Micro Playoff Preview

Hey everyone! Here’s the briefest of playoff previews, with one fun fact from each team. Check them out after the jump:

National League

#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.

American League

#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!

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CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
25 days ago

Slight correction from your last comment on the previous post – the 1981 Kansas City Royals were the first sub-.500 playoff team. They went 50-53 over the full season, but won the AL West in the second half of the strike season with a 30-23 record. They were swept in the ALDS (which was a 3 game series at the time, just like these Wild Card series) by the Oakland A’s. The 2005 Padres, with the worst record for a division winner (82-80), were swept by the Cardinals. We shall see if the Brewers or Astros can do better by… Read more »

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
25 days ago

When the strike halted play in 1994, the Rangers led the AL West at 52-62 (.456), one game ahead of the A’s.

Voomo
Voomo
21 days ago

The division series was not best of three. It was best of 5.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
23 days ago

A couple results from yesterday: -The Astros defeated the Twins 4-1, to extend the Twins’ already-record-breaking postseason losing streak to 17 games. But the game was tied at 1 in the top of the ninth. With two outs, full count, bases loaded and a former MVP (Jose Altuve) up to bat. It’s actually the ideal situation. Sergio Romo walked Altuve to bring in the go-ahead run. -At this point, the #2 seeded A’s and the #7 seeded White Sox have identical records, including playoffs (36-25). Personally, I don’t like the way they’ve seeded these playoffs. I would rather that they… Read more »

Doug
Doug
23 days ago

I’ll add another eye-catching factoid for the Rays. In a 60 game season, Tampa had 12 pitchers record saves, tying the MLB full season record. Those twelve pitchers totaled 23 saves, with a high of 6 for Nick Anderson. And, in the Rays’ first post-season game, Pete Fairbanks made it a baker’s dozen with his first save of the year.

Last edited 23 days ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
23 days ago

Two of the playoff teams (Reds and A’s) did not have a batter with a qualified .250 BA, a major league first for post-season teams.

There have now been 6 such teams in the last 10 years, after only 7 teams over the preceding 110 seasons.

Last edited 23 days ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
23 days ago

Three of the playoff teams (Rays, Blue Jays, Braves) had more IP by their relievers than their starters. Only 9 such seasons, all of them since 2018, when the Rays introduced the use of the “opener”. Third straight year for Tampa, and second straight for Toronto.

Doug
Doug
23 days ago

Before this season, there had been only 3 post-season starts with 12+ K’s and zero BB. But, in first two days of this post-season, add two more, incl. Trevor Bauer on Wed with the first such game without allowing a run or without a decision. More post-season records followed in this game, incl:

  • – longest extra-inning team shutout
  • – most hits allowed in team shutout
  • – most strikeouts, both teams (37, more than the total for some post-season series)
Last edited 23 days ago by Doug
Doug
Editor
23 days ago

Sorry Doom to see the Twins go down again, extending their record post-season losing streak to 18 games, and tying the Indians with losses in a record 9 straight elimination games (though Cleveland could extend that record to 10 games if they don’t even up their series with the Yankees).

Losing 9 straight post-season series still leaves the Twins one series shy of the record of 10, held by the Braves and Cubs, with Chicago’s streak extending over 89 seasons (1910-1998) and Atlanta’s streak still active (for at least one more day).

Last edited 23 days ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
23 days ago
Reply to  Doug

Ugh! Two games in a row the Twins load the bases in the first with a chance to deliver a blow to an Astros team that limped into the playoffs with seemingly little desire to win, and… nothing.

Hoping Doom’s Brewers fare better than his adopted Twins. Heck, they’ve already scored twice (something the Minnesota club couldn’t seem to grasp) against the Dodgers, and it’s only the sixth inning.

Doug
Editor
23 days ago
Reply to  Doug

So, the Indians did extend their streak of lost elimination games to 10, sparing the Twins that notoriety. The Yankee/Indian game, at 4 hours 50 minutes, is the longest 9 inning game in the regular or post-season. 211 pitches by the Indians, and 388 for both teams, both fall just short of the 9 inning post-season records of 215 and 402. Twelve walks allowed by the Indians matches the post-season record for any game, and sets a new post-season record for a 9 inning game. As noted in the telecast, 19 walks by both teams also ties a post-season record… Read more »

Last edited 23 days ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
22 days ago
Reply to  Doug

Giving up 10+ walks in a 9-inning game doesn’t seem to be a winning formula. For that matter, issuing seven walks wouldn’t seem to be a highly successful path, either. But apparently it’s fine as long as it’s fewer than your opponent issues.

Doug
Editor
23 days ago

Just a note on Bieber. In addition to his triple crown season noted by Doom, Bieber’s 281 ERA+ (as measured by B-R) is second only to Pedro’s 291 mark in the latter’s sublime (.737 WHIP) 2000 season. Bieber’s 1.63 ERA and 2.07 FIP are both slightly better than Pedro’s 2000 marks, albeit in a lower run scoring environment.

Trevor Bauer was right behind Bieber with a 276 ERA+, eclipsing Greg Maddux’s NL record 271 established in the truncated 1994 season.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
22 days ago
Reply to  Doug

It seems ironic that Cleveland’s season ended due to a record-setting inability to throw strikes in light of the accomplishments enumerated here of Bieber and Bauer, not to mention the recent successes of Kluber, Clevinger, Carrasco, and others pitchers developed in their system.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
22 days ago

In last night’s (9/30) Yankees-Indians game the Yankees tied a post-season record for fewest hits with 10+ runs scored. They had 10 runs scored on just 8 hits, tying 5 other teams.

Doug
Editor
22 days ago

Congrats to the Braves on snapping their record streak of 10 straight series losses. Only the second time a team has been shut out in the first two games of a series; the other was the Braves on the short end against the Dodgers in a 2018 NLDS series. Teams have been shut out in the last two games of a series 7 other times, most recently in the the other 2018 NLDS series when the Brewers dusted the Rockies.

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
22 days ago

The year’s Indians club, albeit in the weird 60 game season, set a new AL record for ERA+ with a mark of 140, eclipsing the 1926 A’s (139) and…the 2017 Indians (138). So was there ANY doubt that they’d give up 19 runs in two games? Not for this guy, there wasn’t. Also a reminder that the 2017 Indians were a fantastic team. Their pythag was 108-54. That 138 ERA+ went along with a 104 OPS+, which was only trailing the Yankees and Astros. This year’s team had an abysmal 86 OPS+ – only the basement dwelling Rangers at 76… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
22 days ago

Cursed, sooner or later, there will be a “next year”

yippeeyappee
yippeeyappee
18 days ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Stanley Cup was a bit of a snoozer though.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
18 days ago
Reply to  yippeeyappee

True, but to further my point: the WNBA Finals went the full 5, including a final game decided by one point. And it was an Olympic year, which means like 5 times as many sports stories as in a normal year. For personal enjoyment, I would rank hockey behind, not just the sports I named in the post above and the WNBA, but also: track & field, tennis, golf, and then other Olympic sports. So I didn’t really think of it, nor was it relevant to my personal enjoyment of sports that year. But that’s just my personal bias speaking.… Read more »

Doug
Doug
21 days ago

Notes from Friday’s games. – Marlins are first team to go from 100 losses one season to a post-season series win the next. – Padres become second team to start a post-season with 3 games in which the starting pitcher logged fewer than 4 IP. First was the 1970 Twins who lost all 3 games in the best-of-5 ALCS. – Padres use 9 pitchers to shut out the Cardinals in game 3. That broke the post-season record of 8 pitchers set two days ago by the Braves to beat the Reds 1-0 in 13 innings. The previous post-season record in… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Doug
Doug
Editor
21 days ago

This season was really a season of 3 “leagues”, East, West and Central, with no “inter-league” play until the post-season. Now that the Wild Card round has completed, here’s how those leagues stack up.

East – 5 qualified, 4 advance to next round
West – 4 qualified, 4 advance to next round
Central – 7 qualified, 0 advance to next round

Doug
Doug
18 days ago

Astros draw first blood in division series, thanks to a spotless performance from their bullpen. Four relievers each pitched 1+ IP with no runs or hits allowed. For second straight game (after Padres on Friday), that ties the post-season record for most such pitchers in a team game.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
17 days ago
Reply to  Doug

The Yankees have now scored 31 runs in three postseason games. That’s a lot. Of course, they’ve also gone from 12 to 10 to 9, so that’s probably not a trend line they want to follow too long.
Gerrit Cole posted a quality start: six innings, 3 runs; equal numbers of baserunners (6 H + 2 BB) and strikeouts (8). It’s just what you need to give your team a chance… and if your team scores 10 runs a game, it’s significantly more than you need from a start.

John S
John S
18 days ago

With 1 run in 2 abysmal losses to the Marlins, who are fast approaching the level of detestation currently held by the Cardinals & the Mets, are my beloved Cubs becoming the New Braves? We get to the playoffs every year, and stink out the joint once we get year?

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
17 days ago
Reply to  John S

It might be painful to see the Cubs turn into the New Braves, John S., but take solace in the fact the they haven’t transformed into the New Twins… yet.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
16 days ago

Just one recap from yesterday’s games:
So, through 5, the Padres were no-hitting the Dodgers. Did you realize that? That’s pretty amazing. Of course, they’d allowed 10 baserunners – 8 walks, a hit-by-pitch, and an error. They also allowed a run in what was then a tie game. Of course, the wheels came off in a four-run 6th in which the Dodgers took a commanding lead. The Dodgers needed 5 pitchers to get through the game… but the Padres needed 9, and that tells you about all you need to know.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
15 days ago

If you haven’t see it, here’s the situation:
Dodgers are leading 4-3 in the top of the 7th. The Padres have a runner on second and – who else – Fernando Tatis, Jr. up to bat. If you haven’t see what happened, you simply have to check out this play.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
15 days ago

Also, trying this for the first time. If you want the BIGGEST plays from yesterday’s games, check out this highlight reel, prepared by yours truly. It’s less than 10 minutes long, and you’ll get most of the info you need!

Doug
Doug
14 days ago

The Yankees/Rays game 5 was the 9th post-season game in which neither team recorded more than 3 hits, but the first time for an elimination game. It was also just the 3rd post-season game with both teams scoring and R=HR for both teams, but again the first time in an elimination game.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
13 days ago

A note about recently deceased Whitey Ford. Among searchable pitchers Ford holds the record for most IP in a season without yielding a stolen base with 283 IP in 1961. The baseball-reference Stathead shows Hal Newhouser as the record holder with 331 IP in 1945 but that is in error. Ford has 3 other seasons of 0 SB with 200+ IP.