Hey everyone! Here’s the briefest of playoff previews, with one fun fact from each team. Check them out after the jump:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. #8 Milwaukee Brewers
The Dodgers won their 8th-straight division title, the third-longest streak in history (1998-2006 Yankees and the 1995 (or 1991) -2005 Atlanta Braves.
The Brewers, by contrast, are making their third consecutive postseason appearance – a team record. (It’s not been a great team history.) Bonus fact: I’m pretty sure the 2020 Brewers join the 2020 Astros as the first postseason teams in MLB history with a record below .500, so that’s something.
#4 San Diego Padres vs. #5 St. Louis Cardinals
The Padres had the best winning percentage in team history this year (.634). They also improved their winning percentage by 185 points – best in team history (previous best was 142 points by the 2004 Padres).
The Cardinals, a perennial playoff team, have a much different history. Speaking of history, here are a couple tidbits: they still have two players from their 2006 World Series Champs team on the roster (Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina), and they predate that season, too (2005 and 2004, respectively). I mention ages because it’s a really interesting roster: less than a quarter of their innings pitched (24.87%) were thrown by pitchers aged 30+ (and it was only three pitchers, and Wainwright threw the majority of those innings); compare this to their position players, where 43.21% of their PAs went to players 30 or older.
#3 Chicago Cubs vs. #6 Miami Marlins
I know a lot of Cubs fans are celebrating a division title and a return to the playoffs after years of declining results. Since winning the World Series in 2016, they lost the NLCS, then lost the Wild Card game, then missed the postseason entirely. Well, here’s another bit of bad news: here are their Pythagorean winning percentages beginning in 2016: .665, .576, .575, .558, .545. The story of decline seems to be a real one. It’s still a heckuva fun roster… but there’s got to be some serious discussion in Chicago this offseason about how sustainable this 2016 team really is.
The Marlins are making the playoffs for the third time in team history. I know this is an obvious bit of trivia, but it needs to be said: they’ve only made the playoffs twice before, and they’ve won two World Series. So that seems a pretty good omen. So does this: their LCS opponents in both of those seasons (Atlanta in 1997 and Chicago in 2003) and their World Series opponents in both seasons (Cleveland in 1997 and New York in 2003) are still in these playoffs. Their Division series opponent both times ’round was the Giants, were were eliminated on the final day of the season.
#2 Atlanta Braves vs. #7 Cincinnati Reds
The last time the Braves made the playoffs three straight years was 2003-2005, the twilight of their dynasty. Their ’90s-00s dynasty is the only team in Braves history with three or more consecutive playoff trips (unless you want to count the ’59 teams tiebreaker series against the Dodgers; but those were technically regular season games. Read more about that season – and particularly that playoff – by clicking here, if you’d like to hear my takes). But that dynasty was renowned for its pitching; the current incarnation of the Braves posted the worst ERA (4.41) of any playoff team in the National League.
The Reds still have Joey Votto. Obviously, he’s just a shell of the player he once was. From 2009-2018, Votto posted a .434 OBP, whereas it’s been only in the .350s the last two seasons. But still, we should be happy for Votto. We’ll see if he can get another postseason win. The Reds have won zero postseason series in Votto’s long career, and in fact are just 2-7 in playoff games with him (that would be the 2010, 2012, and 2013 postseasons). Also, let’s be honest: I’m really hoping that all four NL Central teams win their first-round series, so we end up with an all-NL-Central Division Round.
#1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. #8 Toronto Blue Jays
Not only did the Rays wrap up the top seed in the AL; Kevin Cash now owns the best winning percentage of any manager in team history (.522 to Joe Maddon’s .517). Of course, there have only been five managers in team history, which is pretty impressive, actually. This year’s edition is also the first Rays squad in franchise history to have a winning percentage over .600, though they’ve been in the .590s thrice before.
The Baby Jays gave only 9 PAs all year (0.39%!!!) to a player older than 30 (34-year-old Caleb Joseph). Yet they gave nearly 51% of their innings (50.95%) to pitchers 30 or older.
#4 Cleveland Indians vs. #5 New York Yankees
For the Indians, it’s just about impossible not to mention Shane Bieber. Bieber became the first pitching Triple Crown winner in the Majors (not just one league or the other) since Johan Santana in 2006. He also joins Dwight Gooden (1985), Sandy Koufax (1963, ’65, and ’66), Hal Newhouser (1945), Lefty Grove (1930 and ’31), and Dazzy Vance (1924) as the only pitchers to accomplish that feat in the last 100 years. A club to be proud to join, for sure.
The stat I’ve seen everywhere is that the Yankees are the first team since the ’59 Braves (there they are again) to have both the batting champ (DJ LeMahieu) and the HR champ (Luke Voit), with those two being separate players. Also, lots of people are mentioning LeMahieu becoming the first player ever to win batting titles in both leagues since 1901. But I’d like to point this out: the Yanks are making their fourth-straight playoff appearance. They’ve gone 3+ consecutive seasons with a postseason appearance 10 times in franchise history (1921-23, 1926-28, 1936-39, 1942-44, 1949-53, 1955-58, 1960-64, 1976-78, 1995-2007, and 2009-12). In every single one of those streaks, the Yankees have won at least one World Series. They have yet to win one in the current, four-season streak. Something’s gotta give.
#3 Minnesota Twins vs. #6 Houston Astros
Never before in team history have the Minnesota Twins (even back to their Senators years) posted a winning percentage of .600 or better in consecutive seasons. The closest they came previously was 1969-70 (.599 and .605, respectively). Rocco Baldelli therefore now (obviously) owns the best winning percentage by a manager in team history (.617), topping Billy Martin (.599 in a lone season). Walter Johnson was the previous multi-season best, but that was the Senators. Bill Rigney was the best among multi-season Twins managers (.531). But also this, which can never be said enough: the Twins are 0-16 in their last 16 playoff games. Their last win came in Game One of the 2004 Division Series vs. the Yankees. In fact, since winning the World Series in 1991, the Twins are 6-25 in the postseason. I live in Minnesota and am married to a Twins fan (I’m sure I’ve shared this before, but she was literally born the day the Twins won the ’87 Series), so these facts cause much consternation in my household.
Small victory for the Astros: they have now made the playoffs four consecutive seasons. That has never happened in franchise history. In a weird note, Zack Greinke had a phenomenal FIP (2.80) and a miserable ERA (4.03). The gap of 1.23 is the second-worst of his career, dating back to 2005 when he led the AL with 17 losses for a Royals team that lost over 100 games and his ERA was worse than league-average. This year, it was still better than league-average.
#2 Oakland A’s vs. #7 Chicago White Sox
Oakland’s last three playoff appearances have resulted in losses in the Wild Card game. They look to end that streak this year. They are just a well-rounded team, and I promised myself I’d only write-research for 90 minutes, and I’m running out of time! So that’s the only fact you’re getting.
Chicago ends the longest postseason drought of any of these teams; the last time they made it was 2008. They also posted their best winning percentage this year (.583) since their 2005 championship season. Also, a not-so-fun fact for the White Sox: they finished six games ahead of the Astros, the team seeded right above them; they finished only one game behind the A’s, their first round opponents who get to host the entire series. Only the A’s, Twins, and Rays had a better record than the #7 White Sox, and only the Rays were more than one game better. Huge bummer for the Pale Hose.
Well, that does it! Happy watching everyone! I hope we can have some playoff discussion around here; we always have such insightful commenters! Enjoy the playoffs!