Midweek With Murr: The 2020 Playoff Failure Of The MLB’s Central Divisions

The 2020 Major League Baseball season was utterly bizarre in many ways, and one specific way was the schedule change combined with an expanded playoff format. In the 2019 playoffs, only 10 of the 30 MLB franchises were able to qualify for the playoffs, with only six of those teams getting multiple games guaranteed. One year later, 16 of 30 teams qualified for the first round of the playoffs, including two teams who finished below .500.

The craziest part of this is that an astounding seven of the 10 teams from the AL and NL Central divisions qualified for the postseason. To make this sound even crazier, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the only team in the NL Central division who did not qualify for the playoffs, which is absolutely insane to think about. Another crazy aspect of this is that of the eight playoff series that occurred, seven of them had a team from one of the Central divisions participating. Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer took to Twitter soon after all of this occurred.

They ALL lost! While it seemed to be mathematically unlikely, every single Central division lost their series. While a few teams were not favored to win, it is still remarkable that none of them won their series, and amazingly several didn’t even come close.

The Milwaukee Brewers had no chance, realistically. They were given the task of facing the MLB-leading 43–17 Los Angeles Dodgers and were really not a playoff team by any means. They only fell 4–2 and 3–0 in each game, which is respectable against that Dodgers powerhouse, and they may be the only team that can feel somewhat good about their performance.

The Cincinnati Reds wasted dominant pitching. A phenomenal performance by Bauer in Game One was not enough to get him a victory, as they fell to the Atlanta Braves 1–0 in the 13th inning. In-game two, the Reds fell 5–0 but surrendered four of those runs in the 8th inning. This means that the Reds only surrendered two runs throughout the first 20 innings of the series. This should be enough to win these games, but instead, the Reds put up a goose egg for the entire series. For a team with a lot of promise, this was embarrassing.

The St. Louis Cardinals faced off against the San Diego Padres in their series and honestly played fine. They took the Padres to three games and were competitive in all three. The Padres were the better team in the regular season, and the Cardinals put up a fight, so overall they avoid criticism.

The Chicago Cubs deserve no sympathy. They lost to the Miami Marlins, a team that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2003, and they got swept. The NL Central division winner lost to a team who entered the year in rebuilding mode and was relying heavily on unproven talent. It’s made even more ironic by the fact that the last time the Cubs faced the Marlins in the playoffs was the Steve Bartman incident, which would have been sweet redemption for angsty Cubs fans.

Moving to the AL Central, The Chicago White Sox may have been a little screwed by their matchup. The White Sox had to face the second-seeded Oakland Athletics, mostly as a result of a late-season skid that left them in third place, but after a game one victory, they needed to shut the door. After taking game one 4–1, they fell 5–3 and 6–4 in games two and three respectively. This was a blown opportunity at its finest, but at least Oakland was a strong team.

The Cleveland Indians are in a similar boat but, a win would have been massive for their franchise. Facing the New York Yankees, the Indians surrendered double-digit run totals in each game. They also choked away a lead in game two which could have shifted momentum away from a Yankees team that had hot bats. However, at least the Bronx Bombers are a World Series favorite.

The Minnesota Twins loss to the Houston Astros is simply an embarrassment. The Astros finished below .500 and were missing ace pitcher Justin Verlander. The Twins also had the entire country on their size as a result of the Astros cheating scandal, and they didn’t even manage a win. The Twins now have not won a playoff game in their last 18 attempts, and their last win came in 2004. This is absurd and only adds to the embarrassment of the situation.

Seven teams, 16 games, two wins. That is the actual reality of the Central divisions. It is important to ask why this happened. Is it because these teams only played each other? Is it reflective of how bad the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Pirates were this season? Is it just bad luck? This is up to the observer to decide, however, it is a shame for fans of these teams that so much promise was given, and absolutely none of it paid off. Trevor Bauer doesn’t seem too unhappy, however, and after his performance in game one of their series, who could blame him?