We are now in the midst of the penultimate weekend of the 2020 Major League Baseball regular season. One week from tomorrow, the season will draw to a close and baseball will prepare for a postseason in a bubble. A few bubbles, actually. More on that later.

Counting today’s games, there are nine playing dates remaining on the official calendar. There are 16 playoff berths up for grabs in this pandemic-affected season. Four teams – three in the American League and one in the National League – have clinched postseason berths.

Clinching from the NL are the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their ‘Magic Number’ to clinch an eight consecutive NL West Division crown is now down to five over the vastly improved San Diego Padres. Those Padres are on the verge of clinching their own first playoff berth in 14 years, something they could accomplish before this weekend is out.

Over in the American League, one team in each division has clinched a spot in the postseason: Tampa Bay Rays from the East, Chicago White Sox from the Central, and Oakland Athletics from the West Division. Their respective ‘Magic Numbers’ are: Rays (6) over the New York Yankees, Chisox (6) over the Minnesota Twins, A’s (3) over the Houston Astros.

Also in the NL, the Chicago Cubs have a ‘Magic Number’ of just three, while the Atlanta Braves number is seven for the NL Central and East titles respectively. Both teams will be in the postseason. With the Dodgers, Padres, Cubs, and Braves either in or nearly so, six teams are left to battle for four remaining spots.

The Miami Marlins (26-24), Philadelphia Phillies (26-25), Saint Louis Cardinals (24-24), San Francisco Giants (25-25), Cincinnati Reds (26-26), and Milwaukee Brewers (24-26) are the only teams realistically left alive. The New York Mets (23-28) would need a miracle to climb over three teams and steal a spot, and have shown no ability to go on such a late run.

In the American League all of the first and second place clubs mentioned above are either in or closing on a spot. The Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays should be joining them as the final Wildcard clubs. The last playoff spot is held right now by the Jays at 26-25. The Seattle Mariners are four games behind them, giving Toronto a ‘Magic Number’ of just six to clinch a playoff berth.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

The Phillies were a middle-of-the-road ball club at the time of the first 2020 MLB Power Rankings here at The Bell back on August 15. By the time of the Labor Day rankings the club had gone on a hot streak, one that saw them rise to the #10 spot by the middle of that holiday weekend.

Since that point the Phillies have gone just 7-10. Continuous implosions by the club’s bullpen and a series of crippling injuries put what appeared a near certain postseason berth in serious jeopardy. With just over a week remaining in the schedule the club sits in third place in the NL East, a half-game behind the Marlins for an automatic playoff berth. They also hold a Wildcard spot by a half-game over three teams. Only two of those four would reach the postseason.

The Phillies offensive production has not been a problem. Their 5.33 runs-per-game is tied for fourth place in all of baseball with the power-packed Yankees attack. A pitching staff and defense that ranks 16th and 18th respectively continue to keep the club from winning consistently and moving into that overall MLB upper echelon.

From today forward the Phillies will need to close out the season with at least a 6-5 record in order to finish above .500, a record that should clinch a postseason berth. Going 5-6 and finishing exactly at 30-30 puts their chances in jeopardy. Anything worse and they likely miss the playoffs once again.


RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

The formula is always being researched and evaluated to see if it can be improved upon. It is currently made up of the following categories: winning percentage (most recent 30 games), runs-per-game, FIP (fielding independent pitching), and defensive runs saved as measured by Fangraphs. For the 2020 season the rankings use the overall full season win percentage because of the unbalanced number of games played and breaks in the schedule due to the COVID pandemic outbreaks.

The ‘winning percentage/30 days’ component reflects each team’s ability to actually win ball games during recent weeks. ‘FIP’ reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage. The ‘runs-per-game‘ component acknowledges that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games. ‘Defensive runs saved‘ is a stat measuring the effectiveness of each club’s defenders to keep opposition runs off the scoreboard.

Each team’s placement in the four component categories gets them assigned a 1-30 numerical value. Those are added up to determine a final overall rankings points total. The lower the overall points total, the higher you finish in the rankings.

Where there are any ties, those are broken using each team’s winning percentage over the last 30, and then by their current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

And now it is time for the penultimate 2020 MLB Power Ranking here at The Bell. The final ranking will come on Monday, September 28 at the conclusion of the regular season and as team’s get set for an exciting, expanded postseason.


2020 SEPTEMBER 19 –  MLB RANKINGS

In parentheses below are each team’s current total ranking points:

  1. San Diego Padres (10)
  2. Oakland Athletics (23)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (28)
  4. Chicago Whites Sox (28)
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers (35)
  6. New York Yankees (37)
  7. Minnesota Twins (38)
  8. Cleveland Indians (41)
  9. Chicago Cubs (42)
  10. Atlanta Braves (46)
  11. Philadelphia Phillies (50)
  12. Milwaukee Brewers (54)
  13. San Francisco Giants (56)
  14. Saint Louis Cardinals (61)
  15. Toronto Blue Jays (62)
  16. New York Mets (64)
  17. Colorado Rockies (64)
  18. Miami Marlins (67)
  19. Los Angeles Angels (70)
  20. Houston Astros (72)
  21. Cincinnati Reds (73)
  22. Baltimore Orioles (76)
  23. Detroit Tigers (83)
  24. Seattle Mariners (84)
  25. Boston Red Sox (87)
  26. Arizona Diamondbacks (92)
  27. Kansas City Royals (93)
  28. Washington Nationals (98)
  29. Pittsburgh Pirates (106)
  30. Texas Rangers (107)

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