October 21, 2020

MLB playoff push: Blue Jays can still catch Yankees after securing berth

5 min read
With their 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday night, the Toronto Blue...

With their 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday night, the Toronto Blue Jays officially booked their ticket to the playoffs.

It’s been four years since the Blue Jays last played post-season baseball, and the club that will embark on this post-season is completely different from the one that captured all of Canada’s attention en route to the 2016 American League Championship Series.

Currently sitting in the eight seed with that second wild-card spot in-hand, the young team can actually still rise in the post-season ranks before the seeding is fully locked in, thanks to their 3-1 series win over the Yankees this week. Toronto can catch New York in the standings and jump into that fifth seed with a strong showing against the Baltimore Orioles to close out the season, but only if the Yankees stumble and suffer a few losses, too.

So while a Rays-Jays first-round showdown is the most likely matchup, it’s not yet set in stone.

Here’s a closer look at where they stand in the MLB playoff picture…

If the playoffs began today

The top two teams in each division make the playoffs along with the top remaining two teams from each league for a total of 16 playoff teams. Those 16 teams will then face off in eight best-of-three series that precede the League Division Series.

If the post-season began today, these eight American League teams would qualify:

No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
No. 2 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 7 Cleveland Indians
No. 3 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
No. 4 Chicago White Sox vs. No. 5 New York Yankees

And these eight National League teams would qualify:

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 8 San Francisco Giants
No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds
No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals

How seeding works in 2020: According to MLB, the top three seeds in each league go to the three division winners in order of record. The next three seeds go to the three teams that finish second in their division, in order of record. The final two seeds will go to the two teams with the next best records, regardless of division.

In striking distance

After being more or less locked up for the past few weeks, the American League’s playoff picture just has one last berth up for grabs — though, calling it “up for grabs” is being generous. The Houston Astros, currently sitting in the sixth seed, can lock up their place with just a single win in their final three games, dashing the hopes of the Los Angeles Angels — who, at 26-31, are the only remaining AL club that hasn’t officially been eliminated from contention yet.

Otherwise, the only change to come in the AL is in the form of playoff-bound teams jockeying for position within those top eight seeds. The Blue Jays will most likely be meeting the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but that could still change. As outlined above, the Jays can still catch the Yankees and jump into second in the AL East with wins over Baltimore and New York losing to the Marlins. The Rays clinched the division earlier this week, but aren’t locked into that No. 1 seed just yet as the 35-22 Twins can still catch them. If the Twins can jump into the top spot and the Jays stay put at No. 8, that sets us up for a Minnesota-Toronto first-round clash.

Meanwhile, in the National League, the field is still wide open. While the Dodgers and Braves have clinched their respective divisions and the Cubs and Padres are guaranteed post-season berths, there are still four spots for the taking.

The Philadelphia Phillies (28-29) and Milwaukee Brewers (27-29) are playing for their post-season lives this weekend, while none of the Cardinals, Marlins, Reds and Giants can afford to lose down the stretch.

Get ready for drama, particularly in the NL Central: the Cardinals and Brewers finish the season head-to-head, a series that feels like we’re already in the playoffs.

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Playoff odds report

With the Blue Jays finally hitting 100 per cent with their post-season berth secured, we’ll shift this portion of the MLB playoff push to where the drama is by looking at the National League’s odds for all teams still on the hunt.

Objectively speaking, here’s where the Cardinals, Marlins, Reds, Giants, Phillies and Brewers stand in relation to their closest adversaries, according to FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight:

Cardinals’ FanGraphs odds: 87.4% | Cardinals’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 90%

Marlins’ FanGraphs odds: 90.7% | Marlins’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 93%

Reds’ FanGraphs odds: 88.1% | Reds’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 91%

Giants’ FanGraphs odds: 47.1% | Giants’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 44%

Phillies’ FanGraphs odds: 50.5% | Phillies’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 54%

Brewers’ FanGraphs odds: 33.9% | Brewers’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 26%

Next up

The Blue Jays will send Taijuan Walker to the mound Friday while the Orioles will counter with Jorge Lopez in their bid to play spoiler in Toronto’s mission to move up in the seeding.

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