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2020 American League wild card series preview and predictions

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There are some teams with bright young stars that could make this really interesting.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Just so you’ll all see I don’t hide my preseason predictions when the season ends, here they are. You’ll note that I made postseason predictions before MLB changed the postseason format to a 16-team tournament, so I’m going to take a bit of liberty with this and say that I got seven of the eight NL teams right (having the Nationals instead of the Marlins, but who didn’t?) and seven of the eight in the AL as well (I had the Red Sox instead of the Blue Jays).

At this time, my Dodgers/Rays World Series pick doesn’t look too bad. Those teams wound up with the best records in their respective leagues and both look like they could make it to Arlington for the Fall Classic.

Of course, we all hope the Cubs get on a hot streak and make it there, too, but that remains to be seen.

Here’s how I now see the four American League series that begin Tuesday. Only one of these series (Indians/Yankees) matches teams that have previously played each other in the postseason. We’ll have a game thread here tomorrow for these four series.

#8 Blue Jays at #1 Rays

The Jays are the sexy young team with stars such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez. The latter kind of came out of nowhere, not nearly as hyped as the others, but led the Jays in several offensive categories.

That’s how they’ll have to win this series, because the pitching staff beyond Hyun Jin Ryu is a disaster. Two former Cubs, Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis, head their bullpen. Those guys aren’t bad, but overall the Jays finished with a negative run differential, though they did win six of their last eight.

The Rays, meanwhile, are one of the best-run teams in baseball and do it on a small budget every year. Kevin Cash rarely gets enough credit for having this team of no-names win every year. Brandon Lowe is the offensive star, and they have a solid if unspectacular starting rotation led by former Cy Young winner Blake Snell. They’re on a roll, too, winning nine of their last 11. They took six of 10 from Toronto during the regular season.

Maybe I’ll be surprised by this, but the Jays have arrived a year too early. The Rays will win this series, but it’ll take three games.

Poll

The winner of the Blue Jays/Rays series will be...

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Blue Jays
    (43 votes)
  • 87%
    Rays
    (312 votes)
355 votes total Vote Now

#7 White Sox at #2 Athletics

How the mighty have fallen. The Sox were the No. 1 seed in the American League a week ago, but lost eight of their last 10 to drop to third place in the AL Central and the No. 7 seed. They got outscored 59-37 in those 10 games, and though Jose Abreu kept hitting and is an MVP candidate, some of their young stars like Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada stopped hitting. Their No. 1 and No. 2 starters, Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, are as good as anyone’s but the quality really drops off after that.

Meanwhile, the A’s cruised to the AL West championship, the only team in that division to finish with a winning record. They went into first place alone on August 3 and never looked back, winning the division by seven games — that’s a lot in a 60-game season!

They have a balanced attack but just a league-average offense, 274 runs was exactly on the AL average. Where they shine is pitching, especially a lights-out bullpen led by Liam Hendriks (1.78 ERA, 14 saves).

The A’s will take this series in two games.

Poll

The winner of the Athletics/White Sox series will be...

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Athletics
    (204 votes)
  • 47%
    White Sox
    (182 votes)
386 votes total Vote Now

#6 Astros at #3 Twins

Pretty sure I know who everyone outside Houston is rooting for in this series.

The Astros finished under .500, one of two teams (Brewers) in this year’s postseason with a losing record. They have a whole bunch of rookies on their pitching staff, Justin Verlander’s gone through 2021 (and likely has thrown his last game as an Astro) and like the Cubs, a lot of their hitters had down years. They lost four of their last five and went 10-17 in September.

Meanwhile, the Twins are just happy they don’t have to face the Yankees until the ALCS, if both teams get that far.

Seriously, the Twins are a very good team with a balanced offense and solid starting pitching, as you surely saw when they faced the Cubs a couple of weeks ago. They’ll win this series two games to none, and most baseball fans will rejoice.

Poll

The winner of the Astros/Twins series will be...

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Astros
    (32 votes)
  • 91%
    Twins
    (326 votes)
358 votes total Vote Now

#5 Yankees at #4 Indians

The Tribe ended their season winning nine of their last 11, so they’re on a roll heading into the postseason. On the other hand, seven of those 11 games were against the Tigers and Pirates. On the other other hand, four games were against the White Sox and Cleveland swept them, twice coming from multiple runs down in the seventh inning or later.

Indians pitching led the AL in ERA and fewest runs allowed, and they’re going to need that to keep down a Yankees team that scored buckets of runs this year (an AL-leading 315) despite being without Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for much of the season. Luke Voit, who looked like your average random minor leaguer when he came to the big leagues with the Cardinals, has turned into a superstar in New York.

The Yankees were just 11-18 on the road this year and the Indians 18-12 at home, and I think that makes the difference. Cleveland in three games, and the Twins rejoice because they don’t have to face the Yankees at all.

Poll

The winner of the Indians/Yankees series will be...

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Indians
    (229 votes)
  • 37%
    Yankees
    (139 votes)
368 votes total Vote Now