How MLB Playoff Picture Would’ve Looked If 2019 Season Was Cut Off At 60 Games


July 7, 2020

A conventional Major League Baseball season is akin to a marathon, but the upcoming campaign will feel more like a sprint.

MLB later this month will kick off its 60-game regular season, 102 contests fewer than a standard big league slate. For “on the bubble” clubs like the Boston Red Sox, a shortened season could prove to be a blessing, whereas it might come as a burden to teams that historically get off to slow starts.

Such was the case last season for the Nationals, who went 27-33 through their first 60 games last season, good for fourth place in the National League East. Washington, of course, took off in the second half en route to a World Series title.

But the Nats weren’t the only team with a different standing by season’s end than at the 60-game point, for better or for worse. Let’s take a look at the standings in early June last year, by which time all teams had played 60 games.

American League East
1. New York Yankees (38-22)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (37-23)
3. Boston Red Sox (31-29)
4. Toronto Blue Jays (22-38)
5. Baltimore Orioles (19-41)

Not a whole lot changed in the AL East. The Yankees kept their foot on the gas and ultimately finished with 103 regular-season wins, besting the Rays for the division crown by seven games. New York’s dominance was matched by Baltimore’s doldrums, as the O’s only won 35 of their remaining 102 games.

American League Central
1. Minnesota Twins (40-20)
2. Cleveland Indians (30-30)
3. Chicago White Sox (29-31)
4. Detroit Tigers (23-37)
5. Kansas City Royals (19-41)

The Indians surged following their mediocre start, finishing the campaign with a 93-69 record. But it wasn’t enough to usurp the 101-win Twins, who posted their first season of 100-plus wins since 1965.

American League West
1. Houston Astros (40-20)
2. Texas Rangers (32-28)
3. Oakland Athletics (30-30)
4. Los Angeles Angels (29-31)
5. Seattle Mariners (25-35)

The Astros never really became in danger of having their AL West title streak halted at two seasons. The most glaring difference in these standings by season’s end came via the Rangers and the Athletics. Texas finished the campaign six games under .500, while Oakland went 67-35 the rest of the way.

American League Wild Card
1. Tampa Bay Rays (37-23)
2. Texas Rangers (32-28)

3. Boston Red Sox (31-29)
4. Oakland Athletics (30-30)
5. Cleveland Indians (30-30)
6. Los Angeles Angels (29-31)

The Rays ultimately did not host the Rangers in the one-game playoff. Instead, Tampa Bay was forced to travel to Oakland, but Kevin Cash’s club still managed to punch its ticket to an AL Division Series with the Astros.

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National League East
1. Philadelphia Phillies (33-27)
2. Atlanta Braves (33-27)
3. New York Mets (28-32)
4. Washington Nationals (27-33)
5. Miami Marlins (23-27)

The Braves went on to win the division title with a 97-65 record, but as previously mentioned, it was the Nationals who received the last laugh. The Phillies experienced a pretty tough summer, finishing the season with a .500 record.

National League Central
1. Chicago Cubs (34-26)
2. Milwaukee Brewers (34-26)
3. St. Louis Cardinals (31-29)
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (29-31)
5. Cincinnati Reds (28-32)

One of the more exciting division races in baseball last season concluded with the Cardinals topping the Brewers by a two-game advantage. Pittsburgh suffered a rough slide, winning only 40 of its final 102 games.

National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-19)
2. Colorado Rockies (31-29)
3. San Diego Padres (31-29)
4. Arizona Cardinals (30-30)
5. San Francisco Giants (25-25)

The Dodgers held the best record in baseball through 60 games in 2019, but the Astros (107-55) ultimately claimed that honor by one game. The Giants (77-85) hung around longer than most expected, while the Padres (70-92) and the Rockies (71-91) both offered little to write home about in the second half.

National League Wild Card
1. Milwaukee Brewers (34-26)
2. Atlanta Braves (33-27)

3. St. Louis Cardinals (31-29)
4. Colorado Rockies (31-29)
5. San Diego Padres (31-29)
6. Arizona Cardinals (30-30)

Instead of hosting the Braves in the one-game playoff, the Brewers traveled to the nation’s capital where they fell to the eventual champion Nationals. The Mets finished three games back of the second wild-card spot, while the Cardinals and Cubs finished four and five games back, respectively.

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Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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