We're now in the final week of the 2020 MLB regular season, and even though time is running out the standings remain wonderfully muddled, especially in the National League. Thanks in part to the expanded 16-team postseason, we've got multiple playoff spots still up for grabs, and bear in mind there are no tiebreaker games for 2020. So to set the scene for the possible madness to come, let's run down the five most important series left on the ever-dwindling regular season schedule.
These five series will go a long way toward determining the final playoff field.
1. Brewers at Reds, three games, Sept. 21-23
Going into Monday's slate, the Reds, Brewers, and Giants are all .500 and in essence tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NL. That "in essence" qualifier is quite important. As just mentioned, the compressed 2020 baseball calendar allows for no tiebreaker games, so ties for seeding, division titles, and even final playoff spots will be determined by the following method:
Head-to-head record (if applicable).
Record in final 20 division games (plus one until the tie is broken).
Now let's take a look at how these tiebreakers currently stand, in table format for easy digestion:
4-3 vs. MIL
3-4 vs. CIN
Since teams play regional schedules in 2020 -- 40 games against division rivals and 20 more against the corresponding division in the other league (e.g., NL East vs. AL East) -- the Giants don't have any head-to-head games against the Reds or Brewers. So to break such cross-division ties, you go to intradivisional record. The Giants come up short in that regard (although, as we'll soon see, they have a chance to change that).
As for the Reds, they also hold the edge over the Brewers thanks to their winning four of seven head-to-head games against Milwaukee. That's why the Reds right now are in possession of the last playoff spot in the NL -- they win tiebreakers against the Brewers and Giants. The three-game set in Cincy between the Brewers and Reds, however, could obviously change all of that. In particular, if the Brewers can take two of three against the Reds, then the script would flip. Depending upon how the Giants fare in their four-game home series against the Rockies, Milwaukee would have a one game lead over the Reds, even the season series against the Cincy, and push the tiebreaker between the two teams all the way to the "last 20 games +1" level (the Reds would still hold that tiebreaker for the moment). Should the Reds take two of three, then the Brewers would be in a bad spot going into the final series of the season -- a five-gamer in St. Louis.