Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. As baseball finally moves into it’s Bubble phase, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The MLB is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the MLB playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit Cleveland, and their chances at securing a ring in 2020.
Expectations: Early Exit.
Seeding has slapped Cleveland in the face, forcing them to play their division rival Minnesota Twins. Then again, they would have been forced up against their other division rival Chicago White Sox if seeding was based solely on record/win percentage. All that said, it’s a tall task for them and they’re unlikely to escape the first round.
What’s Working for Them: Pitching. And pitching. Oh, and pitching.
Cleveland has the best ERA in the American League, and is second best only to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’re also second in MLB in saves (19), home runs allowed (62), walks (149), and WHIP (1.10). Meanwhile they lead MLB in strikeouts (588) and runs allowed (192).
But let’s talk Shane Bieber for a quick second. In 12 games, Bieber is 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA, 122/21 strikeout to walk ratio, a 0.87 WHIP and .167 average against. That. Is. Filthy.
What Might Hold Them Back: Every Piece of the Offense Not Named José Ramirez.
While their staff is lights out, their offense seems to be operating with the lights out. This Cleveland team’s slash line is .228/.316/.372, and that is, well, not good for a playoff team. In fact, if that slash line belonged to an MLB player, they’d be riding pine in the postseason. The Twins pitching staff doesn’t quite have the numbers of Cleveland’s, but it’s still pretty good. When Cleveland is at the plate, this is a total mismatch.
Storyline to Watch
Cleveland has only managed a 3-7 record against Minnesota this season, with the last series being a sweep by the Twins. They’ve been extremely streaky, and they’re going to need to balance that out, and fast, if they want to make it out of this Wildcard series. While they’re riding a winning streak at the moment, they also had a point earlier in September during which they dropped eight in a row.
Another thing to watch is the manager situation. Terry Francona has been sidelined but plans to be in the bubble with the team. It’s no easy task to be thrust into the top job, but Sandy Alomar Jr. has done an admirable job. If Tito can be around for the playoffs can it be a mental boost for this team? Only time will tell.
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