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Baseball Daily Dose

The Field is Set

by D.J. Short
Updated On: September 28, 2020, 10:59 am ET

There was still much to be decided going into the regular season’s final day on Sunday, including the possibility of the Cardinals being forced to play a doubleheader on Monday, but we emerged from it with our complete 16-team field on the road to determine the winner of the 2020 MLB World Series. This expanded playoff field was implemented after COVID-19 resulted in the regular season being shortened to 60 games.

Before we get into the teams involved, here’s a quick rundown of the new (for 2020, at least) playoff parameters:

 - Eight teams qualified from each league, including the first-place and second-place finishers from each division, with the final two spots determined by best record; The team with the best record among the second-place finishers from each league is the No. 4 seed.

- Seeds 1-4 will host the best-of-three Wild Card series at their respective home stadiums before both leagues move into bubble settings for the remainder of the playoffs.

- The ALDS will take place at Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles) and PETCO Park (San Diego) with the ALCS also set to be played in San Diego. Meanwhile, the NLDS will be played at Minute Maid Park (Houston) and Globe Life Field (Arlington) with the NLCS also scheduled to take place in Arlington. The entire World Series will be hosted at Globe Life Field.

American League matchups:

(8) Blue Jays at (1) Rays
(5) Yankees at (4) Indians
(7) White Sox at (2) Athletics
(6) Astros at (3) Twins

National League matchups:

(8) Brewers at (1) Dodgers
(5) Cardinals at (4) Padres
(7) Reds at (2) Braves
(6) Marlins at (3) Cubs

The Giants and Phillies were both alive for the final NL Wild Card spot going into the season’s final day, but they lost their respective games, rendering all of the postseason chaos scenarios moot.

Of note, the Astros are in despite finishing under .500 at 29-31. In one of the strange quirks of this format, they have a higher seeding than the White Sox (35-25) or the Blue Jays (32-28). Again, this is because the Astros were a second-place team while the Blue Jays finished third in the AL East and the White Sox lost a tiebreaker with the Indians. The Brewers were also under .500 (29-31) and get the eighth seed as the fourth team to come out of the NL Central.

Get ready for a postseason unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, for better or worse. After blowing everyone away with a 43-17 (.717) record this season, the Dodgers could be eliminated with just a couple of bad days this week. Usually we hear “anything is possible” in a five-game LDS format, but this is taking that idea to the extreme.

The American League Wild Card series begins on Tuesday while the National League Wild Card series will begin on Wednesday. Wednesday should be one of the wildest baseball days in recent memory, as all 16 teams will be in action. Games will be staggered one hour apart from noon ET- 5 p.m. ET before primetime games at 7 p.m. ET (Yankees/Indians) and 10 p.m. ET (Brewers/Dodgers). Cancel your plans. Baseball is your best friend now.

Final Category Leaders

AL batting average: DJ LeMahieu (.364)
NL batting average: Juan Soto (.351)

AL home runs: Luke Voit (22)
NL home runs: Marcell Ozuna (18)

AL RBI: Jose Abreu (60)
NL RBI: Marcell Ozuna (56)

AL stolen bases: Adalberto Mondesi (24)
NL stolen bases: Trevor Story (15)

AL ERA: Shane Bieber (1.63)
NL ERA: Trevor Bauer (1.73)

AL strikeouts: Shane Bieber (122)
NL strikeouts: Jacob deGrom (104)

AL wins: Shane Bieber (8)
NL wins: Yu Darvish (8)

AL saves: Brad Hand (16)
NL saves: Josh Hader (13)

Amazingly, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu are the first set of teammates to lead MLB in both home runs and batting average since Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews pulled that off in 1959.

One incredible stat here from Mark Zuckerman of MASNSports.com. In addition to being the youngest player ever to win the NL batting crown this season, Juan Soto posted a .490 on-base percentage, a .695 slugging percentage, and a 1.185 OPS. Those are the highest such totals in OBP, SLG, and OPS by any hitter (min. 195 PA) in a single season since Barry Bonds in 2004. Soto is already the best hitter in the game. What were you doing when you were 21 years old?

Shane Bieber became the first pitcher to lead the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts since Johan Santana won his second AL Cy Young Award in 2006. It’s safe to say that Bieber is a shoo-in for a Cy Young Award of his own, but he also makes a compelling case for the AL MVP Award.

Adalberto Mondesi did his best to redeem himself this month. He hit .376 with six home runs, 19 RBI, 16 steals, and 22 runs scored over his final 22 games. Keep in mind that Jonathan Villar finished second in the majors with 16 steals total this season. Mondesi had more steals than 13 teams.

Angels Part Ways with Billy Eppler

After days of speculation, the Angels announced following their season finale on Sunday that Billy Eppler would not return as general manager. His dismissal comes after yet another disappointing year where the Angels finished at 26-34 despite the high-profile addition of Anthony Rendon and the addition of Joe Maddon as manager. Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic heard from a source that Eppler actually received a one-year extension over the summer, but Arte Moreno has decided to change course as the club moves into 2021.

The Angels failed to have a winning record in any of the five seasons Eppler was at the helm. That’s quite an indictment for an organization which has Mike Trout, this generation’s best player. Of course, baseball is not a sport like basketball where one star can change the fate of a team. Pitching has been their biggest issue in recent seasons, mostly due to injury and underperformance.

The Angels were right in the middle of the chase for a free agent ace last offseason, but came up empty-handed in their attempts for the likes of Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler. Instead, they aimed for rebounds with Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. It worked with Bundy, but not so much with Teheran. The Angels were also counting on Shohei Ohtani to make an impact in his return from Tommy John surgery, but he made just two starts before being shut down from pitching. Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning both regressed after showing flashes in the past. Only the Rockies and Red Sox allowed more runs than the Angels this season, which says just about everything you need to know.

One positive during Eppler’s tenure is that the minor league system is in much better shape than when he first came in. However, there’s already plenty of chatter about Dave Dombrowski potentially coming in as Eppler’s replacement. He’s been known to be aggressive in trading prospects and one would think he could be aggressive to finally build a winner around Trout, who will be going into his age-29 season next year.

American League Quick Hits: Adalberto Mondesi continued his red-hot finish to the season with a homer and a double Sunday against the Tigers … J.D. Martinez finished his disappointing 2020 season with his seventh home run Sunday against the Braves … Terry Francona will not manage the Indians during the postseason after undergoing surgery in August for blood-clotting issues … Franmil Reyes homered and knocked in four runs in Sunday’s win over the Pirates … Frankie Montas finished the regular season strong, tossing six scoreless frames with 13 strikeouts Sunday against the Mariners … Rich Hill allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Reds on Sunday … After fouling a ball off his left foot on Saturday … Josh Donaldson (calf) and Byron Buxton (concussion) remained out of the Twins’ lineup on Sunday … Lourdes Gurriel went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer and three runs scored Sunday against the Orioles … Rougned Odor homered twice and knocked in four runs in Sunday’s win over the Astros … Carlos Santana went 3-for-4 with a homer, four RBI, and three runs scored Sunday against Pittsburgh … Jackie Bradley put a bow on a strong walk year by going 3-for-6 with a solo homer and a double in Sunday’s win over the Braves …

Ron Roenicke will not return as manager of the Red Sox in 2021 … Brady Singer finished a strong rookie campaign with seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Tigers on Sunday … Fresh off returning from a wrist injury, Shin-Soo Choo suffered a mild left ankle sprain during a collision at first base in Sunday’s season finale against the Astros … Josh Fleming fired six scoreless frames in Sunday’s win over the Phillies … Ross Stripling is expected to be ready for the playoffs after taking a comebacker off his right shin on Saturday … Willi Castro was placed on the injured list with right shoulder soreness after getting hurt on a swing Saturday … Mark Canha finished the regular season with a four-RBI performance Sunday against the Mariners …  Nick Pivetta allowed one run over five innings in a win over the Braves on Sunday, likely putting himself in position for a rotation spot to begin 2021 … Jordan Romano (finger) threw live batting practice Sunday as he attempts to prove his readiness for the playoffs …  Gio Gonzalez left Sunday’s game against the Cubs due to left shoulder soreness … The Twins officially released right-hander Homer Bailey

National League Quick Hits: Ronald Acuna (wrist) is expected to be ready for the Braves’ postseason opener against the Reds on Wednesday … Trea Turner slugged a grand slam and drove in seven runs in a blowout win over the Mets to finish out the Nationals’ 2020 regular season schedule … Aaron Nola allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings in a disappointing showing against the Rays on Sunday …  Starling Marte was diagnosed with a left ear contusion after being hit in the helmet by a pitch on Sunday … Pete Alonso finished the 2020 on a high note with a pair of homers on Sunday against the Nationals … Max Fried (ankle) has been cleared to start Game 1 of the Wild Card round for the Braves after having no issues during a bullpen session Sunday … Eugenio Suarez went 2-for-5 with two RBI in the Reds’ extra-inning win over the Twins on Sunday … Sonny Gray allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Twins for a no-decision on Sunday … Kris Bryant homered in his second straight game Sunday against the White Sox … A.J. Pollock homered twice and drove in three runs in Sunday’s win over the Angels … Wil Myers went 2-for-5 with his 15th homer Sunday against the Giants … Kole Calhoun mashed his 16th homer and drove in three runs in Sunday’s blowout win over the Rockies … Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes reached base three times and homered in Sunday’s finale against the Indians … Harrison Bader homered and tripled Sunday against the Brewers to help the Cardinals clinch a spot in the playoffs …

The hot-hitting Andrew Stevenson went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI, and three runs scored Sunday against the Mets … Dakota Hudson is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow this week … Seth Lugo was blasted for six runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday against the Nationals, casting his future as a starting pitcher in doubt … Madison Bumgarner wrapped up a disappointing first season with the Diamondbacks by tossing five scoreless innings in Sunday’s win over Colorado … Adbert Alzolay allowed one run over five innings with a career-best eight strikeouts in Sunday’s win over the White Sox … Drew Smyly took the loss Sunday against the Padres despite allowing two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts … Brett Anderson was lifted from his start against the Cardinals on Sunday due to a blister on his pitching hand …  Jason Castro was diagnosed with a sprained jaw after being hit in the mask by a foul tip on Sunday, but the Padres are still hopeful he’ll be ready for the postseason opener on Wednesday … Jazz Chisholm went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double, and three RBI in Sunday’s win over the Yankees … Cubs prospect Brailyn Marquez was touched up for five runs on two hits, three walks, and a pair of wild pitches in his MLB debut Sunday against the White Sox … Chris Martin left Sunday’s game with right groin discomfort, putting his status in question for the playoffs … Austin Riley (quad) felt good after a round of live batting practice on Sunday … Daniel Castano tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen Sunday against the Yankees after Jose Urena (forearm) was forced to exit due to injury …  Billy Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a homer, two stolen bases, and three runs scored in Sunday’s win over the White Sox …