After a long road, we have found our way to an MLB season. It was announced that beginning July 25th, a 60-game season will begin with each team playing within the confines of their respective coast. The idea of a shortened season alone is enough to shake the league up. With teams only playing from their respective regions, we have a trampoline situation.
At this point, essentially any team could make the playoffs. We have seen time and time again that mediocre teams can dominate the start of the season slow, while the elite franchises find themselves off to a slow beginning. In this case, every game is going to matter.
On the outside, the media has selected the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees, and Washington Nationals as the favorites for the upcoming World Series. However, here are five potential upsets that could happen in a shortened season:
5. Tampa Bay Rays (2019: 37-23 through first 60 games, 96-66 overall)
The Tampa Bay Rays have been competitive the last few years, despite being faced with criticism for questionable roster changes. As a result, seeing Tampa Bay make the playoffs in any formation of a 2020 season would not be a shock; especially after securing the Wild Card spot last season. They ultimately won the Wild Card game before falling to the Houston Astros in five games.
The Rays have two of the most important ingredients for playoff baseball: Pitching and defense. The pitching is forted by Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, while Kevin Keirmaier is the leading man on defense. The only downing factor for the Rays is their relatively weak offense on paper. However, they did acquire Hunter Renfroe and Jose Martinez to help shore up the offense with Austin Meadows.
In a marathon, the Rays would still be a threat. However, we should expect them to be a bigger, and potentially dominant, factor in 2020 playoffs in a sprint.
4. Chicago Cubs (2019: 34-26 through first 60 games, 84-78 overall)
The Chicago Cubs are not that far removed from winning one of the most exciting World Series of all time in 2016. The series saw the team come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians, with the last two games being away from their beloved Wrigley Field. Since then, the Cubs have given many people the impression that they have leveled off.
They seem to have settled back into the middle of the pack after missing the playoffs last season, which were then followed by rumors of the franchise potentially looking to move one of their cornerstones in Kris Bryant.
Last season, through the first 60 games of the regular seasons, the Cubs found themselves a game ahead of the Brewers for first place in the NL Central with a solid 34-26 record. The pace wasn’t enough in a marathon, as they finished third in the division.
However, over the previous four seasons, the Cubs have been no lower than second place in their division. So, under the current regime, the team has had a habit of starting off strong. With a solid pitching rotation led by Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks and an offense that has the potential to be one of the most stacked lineups in baseball behind Javier Baez and Bryant, the Cubs just need to get to the playoffs to make some noise.
They have had issues over the course a 162-game season that has hindered them, but what if the team makes it to the playoffs with relatively fresh legs? The Cubs could truly be the National League’s Wild Card team; both metaphorically and literally.
3. San Francisco Giants (2019: 25-35 through first 60 games, 77-85 overall)
Out of all NL West teams, the Giants have the most non-direction at this juncture. Losing their longtime ace Madison Bumgarner doesn’t help, and in a 162-game season, they would emerge as a likely candidate to finish in last place. Unlike others on this list, the Giants simply making it to the playoffs would be a big enough shocker for them to land on this list.
The Giants are an aging team, but this season is tailor made for a team like them to rise up and push their way into a Wild Card spot.
The Giants are one of few non-playoff teams to finish at least .500 against their respective division. Despite the non-direction, they finished 38-38 against their division at the season’s end. So, in a short season, they have a legitimate shot at stealing a Wild Card and going from a potential last place finish to a cameo playoff appearance.
2. Chicago White Sox (2019: 29-31 through first 60 games, 72-89 overall)
Like the Giants, the White Sox struggled a bit last season, but they were able to find success against their own region. The team finished 31-30 against the AL Central, while finishing 28-38 against opposing regions. Unlike the Giants, the White Sox seem to be heading a positive direction.
The team added Edwin Encarnacion to an already-elite lineup led by Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. The biggest question surrounding the White Sox remains within their pitching staff. Most of their success depends on whether or not Lucas Giolito can maintain the success he found last season. His success, followed by production for newly acquired Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, could take Chicago deep into the playoffs.
Outside of the Minnesota Twins, other teams in the AL Central have taken a step back. At the moment, it could be argued that this is the ones of weakest divisions in baseball. This is the best opportunity the White Sox have had to make a serious playoff run in years.
1. New York Mets (2019: 28-32 through first 60 games, 86-76 overall)
It was just five short years ago when the New York Mets found themselves in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. The team ended up losing the series in five games and haven’t been able to reach that point again. The team last appeared in the playoffs in 2016, thanks to consistent injuries and the inability to find a stable manager.
The Mets were a laughing stock when they acquired Marcus Stroman in what seemed to be a puzzling move. The team was expected to be selling before the Trade Deadline, but instead, they decided to buy like a win-now team. The laughs were silenced when the Mets actually started making noise and almost forced their way into the Wild Card heading into September.
At this point, New York has an offense led by Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, while also having one of the best rotations in baseball; led by two-time Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom.
The Mets might have been a sleeper team in a regular 162-game season, but in a 60-game stretch, they have a legitimate shot at making some noise in the National League.