The Cubs and the 2020 MLB Playoff Landscape


by - Columnist -
Cubs hope to keep winning (Matt Marton - USA Today Sports)
Cubs hope to keep winning (Matt Marton - USA Today Sports)

I’ll be the first to say it: I’m surprised the Cubs made it this season, but now the real work begins. Not that the team doesn’t have talent, they’ve had it for a handful of years, the problem - at times, anyway, is managing to tap that talent at the right time.

The season began with incredible outings by the starting rotation and insanely hot bats. Still, it was hindered by a bullpen that Tom Ricketts allowed Theo Epstein to pay little attention to over the winter of 2019-2020. By the end of the season, the Cubs’ pen was among the best in the league, but suddenly the hitting disappeared - again.

They hung on after getting embarrassed in Pittsburgh, losing three of four to the ever-pathetic Pirates, then turned it around last weekend, smashing the White Sox in two out of three. They clinched the division, leaving many to wonder if Chicago’s last dance may be a special one after all.

Amazingly, 80% of the NL Central made the playoff landscape this season, obviously thanks to COVID-19 (heavy sarcasm), a bizarre 60-game season, and good ‘ole Rob Manfred and his rule changes. With a 16-team playoff field, we may have well just allowed everyone in and then handed out participation trophies.

The NLWC Series will begin taking place this afternoon, while the ALWC Series moves to Game-2 (more on that later).

Marlins @ Cubs

Well, we know Steve Bartman won’t be in the stands, so there’s that. Meanwhile, David Ross will hand the ball to the Professor - RHP Kyle Hendricks, who’ll square off against Marlins’ righty, Sandy Alcantara. Game time 1:08 Central on ABC.

The Cubs haven’t faced the Marlins this season, though when you compare regular-season standings, the Cubs look better on paper. Chicago finished their regular season with a record of 34-26 (.567), while the Marlins came in a little further back (4.0 games out) at 31-29 (.517). The Cubs were 19-14 at home this year, which also happens to be their record vs. teams over .500, and this season will be played at Wrigley before teams move to the bubble in Arlington for the remainder of the games through the NLCS. The Cubs run differential (+25) wasn’t near tops in MLB this season but was good enough to get the job done in the NL Central.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have played pathetically (9-14) against teams over .500, still somehow managing to secure second place in the NL West with a -41 run differential. Side note: Does anyone happen to see Bryce Harper or the Phillies? Just sayin’.

No, the Cubs shouldn’t have any issue bypassing Miami this time around, but it’s beyond this series that things could get a little scary. I think the Cubs will win in three games, because hey, it seems like last-minute pressure and causing high blood pressure for me is what they do best.

Obviously, I have a ton more to say, but before I jinx anything, let’s just see the Cubs get past Miami first.

Brewers @ Dodgers

Starting this afternoon, Milwaukee will be in the not so friendly confines of Dodger Stadium to face a Los Angeles club that finished the season with a record of 43-17 and a .717 winning percentage. The Brewers hung on by the skin of their teeth (29-31), to grab that last wild card spot.

If the Brewers get past the Dodgers, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle, and it might also be the best gift they can give anyone in MLB, as I don’t see anyone getting past Los Angeles. Look for the Dodgers to take this one in a quick, two-game set.

Cardinals @ Padres

Paul Goldschmidt can’t carry the Cards offensively by himself, and despite some great pitching, I see this one going to San Diego all the way. Then, of course, you have the Padres who became known as “Slam Diego” for a reason this season. The Friars (37-23) finished considerably better than the Redbirds (30-28) this season, especially considering the company they kept (including ten games against the Dodgers).

The Padres +84 run differential speaks volumes about what they can do to even the best pitching, and despite having names like Flaherty and Wainwright, the Cards won’t have what it takes. I think the Cards take one but go ahead and call your bookie- San Diego in three.

Reds @ Braves

Finally, rounding out the NLWC Series is what I think might be one of the most intriguing matchups of the week: Cincinnati at Atlanta.

I’ve made no bones about it, I thought the Reds were going to take the division this year. You don’t add names like Trevor Bauer, Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama, and Nicholas Castellanos, then go home on the last day of September. Yes, they struggled some this year, finally turning up the speed at the very end, but you know what? They’re there.

The Braves (35-25) look better on paper than do the 31-29 Reds, but Cincy managed to pour it on at the ned to the tune of a 7-3 run to finish their final ten games of the season. Max Fried can’t pitch every day, and the Reds, despite being the visiting team, look to have a real chance.

ALWC Results

White Sox- 4; Oakland- 1.

Astros- 4; Twins- 1.

Blue Jays- 1; Rays- 3.

Yankees- 12; Indians-3.

Stay tuned, just like everything else this season, we’re liable to see a bizarre playoffs.

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