The L.A. Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays wrapped up the 2020 World Series recently, with L.A. claiming their first World Series title since 1988. As exciting as crowing a champion is, I want to dig into the rest of the pack who didn’t make it to the big show. The biggest question in my mind is, head-to-head, how would a losers’ bracket stack up? Is there another team poised to make a run under different circumstances?
I love a good simulation. So, thanks to MLBGameSim.com and some rules that I arbitrarily created, here’s a diversion into which teams would rise to the top of the group who didn’t quite make it to the World Series the first time around.
For ease of bracket-making, I’ve removed the #1 seeds and the seeds with the lowest winning percentage from each league. Both top seeds saw their success continue all the way to the World Series; meanwhile, ditching the teams with the worst records changes the complexion of the competition in a way that’s interesting because they’re not necessarily the 8th seed, so the matchups shift. By virtue of my power as omnipotent arbiter of this sim, this leaves an even six teams on each side to form the new four-round loser bracket.
Some gameplay notes:
- Just like in real life, the first round is a best-of-three, the second is a best-of-five, then the final two are both best-of-seven.
- I’ve set the simulator to disregard home field advantage.
- The rosters also disregard injuries.
- Every starting pitcher is picked at random and throws a “complete game” based on their 9-inning averages.
Being the top seeds and the ultimate non-losers, the Dodgers and Rays are out. As the teams with the lowest winning percentage in their respective leagues’ postseason setups, the Astros and Brewers are also gone. Here’s how the new brackets shake out:
In the American League, the two top seeds Oakland (1) and Minnesota (2) get a bye to the second round. They’ll await the winners of Cleveland (3) vs Toronto (6) and White Sox (4) vs Yankees (5).
In the National League, the top seeds are San Diego (1) and Atlanta (2). They await the results of Cubs (3) vs Reds (6) and St. Louis (4) vs Miami (5).
Wild Card Series
In the Wild Card series between Cleveland and the Blue Jays, the Jays take two in a row for the sweep.
CLE Adam Plutko vs TOR Ross Stripling. The home run is king to open postseason play. The Blue Jays hit two HR (Biggio, Panik) to Cleveland’s one (Santana), and handily take a 1-0 series lead.
CLE Carlos Carrasco vs TOR Robbie Ray. The teams go run-for-run, both scoring two runs in the third and one in the seventh. The game goes to extras tied 3-3; the Jays go up 5-3 in the top of the 11th and Lindor hits a solo HR in the bottom of the inning, but it’s not enough. Blue Jays advance.
The Blue Jays sweep Cleveland 2-0 and move on to play OAK (1) in the Division Series.
In a low-scoring series between the White Sox and Yankees, the Bronx Bombers complete the two-game sweep.
CHW Gio Gonzalez vs NYY Jordan Montgomery. Yankees out to an early lead (Torres RBI single). Montgomery pitches out of a bases-loaded jam in the 2nd, only surrendering a single run. Luke Voit hits a 2-run HR in the 7th. White Sox add one more in the 9th (Abreu RBI single) but lose by one.
CHW Carlos Rodon vs NYY Masahiro Tanaka. This game is a good example of a pitchers’ duel being boring on paper. Tanaka delivers a vintage performance, surrendering two earned runs and ten hits over nine innings. The Yankees complete the sweep.
The Yankees sweep the White Sox and advance to the Division Series against MIN (2).
This National League matchup goes to three games and see the sixth seed Reds upset the third seed Cubs, thanks to some serious run support in their Game 1 and Game 3 wins.
CHC Jon Lester vs CIN Tejay Antone. The Reds absolutely tee off on the veteran Lester. Mike Moustakas with a three-run HR, Shogo Akiyama with a two-run triple, Joey Votto with two doubles, Nick Castellanos with two RBI.
CHC Colin Rhea vs CIN Trevor Bauer. Bauer gives up at least one run in each of the first four innings, then the Reds stop the bleeding from the 5th onward. No run support from Cincinnati bats. Contreras, Phegley (2), Rizzo, and Schwarber all go deep for Chicago.
CHC vs Tyson Miller vs CIN Trevor Bauer. The sim doesn’t account for rest days, apparently. Bauer’s back-to-back performance is one for the ages, giving up two runs on eight hits. Meanwhile, the Cubs struggle with run prevention. A two-run 1st and four-run 3rd seal the deal early for the Reds.
The Reds defeat the Cubs and advance to meet the Padres (1) in the Division Series.
St. Louis take two games straight from the Marlins, who only score four runs over two games.
STL Jack Flaherty vs MIA Trevor Rogers. A close game until the St. Louis bats explode in the 6th with six runs thanks in part to a grand slam from Paul Goldschmidt. Flaherty records eight strikeouts in the win.
STL Alex Reyes vs MIA Daniel Castano. For the second game in a row, the Marlins take an early lead and can’t hold it. St. Louis has another big 6th inning, scoring five runs thanks to another Goldschmidt RBI and a three-run HR off the bat of Kolten Wong. The Cardinals complete the sweep.
St. Louis moves on to the Division Series against Atlanta (2).
At the end of the Wild Card series, this is where we stand:
That’s it for the first round. Tune in next week for the Division and League Championship Series and let us know your predictions in the comments. Do you see upsets in our future? Are the Padres going all the way? Would the Reds have won if Bauer hadn’t started two games? Sound off below!