Math won’t work in the favor of MLB teams seeking a return to the postseason after missing the 16-team field in 2020.
The New York Mets finished three games out of a playoff spot in 2020. Under normal circumstances, if last year’s 60-game winning percentage was extrapolated through 162 games, the Mets (.433) would’ve finished 14 games out of a playoff spot. And if baseball returns to the normalcy of a 162-game season in 2021, the Mets won’t sniff the playoff with a 70-92 record and will be off the World Series odds board come October.
Translation: If you couldn’t crack the 16-team postseason in 2020, you’ll need a huge leap to make the 10-team postseason (as current rules and plans state) in 2021.
Which non-playoff teams from 2020 have the best chance to make the playoffs in 2021? (And which 2020 playoff teams are most likely to miss the 2021 playoffs?)
New York Mets
The New York Mets are capable of the huge leap from eighth in typical Wild Card standings to first or second, or a run at the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
They lost more than 20 players to free agency, trade, or declined options, none of whom will impair their ability to contend for a playoff berth. As of January 31, they’ve added 14 players via free agency, trade, and waivers, most notably Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. Lindor slides into a lineup that added catcher James McCann, returns Pete Alonso, and has one of the best outfield trios in baseball.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The bad news: After a third straight fourth-place finish in the West, the Angels have yet to make a free-agency splash (unless a one-year, $8-million deal for Jose Quintana counts as a splash), let two middle infielders walk (Andrelton Simmons and Tommy La Stella), and have starting pitching concerns
The good news: Mike Trout is Mike Trout, the offense will score, several cost-effective moves added depth in most areas, and they are likely in the mix for impact starting pitchers, including Jake Odorizzi and Taijuan Walker.
Their inclusion is contingent on some February and March moves. Without those moves, this is nothing more than a 75-win team.
“For me, it’s all about winning,” Bryce Harper said at his introductory press conference with the Philadelphia Phillies in March 2019 after signing a 13-year, $330-million deal. “That’s what you’re remembered for. That’s what it’s all about.”
For the Phillies, it’s been all about losing.
Since winning 102 games in 2011 and reaching their fifth straight postseason, they’ve gone 535-639 (.448) with zero postseason appearances. And while they haven’t addressed balance issues within a lineup that had five 800-OPS players last year, they re-signed Didi Gregorius and J.T. Realmuto and retained several veterans with reasonable arbitration deals.
With Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola back (and a potential high-reward Matt Moore in the fold,) the starting rotation will be good enough to win a lot of games. If they don’t make a few late-offseason bullpen moves, the team’s overall potential remains modest but high enough to push for the playoffs.