Five Teams That Could’ve, and Should’ve, Made the 2019 MLB Playoffs

These five teams had the talent on their rosters to make the playoffs. Instead their off-seasons will start early as they prepare for 2020.

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For all but 10 teams, the 2019 baseball season wrapped up on September 29, with the postseason beginning today. While there weren’t many surprises as to who made it in, let’s take a look at some teams that did not make it. Some of these teams collapsed late, while others came up just short. As a result, look for some changes within these organizations. In no particular order:

Cleveland Indians

If the Minnesota Twins weren’t one of the best teams in the league, the Indians surely would’ve made it into the playoffs. For short spans, the Indians were well within striking distance of the Twins, but could never truly get over the hump. During the early stages of August, Cleveland managed to beat Minnesota twice in three games on the road. However, they would win only one in their next head-to-head series back in Cleveland.

The Indians then rattled off six wins in the next eight games to keep up their Wild Card chances, but then lost their final five games of the season.

A major factor in them missing the playoffs was due to health of key players. Fans were hyped when the season began with the Indians owning one of the best pitching rotations in the league. Most of those players would end up on the IL at some point during the season, including Carlos Carrasco dealing with Leukemia and Trevor Bauer traded to the Cincinnati Reds. The offense wasn’t the issue as Cleveland finished the season with a +112 run differential.

Shane Bieber provided a needed spark throughout the year, finishing with a 15-8 record. The Indians also won another 13 games when Mike Clevinger was on the mound, losing just four as he ended up with a 2.71 ERA to lead the rotation. Many of the Indians’ close losses came from blown saves when Brad Hand pitched, although he still recorded 34 saves as their lone closer.

The Indians have made it as far as the World Series in 2016 recently, only to lose a heartbreaker to the Chicago Cubs on their home field. Since then, they haven’t made it past the ALDS, including being swept by the Astros in 2018. The Indians snapped a three-year streak of making it to the postseason by missing out on the Wild Card this year.

Boston Red Sox

For as good as the Red Sox were last season (winning the World Series), they struggled this year. They were eliminated long before the regular season concluded, finishing 12 games back of making the Wild Card spot. This wasn’t their worst team of the decade though, having finished fifth in the AL East in 2014-15 with 71 wins and 78 wins, respectively.

Boston wasn’t bad on the road, posting a 46-35 record, but they lacked the same results at Fenway. They finished under .500 at home with a 38-43 record, narrowly avoiding being swept by the Twins, Yankees, Giants, and Orioles in the month of August. The Red Sox still had offensive weapons that produced as expected with Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts, among others.

Bogaerts led the team with 117 RBI’s, followed by Rafael Devers with 115 RBI’s and Martinez with 105 RBI’s. That trio recorded at least 30 home runs individually and each finished with a .304 batting average or higher.

The pitching for Boston was another story as Chris Sale had glimmers of being an ace, but finished with a 6-11 record and was put on the IL. Sale ended up with a 4.40 ERA, the worst of his 10 years in the league. Eduardo Rodriguez was their only consistent savior, winning 19 games on the mound, winning 76 percent of his games. Three other veterans (Rick Porcello, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi) combined for a 23-18 record.

One bright spot, in terms of pitching, came in the form of Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden. Workman was the Red Sox closer but also earned 10 wins in 11 chances, had a 1.88 ERA and earned another 16 saves. As a reliever, Walden also picked up nine wins in 11 attempts, finishing with a 3.81 ERA and earned a couple of saves as well.

New York Mets

For Mets fans, the only thing they can truly celebrate this season is the power that Pete Alonso brought to the plate. It’s been well documented of Alonso’s success, including winning an epic Home Run Derby. In a year where the baseball flew out of the park in record fashion, Alonso contributed with 53 of his own, setting a new rookie record in the process. Alonso finished the year with 120 RBI’s on 155 hits and scored 103 times, leading the Mets in all three categories.

Behind him were veteran Todd Frazier (21 home runs), J.D. Davis (22 home runs), and Jeff McNeil (23 home runs) before being placed on the IL. The Mets finished up with 86 wins, just three shy of making the second Wild Card. They, like many teams in the league, had a much better home record consisting of 48 wins compared to 33 losses.

For much of the season, making the playoffs seemed like it would be only something achieved in a dream. Then, the Mets caught fire by winning 17 of 20 games from late July through the middle of August. They finished the season by sweeping the NL East Atlanta Braves and won seven of their last 10 games.

While the offense was clicking during stretches of the season, the pitching rotation left a lot to be desired. Jacob DeGrom had an 11-8 record, as did Zack Wheeler, followed by Noah Syndergaard at 10-8 and Steven Matz with an 11-10 record. The Mets traded with the Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman, who produced from time to time, finishing with a 4-2 record.

The Mets haven’t been to the postseason since 2016 when they lost in the Wild Card to the Giants. The year previous, they made it to the World Series but lost in five games to the Kansas City Royals. While the Mets season is over, theres a lot of hope with their young group, finishing with one of their best seasons with 86 wins.

Chicago Cubs

This year the NL Central remained crowded until the very end. With about one month left in the season, it looked like two, if not three teams could be playing in October. The Cubs led the Central a good chunk of the season, despite playing .500 baseball for much of the second half. Their lead slowly evaporated as the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers would go on hot streaks, but there wasn’t much worry about the team until the end. The Cubs tallied one of the worst away records in the league, finishing up at 33-48.

Back home at Wrigley, the Cubs won 51 games, fourth-best in the league behind the L.A. Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros. While the Cubs weren’t healthy down the stretch, a complete collapse ended up ousting the Cubs from playoff contention. Chicago salvaged their final week by beating the Cardinals twice at Busch Stadium, but ultimately lost 10 of their last 12 games, six coming at home. In that span, five of those losses were by one run, with the other by two runs.

The Cubs missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, having made the Wild Card twice, getting to the NLCS twice and winning the World Series in 2016. As a result of their collapse in the final month, Joe Maddon’s contract wasn’t renewed and the team is expected to look a lot different in the future, with several players’ contracts up.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant led the team with 38 home runs and 31 home runs, respectively. Trailing them were Javier Baez (29), Anthony Rizzo (27), Wilson Contreras (24), and Jayson Heyward (21). Chicago finished the season with a +97 run differential, despite owning an 84-78 record.

In terms of pitching, the Cubs had three starters finish with double-digit wins including Jon Lester (13), Kyle Hendricks (11), and Jose Quintana (11). Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish combined for another 13 wins, while Darvish pitched much better down the stretch but didn’t have the offense to back him. An inconsistent bullpen led to numerous guys getting more innings on the mound while Craig Kimbrel ended up with 13 saves, followed by Pedro Strop with 10.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies make this list because there was some hope they could make it into the postseason coming into 2019. They added names like Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Corey Dickerson, and Jay Bruce to the lineup. McCutchen was on the IL most of the second half, along with Dickerson, both former Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen finished his season with 10 home runs and 29 RBI’s, while Dickerson went yard eight times and drove in 34.

The Harper experiment paid off in part with him leading the team with 35 dingers and 114 RBI’s. The only other players close to the numbers were J.T. Realmuto (also his first year in Philly) with 25 home runs and 83 RBI’s, and Rhys Hoskins with 29 home runs and 85 RBI’s.

The team record would suggest otherwise with the Phillies finishing exactly at .500 with 81 wins mirrored by 81 losses. They finished out their season by losing seven of their final 10 and ended up eight games out of Wild Card contention.

The big story for the Phillies surrounded their pitching staff, and how inconsistent they were. Aaron Nola had a 12-7 record with a sub-4.00 ERA, but that was really the only highlight. Jake Arrieta ended his season on the IL but had an 8-8 record, while Zach Eflin (also regarded as an ace) had a 10-13 record. As the closer, Hector Neris earned 28 saves through 67.2 innings of work.

While this season wasn’t regarded as a total bust, the offense didn’t live up to its potential and the pitching was subpar. The acquisition of Harper really sparked the Phillies fan base, but it’ll take more than just him to put this team contending for the NL East crown. The Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since 2011 but did finish tied for their best record since.

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