 K/9), lefty Oliver Perez (held LHH to a sub.500 OPS), and one of the AL’s best closers in Brad Hand (led AL with 16 saves).
The main objective for Cleveland is going to be getting runs across the plate. They have two stars in Jose Ramirez (career OPS of 1.058 vs. NYY) and Francisco Lindor (career OPS of .881 vs. NYY), but they are going to need to get more from a lineup that was 24th in runs scored if they want to advance.
New York’s Keys to Victory
The Yankees have been a .500 team basically all of the shortened season, which doesn’t merit a lot of confidence around their championship aspirations.
However, this is a team that’s stacked up nicely for the revised Wild Card 3-game series format. They can turn to their offseason prize Gerrit Cole in Game 1 as he might be the only pitcher in the AL that can be expected to go toe-to-toe vs. Bieber. Game 2 starter Masahiro Tanaka has a sub-2.00 ERA over 8 postseason starts with one being seven shutout innings vs. Cleveland in 2017.
The Yankees lineup was 4th in the league in runs and 1st in walks taken. Their lineup is filled with power hitters or those types of guys who hit a big HR in a playoff series (it just feels like a key Brett Gardner playoff HR has to happen at some point, right?). This all adds up to getting a little popcorn going on the bases before a big shot leaves the yard for Yankees.
Final Call: Yankees in 2
This series will boil down to home runs and the SP matchups. The Yankees might have the edge with the starters. Bieber had an amazing run in 2020, but he also has given up 8 ER in 8+ career innings vs. the Yankees. Effects of games like that can linger for a young pitcher. Cole has a 2-1 record over 4 starts vs. Cleveland with a 2.79 ERA.
These teams are lalso weirdly mirror images of each other in terms of their strengths and weaknesses with the long ball. The Yankees were 5th in the league in HR and 25th in HR allowed. Cleveland was 25th in HR, while being 5th in HR allowed.
To win this series the Yankees will be able to rely on Cole besting Bieber, Tanaka continuing his postseason success and the lineup winning the home run battle to get it done in two games.
- / 10 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.