Last week, we kicked off the 2020 MLB Postseason losers’ bracket with four rounds of simulated Wild Card action between the teams that weren’t quite good enough to go all the way to the World Series. This week, we’re picking up where we left off with best-of-five Division Series play and best-of-seven League Championship Series from both leagues.
To recap, I built these new brackets excluding respective number one seeds Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers (congratulations on their first title since ’88). I also booted the team in each league with the lowest winning percentage, regardless of their original seeding position in the real postseason; the Houston Astros and the Milwaukee Brewers exited stage left, leaving six teams competing to be the next best in baseball.
The simulation is straightforward. I’m using MLBGameSim.com to run each game so they’re unbiased, and they each have the same variables built in for consistency:
- Each series is the same number as in real life – the Division Series is a best-of-five, then both the LCS and finals are both best-of-seven.
- I’ve set the simulator to disregard home field advantage.
- The rosters disregard injuries.
- Every starting pitcher is picked at random and throws a “complete game” based on their 9-inning averages. The same pitcher may pitch consecutive games if selected.
This is where we stand at the end of the Wild Card series:
American League Division Series
In the first ALDS, the sixth seed Blue Jays upset the top seed A’s in four games with pitching and power bats coming alive when they needed it.
OAK Sean Manaea vs TOR Thomas Hatch. Oakland is held to 6 hits, while Toronto records only 2 team Ks and hits 3 HR on route to victory.
OAK Frankie Montas vs TOR Ryan Borucki. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. leads the Jays offence, going 3-4 with a HR, while Danny Jansen notches 4 RBI on 2 hits and Travis Shaw sends a 3-run HR deep to right in the 7th inning. The Jays are one win away from the ALCS.
OAK Paul Blackburn vs TOR Hyun-Jin Ryu. The A’s bats wake up; Mark Canha and Matt Chapman go deep for Oakland and the team records a combined 6 extra base hits. Jays’ Danny Jansen continues his strong offensive performance with 2 RBI.
OAK Paul Blackburn vs TOR Hyun-Jin Ryu. In a pitching rematch, the outcome is much different this time. Ryu pitches a 2-hit masterpiece with 11 Ks, while the Jays offence strikes early. Jansen stays hot with a solo HR; Teoscar Hernández drives in 2.
The Blue Jays defeat the A’s 3-1 and advance to the ALCS against the winner of MIN (2) vs NYY (5).
The Yankees struggle when they don’t hit home runs. In this second ALDS, Minnesota pitching keep the Bronx Bombers in check while the Twins offence do some damage themselves. Minnesota defeats the Yankees three games to one.
MIN Randy Dobnak vs NYY Jordan Montgomery. All of the runs in this game come thanks to 2-run home runs. Gio Urshela leads the way for the Yankees with 2 HR and 4 RBI.
MIN Michael Pineda vs NYY Michael King. Despite both Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez both recording 3-hit games, the Yankees don’t covert with runners in scoring position. Six separate Twins players record an RBI.
MIN Devin Smeltzer vs NYY Clarke Schmidt. A pitchers’ duel sees Smeltzer and Schmidt combine for 25 strikeouts in the game. New York fails to hit a home run, though Gio Urshela continues his hot streak with 3 hits. Minnesota’s Byron Buxton and Max Kepler both record 2 RBI apiece.
MIN Lewis Thorpe vs NYY Jordan Montgomery. The Twins take the series in fine fashion. Five players hit home runs against Montgomery, and 5 players also record multi-hit games.
The Twins defeat the Yankees 3-1 and advance to the ALCS against TOR (6).
National League Division Series
The high-octane San Diego Padres can’t catch up to solid Reds pitching, and Cincinnati veteran bats come through in the clutch. The National League mirrors the American League and the sixth seed Reds upset the first seed Padres three games to one.
SD Zach Davies vs CIN Wade Miley. The Padres fly out of the gate with two doubles, two triples, and three homers in the game. Cincinnati can’t break through with runners in scoring position.
SD Zach Davies vs CIN Luis Castillo. Reds RF Nicholas Castellanos records a 5 RBI game with 2 HR. Castellanos single-handedly puts away San Diego, despite a strong push from the Padres, with NL Rookie of the Year candidate Jake Cronenworth on base 4 times (3 H, BB) and CF Trent Grisham’s 3-run HR.
SD Michel Báez vs CIN Sonny Gray. Báez records 12 strikeouts and Gray records 11 in a tight game. Despite taking 7 walks in the game, the Padres can’t capitalize. San Diego gives up a solo shot to Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart in the 11th.
SD Dinelson Lamet vs CIN Tejay Antone. Another close game in which 2 solo HR are enough for the Reds take home the series win. San Diego suffers 14 strikeouts at the hands of Antone and can only scratch out 3 hits over 9 innings.
The Cincinnati Reds upset the San Diego Padres 3-1 to advance to the NLCS against the winner of ATL (2) and STL (4).
Except for MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, the Atlanta bats go cold against the Cardinals as St. Louis easily completes the three-game sweep.
ATL Touki Toussaint vs STL Jack Flaherty. 3-run HRs from Paul Goldschmidt and Dylan Carlson seal up the win for St. Louis by the 4th inning. Freddie Freeman’s 2 RBI in the late innings make it interesting before Atlanta’s comeback bid loses steam.
ATL Kyle Wright vs STL John Oviedo. Every Cardinal in the lineup records a hit, 7 players with multiple hits. Tyler O’Neill notches 5 RBI while Paul Goldschmidt cashes in 4.
ATL Luke Jackson vs STL Jake Woodford. Woodford tosses a 1-run gem in the series-clinching win. Cardinals take control in clutch fashion; 4 players record 2-RBI performances.
The St. Louis Cardinals sweet the Atlanta Braves and advance to the NLCS against CIN (6).
Here’s what the bracket looks like after four rounds of divisional play:
What took me by surprise was how cold so many of the season’s hot bats got as the playoffs wore on. Top seeds Oakland and San Diego saw their powerful lineups neutralised and their pitching couldn’t contain the scrappy teams rising up from the playoff basement.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how the offense has been coming along in the sim. Lots of players are their streaky selves at the plate, and guys who normally get on base a lot (Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario and Toronto’s Cavan Biggio, for example) continue to do so. There are a few surprises coming up, though, that go against convention in the Losers’ World Series; no spoilers, but a certain backup catcher had an MVP-calibre offensive performance.
The simulator has definitely shown some biases against teams with strong pitching because of how the starters are chosen. The rotation isn’t a consideration, and teams with strong bullpens aren’t necessarily availed of that strength down the stretch. It also has meant that the same handful of pitchers (and not necessarily the premier arms) are throwing in high-leverage games. There’s quite a lot of that in the LCS matchups.
Regardless of the irregularities of simulated play, let’s buzz through the last two series and crown a winner of the 2020 MLB Losers’ Bracket.
American League Championship Series
The Jays, who had just squeaked into postseason play, make an impressive run to the ALCS. The Twins meet them with just as much grit and show that their high seeding was justified.
MIN José Berrios vs TOR Ross Stripling. Eddie Rosario tries to win it himself with 4 hits, half of which are home runs. The middle of Toronto’s lineup combines for 6 RBI, 6 hits, and 2 HR.
MIN Randy Dobnak vs TOR Thomas Hatch. Both pitchers give up 2 HR, but keep baserunners to a minimum. Dobnak fans the Blue Jays 15 times. The Twins’ Byron Buxton delivers a 12th inning 2-run HR to win it.
MIN Michael Pineda vs TOR Ross Stripling. Rosario continues his offensive tear, hitting the winning solo HR in the 8th.
MIN Lewis Thorpe vs TOR Thomas Hatch. Hatch surrenders 6 earned runs on 9 hits in the first 4 innings. The bottom third of the Twins’ lineup accounts for 5 of 8 runs and 2 HR.
MIN José Berrios vs TOR T.J. Zeuch. Rookie starter Zeuch keeps 5 of 9 Twins hitters off the bases. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s bat awakens for a 3-5 performance, 2 RBI, HR.
MIN Kenta Maeda vs TOR Thomas Hatch. The Jays score 4 runs early and hold the lead the rest of the game. Hatch throws a 5-hit gem in the win, while Silver Slugger award winner Teoscar Hernández records 4 RBI with 2 HR.
MIN José Berrios vs TOR Hyun-Jin Ryu. Berrios delivers a solid performance in a must-win game. The Twins come back from a 2-run deficit early, despite Ryu racking up 11 Ks. Eddie Rosario plates 2 in the 4th to take the lead.
The Minnesota Twins (2) defeat the Toronto Blue Jays (6) in 7 games to advance to the Losers’ World Series against the winner of St. Louis (4) vs Cincinnati (6). Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario wins NLCS MVP.
National League Championship Series
Both clubs are high scoring this postseason, but only one of them can take their hot bats to the final showdown. It’s clear in just five games which team is hungry for the title.
STL Carlos Martinez vs CIN Tejay Antone. Antone outlasts Martinez in still another pitchers’ duel this postseason, combining for 21 total Ks. A crucial 5th inning error by the Cardinals defence breaks the 0-0 tie.
STL Daniel Ponce de Leon vs CIN Tejay Antone. Both teams come out swinging. The Cardinals get into error trouble again with runners on base, while Ponce de Leon gives up 6 runs in 2 innings with 5 BB. Cincinnati’s Shogo Akiyama is seeing the ball well this series; he records 3 RBI with a HR.
STL Kwang Hyun Kim vs CIN Tejay Antone. Reds’ Antone is pitching like an MVP and records 15 Ks over 9 innings. Castellanos and Votto combine for 7 RBI with a home run apiece.
STL Carlos Martinez vs CIN Luis Castillo. St. Louis’ bats come alive to battle back from down 3 runs in the 6th. Tommy Edman walks it off in the 9th with a sac fly.
STL Johan Oviedo vs CIN Tyler Mahle. Cincinnati clinches the NL title after Mike Moustakas and Curt Casali combine for 6 RBI.
The Cincinnati Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals four games to one and will face MIN (2) in the Losers’ World Series.
Since the simulator loves drama almost as much as baseball fans, the showdown between the Twins and the Reds is a nail-biter and goes all the way to Game 7. Miguel Sanó puts together a dominant performance at the plate while Curt Casali makes a case for keeping two catchers in the lineup.
Losers’ World Series
MIN José Berrios vs CIN Wade Miley. Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sanó are both clutch with RISP – each with a 3-run HR. Berrios holds the Reds to just 3 hits.
MIN Devin Smeltzer vs CIN Michael Lorenzen. No Reds bats to be seen against Smeltzer; 5 Cincinnati batters held hitless. Sanó (2 RBI), Polanco (2 hits), and Luis Arraez (2 hits) leave a mark on Lorenzen.
MIN Randy Dobnak vs CIN Sonny Gray. The Reds come to play in Game 3 with 3 multi-run innings. Dominant plate appearances with RISP by Shogo Akiyama and Curt Casali, plus HRs from Joey Votto and Nick Senzel send the Twins a message.
MIN Matt Wisler vs CIN Tyler Mahle. Eddie Rosario stays hot at the plate (HR); he hasn’t struck out in the series to this point. Arraez puts the Twins ahead for good in the 7th with a 3-run 2B.
MIN Devin Smeltzer vs CIN Wade Miley. All of the Reds’ offence comes in the 4th, thanks in part to a Curt Casali 2-run 2B. Wade Miley strikes out Twins batters 10 times.
MIN Lewis Thorpe vs CIN Tyler Mahle. Can the Reds come all the way back? They want it. Three Reds record a 4 RBI performance, including Casali, who’s making a case for MVP, and unusually quiet Eugenio Suarez.
MIN Devin Smeltzer vs CIN Wade Miley. Miguel Sanó comes into this game with a singular goal: hit everything. He does, going 4 for 5 with 6 RBI and 2 HR. The first 4 batters in the Twins’ lineup record at least 2 hits apiece. The Reds put up a fight, led by Casali with 3 RBI and a HR, while Votto and Castellanos notch HRs of their own. Minnesota holds off a late push in the 8th to keep the lead.
The Minnesota Twins defeat the Cincinnati Reds four games to three, winning the Losers’ World Series. The Twins’ Miguel Sanó is named MVP.
What historic teams would you want to see square off in a series for the ages? Let us know in the comments!