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A Diamondbacks’ fan guide to the post-season: American League edition

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Just because Arizona isn’t in the playoffs, doesn’t mean we can’t be interested...

Boston Red Sox v Oakland A’s Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

A post-season unlike any other begins tomorrow. The largest field in baseball history comes on the heels of the shortest season in baseball history, because the owners have to make up the lost revenue somehow. Things kick off tomorrow, with the four American League wild-card games, before we enter the remarkable carnage of Wednesday, where the National League join in. That will result in no less than eight playoff contests taking place in a single day, the games starting every hour from 9 am through to 2 pm, Arizona time, plus 4 pm and 7pm, if you still have the stomach for any baseball.

As we’ve done before. let’s look at the participants from a D-backs’ fan perspective. Below, you’ll find a list of the wild card matchups (start times and coverage are for Game #1 - after that, you’re on your own!), and then information on each of the contenders, in descending order of their seeding.

AL Wild Card Series

The American League contenders

#1. Tampa Bay Rays

  • 2020 record: 40-20
  • Pre-season projection: 3312 wins
  • Pennant odds: 13/4
  • D-backs used this year: Anthony Banda, Chaz Roe

The Rays picked up their first division title in a decade, and it wasn’t particularly close, crusing to the title in the East by seven games. They are evidence spending smartly can still lead to success, with a payroll ranked 28th in the majors pre-season. You won’t recognize many names: Brandon Lowe and Ryan Yarbrough were their top hitter and pitcher by bWAR. But Tampa are likely perfectly fine with that.

#2. Oakland A’s

  • 2020 record: 36-24
  • Pre-season projection: 3312 wins
  • Pennant odds: 13/2
  • D-backs used this year: Jake Diekman, Jake Lamb, T.J. McFarland, Yusmeiro Petit, plus manager Bob Melvin

Ah, yes. Lamb ends the regular season with the highest OPS of any player for the Athletics, at .882.. That’s certainly going to be a narrative which will keep on giving, for as long as Oakland are in the playoffs. But will GM Billy Beane’s shit work in the post-season? For his team have not won a series there since 2006, and didn’t even win a game the last three times they reached the playoffs, their last W being in 2013.

#3. Minnesota Twins

  • 2020 record: 36-24
  • Pre-season projection: 3412 wins
  • Pennant odds: 23/4
  • D-backs used this year: Alex Avila, Ildemaro Vargas

But you think the A’s struggle in the post-season? The Twins have lost their last sixteen playoff games in a row. But at least they are not facing the Yankees this time, who were their opponents for thirteen of those defeats. Not as slug-happy as the 2019 team which set a new MLB record for homers, though Nelson Cruz hit 16 HR at age 40. This version did it with pitching, posting an ERA+ of 123 for the year. Kenta Maeda (6-1, 2.70) is the staff ace.

#4. Cleveland Indians

  • 2020 record: 35-25
  • Pre-season projection: 3312 wins
  • Pennant odds: 7/1
  • D-backs used this year: Dominic Leone, Oliver Perez

Shane Bieber looks set to with the AL Cy Young, having led not just the league but the majors in wins (8), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122 in only 77.1 IP). He’s the first with the MLB Triple Crown since Johan Santana in 2006. However, the lack of off-days in the playoff schedule, will make it harder for a team to ride one arm, and a lot will depend on how sophomore Zach Plesac can handle his first taste of the post-season.

#5. New York Yankees

  • 2020 record: 33-27
  • Pre-season projection: 3612 wins
  • Pennant odds: 7/2
  • D-backs used this year: None

The Yankees 117 OPS+ led the league, but they were let down by their pitching, with a below league-average ERA+ of only 99. The drop-off after Gerrit Cole is steep, with no-one else having more than three wins this year. Similarly, in the bullpen Zach Britton was great, but getting the ball to him may be more of a problem. You’d never expect to bet against the Yankees, but they were only 11-18 on the road, where they’ll be all post-season.

#6. Houston Astros

  • 2020 record: 29-31
  • Pre-season projection: 3412 wins
  • Pennant odds: 12/1
  • D-backs used this year: Zack Greinke

Was it the lack of trash cans? Their team offense plummeted from a 119 OPS+ last year, to just 94. Perhaps no-one slumped more than Jose Altuve, who dropped from 131 to 71, and must be VERY glad for the lack of fans in the stands. The team was no doubt also hurt by the loss of Justin Verlander, who managed only one start, though their rotation still looks generally solid. Definitely among the biggest beneficiaries of the expanded playoffs.

#7. Chicago White Sox

  • 2020 record: 35-25
  • Pre-season projection: 3112 wins
  • Pennant odds: 7/1
  • D-backs used this year: Jarrod Dyson

The White Sox slugged their way in, 96 home-runs leading the American League, with 19 of those coming off the bat of Jose Abreu. But Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99 ERA) leads a strong pitching staff; closer Alex Colome had a 0.81 ERA over 22.1 innings, and their ERA ranked fifth in the league overall. Combine that with scoring the second-most runs per game, and you’ve got a team probably quite a bit better than their seeding would suggest.

#8 Toronto Blue Jays

  • 2020 record: 32-28
  • Pre-season projection: 2712 wins
  • Pennant odds: 16/1
  • D-backs used this year: Travis Bergen, Chase Anderson, Brandon Drury, Caleb Joseph, Robbie Ray, Travis Walker

What do the 2020 Blue Jays have in common with the 2007 D-backs? Both reached the post-season, despite being outscored by their opponents. Toronto allowed ten more runs than they scored (302-312), and only beat two of their nine opponents in the season series. But taking 10 of 13 from the Orioles and Mets was enough. No shortage of D-backs here, with Ray likely the one we’ll be most interested in following.

Poll

Who do you WANT to win the American League?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    A’s
    (18 votes)
  • 5%
    Astros
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    Blue Jays
    (3 votes)
  • 15%
    Indians
    (8 votes)
  • 13%
    Rays
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Twins
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    White Sox
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Yankees
    (2 votes)
51 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who do you think WILL win the American League?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    A’s
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Astros
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Blue Jays
    (3 votes)
  • 21%
    Indians
    (10 votes)
  • 27%
    Rays
    (13 votes)
  • 4%
    Twins
    (2 votes)
  • 8%
    White Sox
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    Yankees
    (7 votes)
47 votes total Vote Now