Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Luke Arkins

Deciding postseason berths after just 60 games feels so wrong. It’s akin to deciding medal winners 10 miles into an Olympic Marathon. Then again, we all know why MLB shortened the regular season to about 35-percent of its normal length. There are far more important things than baseball going on in our world.

Since we were limited to a small sample size of baseball, I wanted to find a way to contrast what we saw in 2020 to last year. I decided to use a straightforward approach – compare team’s 2019 records through 60 games to this season’s final standings.

Will this exercise prove anything? Not really, but we may be able to add a smidge of perspective to the weirdest MLB season ever.

To simplify the process, I segregated the 30 clubs into three basic categories: improved; relatively the same; fell on their sword.

Movin’ On Up

Leading the way in our first section are four teams heading to the playoffs after being a rebuild project just a year ago. Perhaps the success of these organizations will be a source of encouragement for Mariners fans anxiously awaiting Seattle’s long overdue return to the MLB postseason.

2019
Postseason
2020
Postseason
TOR
22-38
No
32-28
Wild Card
CWS
29-31
No
35-25
Wild Card
MIA
23-37
No
31-29
Wild Card
SDP
31-29
No
37-23
Wild Card
CLE
30-30
No
35-25
Wild Card
BAL
19-41
No
25-35
No
KCR
19-41
No
26-34
No

Much of the success enjoyed by the Blue Jays, Padres, Marlins, and White Sox is attributable to emerging young stars, who were either homegrown or acquired via trade. Despite a return to the postseason, all four clubs will require upgrades in the offseason to continue their ascent. Still, how satisfying must it be for fans of these teams to see positive results?

It’s worth noting Toronto didn’t languish in mediocrity as long as the other cities did. The Blue Jays played in consecutive ALCS in 2015-16, although the team went into a tailspin afterwards. That said; the others waited over a decade prior to returning to the postseason in 2020.

The White Sox last made a playoff appearance in the 2008 ALDS against the subsequent AL Champion Rays. Similarly, the Padres last saw postseason action in the 2006 NLDS in a losing effort to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Then, there’s Miami.

The Marlins last played meaningful October baseball in 2003 when they beat the Yankees in the World Series. Before reaching the Fall Classic, the Fish had to get past the Cubs in an NLCS best remembered for the infamous “Steve Bartman incident” at Wrigley Field. Ironically, the two teams square off against each other in the Windy City this week.

Although the Orioles and Royals were once again bottom-feeders, each team showed signs of improvement over their atrocious 19-41 records in 2019. That’s good, right?

Same Ole Story

Next up, our largest subset. Teams posting similar records in 2019 and 2020. Doing so was a good thing for some clubs – not so much for others.

2019
Postseason
2020
Postseason
LAD
41-19
Div Champ
43-17
Div Champ
MIN
40-20
Div Champ
36-24
Div Champ
ATL
33-27
Div Champ
35-25
Div Champ
NYY
38-22
Div Champ
33-27
Wild Card
STL
31-29
Div Champ
30-28
Wild Card
TBR
37-23
Wild Card
40-20
Div Champ
WSN
27-33
Wild Card*
26-34
No
CHC
34-26
No
34-26
Div Champ
CIN
28-32
No
31-29
Wild Card
NYM
28-32
No
26-34
No
SEA
25-35
No
27-33
No
DET
23-37
No
23-35
No
LAA
29-31
No
26-34
No
SFG
25-35
No
29-31
No
* Won 2019 World Series

The Dodgers remain the model of consistency after winning an eighth consecutive NL West division title. Whether you love or hate them, there’s no denying the Yankees epitomize sustained superior performance. The last time the Bronx Bombers posted a losing record was 1992 – George H.W. Bush was in the White House.

The remaining 2019 postseason clubs made the cut again with the exception of the Nationals. As most of you know, Washington scuffled out of the gate last year before going on to win the World Series. At one point, manager Dave Martinez seemed destined to lose his job before his club rebounded.

The Cubs were the lone club with an identical record in both years. Ironically, Chicago didn’t get into the playoffs last year. Yet, the North Siders are the 2020 NL Central division champions. Staying in the division, the Reds were comparable to their 2019 record. That said; Cincinnati looked like a team that would’ve flourished over a full regular season – their pitching was that good.

Two teams entered the season with playoff aspirations but fell on their faces – the Mets and Angels. Last year, the Amazin’s started slowly, but were 46-26 after the All-Star break and remained relevant into September. Conversely, the Halos were mediocre early and only worsened as the season progressed – much like 2020.

Three rebuilding clubs – the Giants, Tigers, and Mariners – took noticeably different approaches in 2020 despite posting similar records to last year. San Francisco’s roster remained laden with veterans this year, which kept them in the hunt for a postseason berth until the final day. Realistically, this team probably wins 75 games and finishes well out of contention in a full 162-game season.

The Tigers took an aggressive approach with their roster opting to debut several of their top prospects during the truncated season without regard to the impact doing so would have on player service time. Conversely, the Mariners were conservative choosing to delay the MLB debuts of their best and brightest youngsters at least until 2021. Time will tell which team had the better strategy – my money is on Seattle.

Fallin’ Down

Our last group is a collection of rebuilding organizations and several that should seriously consider initiating a roster makeover.

2019
Postseason
2020
Postseason
HOU
40-20
Div Champ
29-31
Wild Card
MIL
34-26
Wild Card
29-31
Wild Card
BOS
31-29
No
24-36
No
TEX
30-30
No
22-38
No
PIT
29-31
No
19-41
No
COL
31-29
No
26-34
No
ARI
30-30
No
25-35
No
PHI
33-27
No
28-32
No

The once mighty Astros were mediocre at best this year. The only reason they’re playing in October for a fourth consecutive year is the expanded eight-team postseason field in effect for 2020. Another key factor favoring Houston – playing in the awful AL West division. With a normal 162-game slate, the ‘Stros would’ve been fortunate to finish with a .500 record.

Another team benefiting from the larger playoff field is Milwaukee. Sure, it’s possible the Brewers would’ve rebounded over a full season. On the other hand, they didn’t look like a sustainable contender this year.

While the Pirates and Red Sox committed to rebuilding, the remaining organizations outwardly appeared intent on competing this year – they all fizzled.

It’s plausible we’ll see several of these teams make changes at the general manager and field manager positions – perhaps both. Unlike Martinez with the Nationals last year, these folks will be losing their respective jobs based on their record after 60 games. Seems a bit harsh.

Then again, it’s 2020 – what else would you expect?

My Oh My…

Image courtesy of Elaine Thompson | AP Images
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