The 16-team expanded 2020 MLB Playoffs kick off on Tuesday, September 29.
In the 2020 MLB season that has been unlike any other, it’s expected the postseason will add even more excitement to the equation. Why? Well, for the first time ever, fans will see 16 teams in the postseason.
Eight teams earned postseason berths from both the American and National Leagues. This left the league with a daunting first-round for each of the 16 teams. The first round will be a best-of-three game series, a sprint by baseball standards.
Both league brackets were seeded one through eight. The division winners in each league took home the top three seeds. The second-place finishers in each division are seeded four through six. Finally, the best two remaining records in the AL and NL earned Wild Card spots as the seventh and eighth seeds.
Call to the Pen breaks down the three most dangerous first-round matchups in the 2020 MLB Playoffs.
MLB Playoffs: the first dangerous matchup – (4) Indians vs. (5) Yankees
At face value, this matchup between the fourth seed Cleveland Indians and fifth seed New York Yankees is a battle of pitching versus offense. Cleveland owns the best pitching staff in the American League with a 3.29 team ERA while the Yankees scored the most runs (315) in the American League.
In this closely seeded matchup, this series can be seen as dangerous for either of the teams.
Cleveland is the higher seed and finished with a better regular-season record at 35-25, so we’ll start there. The Indians finished second in the AL Central, thanks to pitching and pitching only. The staff threw up a 3.29 team ERA, ranking top in the AL.
Shane Bieber was the best pitcher in baseball in 2020 and undoubtedly will take home the AL Cy Young Award. Bieber was 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and led the league with 122 strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Indians, Bieber matches up with Gerrit Cole in the pivotal game one of this series.
Cole, the Yankees ace, was 7-3 and pitched to a 2.84 ERA this season. Yes, Bieber has been the better pitcher in 2020, but the Yankees ace owns the postseason. Cole owns a career postseason ERA of 2.60 in four years.
Pitching does normally win in the MLB playoffs. However, if Cole outpitches or outlasts Bieber in game one, that’s a huge momentum swing and advantage in the Yankees favor.
This matchup is equally dangerous for New York. Heading into the season, after signing Cole in free agency, the Yankees were considered favorites to win it all.
But, after another season with a cascade of injuries, the Yankees have underperformed. As a result, New York finished in second place in the AL East with a 33-27 record. Still, the Yankees front office preaches championship or bust.
New York is 5-20 when the offense scores three runs or less proving this Indians pitching staff is a dangerous matchup.