MLB playoff outlook: Marlins surging toward October; Phillies continue rollercoaster season

Only 10 days remain in the 2020 MLB regular season. Hard to believe the season is already winding down, isn’t it? Such is life with a 60-game schedule rather than a 162-game schedule.  

MLB and the MLBPA agreed to an expanded 16-team postseason this year to a) make money, and b) create a more representative postseason. Sixty games is not always enough time for a team’s true talent to shine. An expanded postseason field allows talented clubs to recover from a shaky start and still get a shot at a World Series championship.

The season does not end today, thankfully, but here’s what the 16-team postseason field would look like if it did:

American League 
No. 1 White Sox vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
No. 2 Rays vs. No. 7 Cleveland
No. 3 Athletics vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 Twins vs. No. 5 Yankees 

National League
No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Phillies
No. 2 Cubs vs. No. 7 Giants
No. 3 Braves vs. No. 6 Reds
No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Marlins

The top three seeds are the division winners and the next three seeds are the second-place teams. The final two spots go to the remaining teams with the best records. The first round (Wild Card Series) is a best-of-three series with all three games at the higher seed’s ballpark. The second round (LDS) is a best-of-five and the final two rounds (LCS and World Series) are best-of-sevens, and they will be played in bubbles in Texas and Southern California.

Eight weeks usually isn’t much in baseball. This season though, eight weeks represents the majority of the season (747 of 900 scheduled games have been played, or 83.0 percent). The postseason outlook has changed quite a bit. Here, according to Sportsline, are four teams that have significantly moved their postseason percentages the last two weeks, either good or bad.

Cincinnati Reds








An up and down season for the Reds, this has been. They came into the season with a better than two-to-one chance to play in October, but a sluggish start dropped their postseason chances under 30 percent earlier this month. Now they’re back over 50 percent thanks to five straight wins and 10 wins in their last 15 games. Only the Padres and White Sox have better records during that time.

Thanks to that 10-5 stretch, only one team has improved their postseason chances as much as Cincinnati these last two weeks (we’ll cover that team in just a bit). And should the Reds sneak into the postseason, they will be a tough matchup for any team. Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and a potentially healthy Sonny Gray is nothing to mess with in a short series. Few teams can match that rotation in October.

Miami Marlins 








This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Miami, and once the club was shut down with a COVID-19 outbreak, it was easy to assume their decimated roster would be a pushover the rest of the season. Instead, the Marlins remain competitive and they are over .500 at 25-23. Eight wins in the last 13 games, including five wins in seven games against the division rival Phillies, has put Miami firmly in second place in the NL East.

No team has improved their postseason chances as much as the Marlins these last two weeks — the Reds are a distant second at plus-21.5 percent — and only the Padres (plus-72.3 percent) have improved their postseason chances more than the Marlins since Opening Day. They might not have the most fearsome lineup and you’d struggle to name four of their relievers, but Sixto Sanchez and Sandy Alcantara are a fine and potentially great 1-2 punch atop the rotation. October baseball in Miami would be awfully fun.

Milwaukee Brewers








Not a good few weeks for the Brew Crew. Not a good month, really. Milwaukee is 5-7 in their last 12 games and 12-15 in their last 27 games, which is close to half the season. That said, the Brewers come into Friday only one game behind the Reds for second place in the NL Central and thus an automatic postseason berth, and one game behind the No. 8 seed. They’re still very much in it.

The offense has been better of late — the Brewers are averaging 5.00 runs per game in September after 3.97 in July and August — and Corbin Burnes has been revelation, though too many winnable games have slipped away lately. Four times during this 5-7 stretch the Brewers lost a game they either led or was tied with no more than nine outs to go. In this season short, those losses will kill your postseason chances. Milwaukee needs a great 10 days (and a little help) to react the postseason.

Philadelphia Phillies








Two weeks ago the Phillies looked like postseason locks. Now they’re barely hanging on to the No. 8 seed in the National League. The rollercoaster that has been the 2020 Phillies season is best viewed by splitting their season into three unequal segments:

  • First 23 games: 9-14
  • Next 15 games: 12-3
  • Last 11 games: 3-8

Back-to-back crushing losses to the Mets the last two nights really took a bite out of Philadelphia’s postseason chances, and things aren’t going to get any easier anytime soon. The Phillies will play seven games in the next five days and they’re really beat up:

Also, the four relievers GM Matt Klentak acquired at the trade deadline (David Hale, Heath Hembree, David Phelps and Brandon Workman) have combined to allow 27 runs and 71 baserunners in 32 1/3 innings with the Phillies. Ouch. You know things are going bad when calling up a random reliever who pitches to a 6.00 ERA would qualify as a bullpen upgrade.

Two weeks ago only four teams improved their postseason chances more than the Phillies over the previous two weeks. Now only one team, the Rockies at minus-27.6 percent, have hurt their postseason chances more than the Phillies the last two weeks. The Phillies are still in postseason position but they are trending the wrong way, and there are three teams within 1 1/2 games of their postseason spot. This is Philadelphia’s postseason, right now. They’re playing for their season.

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