The 2020 Major League Baseball season is winding down. The shortened 60-game regular season is set to wrap up in less than two weeks, on Sunday, Sept. 27. There are still several spots in the expanded 16-team postseason field that remain up for grabs, so we're going to see a lot of close finishes in the coming days.
Here's a closer look at some of the biggest stories from the last week in baseball, with each one receiving a buy/sell decision:
Buy: Conforto's offensive breakout
The New York Mets are still fighting for a spot in the postseason. Entering Tuesday, New York is just 2.5 games out of the final NL Wild Card spot. Despite actually putting together a solid team on the field, the Mets have been struggling to get (and stay) at or above .500 this season. They've got a plus-four run differential, and they lead the entire league in batting average (.278) and on-base percentage (.354). But, with a shaky bullpen and some gaps in their rotation, the Mets could miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. It's apparently just in typical bizarre Mets fashion.
If the Mets do rally for a postseason spot, their right fielder will have a lot to do with it.
Michael Conforto is one of the club's homegrown players, drafted by the club in 2014. Behind Jacob deGrom, Conforto has the second-best WAR (2.2) on the team. The 27-year-old has put together an impressive 2020 campaign, and it appears as if everything's finally clicking for Conforto.
Conforto has always had the potential to hit consistently, but this season, he's actually been able to stay hot thanks to improvement against left-handed pitching and overall improvement on his contact for pitches in the strike zone. He's got a .343/.428/.566 (172 OPS+) slash line with 22 extra-base hits and 99 total bases. For the month of September, he's hitting .404/.446/.731 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games.
And as far as defense goes:
Conforto could garner a few National League MVP votes at the end of this season, and could even push for a contract extension this offseason. He's set to become a free agent following the 2021 season. The fact that Conforto isn't showing any signs of slowing down should bode well for the Mets.
The race of the National League West crown is on. After eight straight wins, the San Diego Padres are closing in on the Los Angeles Dodgers for the top spot in the division. If the Padres were to dethrone the Dodgers, it would be the first time in eight years that the division had a new champion. But, honestly, it's tough to see that happening. I'm all for the Padres adding some excitement to a division race, but I'm selling on the Padres dethroning the Dodgers.
The rivals will close out a three-game series (Padres took game one on Monday) this week in San Diego. While a six-game division lead dropping down to just 1.5 for L.A. is concerning, I think that the Dodgers are still going to close it out. According to Sportsline, the Padres hold a 18.9 percent chance of winning the division while the Dodgers are at 81.1 percent.
If we're really being honest here, the rivalry may have been prematurely cited as rekindled. Don't get me wrong, I love watching the Padres, and think they've got the players to help them go on a deep run in the playoffs. But the Dodgers are just the more experienced club. They're the overwhelming World Series favorites, while the Padres are going to make their first postseason appearance since 2006.
Buy: Concern about Cleveland's slide
This past week, Cleveland hit a rough patch. The club went 3-7 in its last 10 games, and three of those losses came to the last-place Royals. Here's how it went for the Cleveland ball club:
- Sept. 8: Lost to Royals, 8-6
- Sept. 9: Lost to Royals, 3-0
- Sept. 10: Lost to Royals, 11-1
- Sept. 11: Lost to Twins, 3-1
- Sept. 12: Lost to Twins, 8-4
- Sept. 13: Lost to Twins, 7-5
In this past week's slate of games, Cleveland has hit just .210/.272/.315 with two home runs. The Cleveland lineup struck out 45 times. We know that the backbone of Cleveland's 2020 team is starting pitching, led by AL Cy Young frontrunner Shane Bieber. But the offense can't continue to slump this badly, and this close to the playoffs.
As of Tuesday, Cleveland still has a postseason spot. But, the team's chances of winning the division are nearly gone. The Chicago White Sox have been hot, and the Minnesota Twins have rebounded from a rough patch last month to get back in the AL Central race. According to Sportsline, here's how the division and postseason odds look for the division:
I would say that based on their past week's performance, I'm buying the concerns for Cleveland heading forward. The lackluster offense gives enough reason to be concerned that this club could squander a playoff series.
Cleveland will end its season with a schedule that includes series against top clubs in the Cubs and White Sox along with series against the rebuilding Tigers and Pirates. The pressure to get things going at the plate is mounting for Cleveland's lineup.