Mapping out the White Sox’s potential postseason positions, opponents

It all comes down to this. The White Sox control their destiny, but by the thinnest of margins. Losing would extend their misery yet another season, but if they win, they can claim the biggest prize the game of baseball has to offer:

The Crosstown Cup.

A loss leads to a season series split with the Cubs, so the North Siders would retain ownership of the hardware for another year. But if the White Sox can knock off the Cubs one more time before the 2020 season comes to a close, they’ll reclaim that Mario Kart-assed trophy for the South Side.

We’ll see how much heart the Cubs pour into it. They’re locked into the National League’s No. 3 seed win or lose. Crosstown Cup aside, they have no vested interest in winning this game, at least if if it comes at the expense of high-leverage pitchers they’ll want fully rested for the wild card round.

For the White Sox, there are so many moving parts to track on the last day of the regular season.

If the postseason started today, the White Sox would hold home field advantage over the New York Yankees as the fourth seed. The Sox’s victory over the Cubs, combined with the Pirates’ shutout of the Indians, means that the White Sox control their own destiny when it comes to second place in the AL Central.

But there’s one more game left, and when the dust settles, the White Sox could be in one of four different seeds, because they can finish anywhere from first to third in their own division.

First place requires help. The Twins remain a game ahead going into the final day, and they’ll play the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have secured their own postseason berth, but they can finish the day anywhere from fifth to eighth depending on how the standings shake out, so unlike the Cubs, they have something to play for.

At the other extreme, the White Sox have locked in a better record than any of the non-Central runners up, so they’ll be a seventh seed at worst. In between, they can finish in two other positions, after which they’ll have one of six potential opponents depending on how the standings shake out.

Here are the possibilities:

SECOND SEED

How: White Sox win, Minnesota loses, Oakland loses. The White Sox hold the tiebreaker over the Twins because of their superior AL Central record.

They would play: Cleveland. Whichever Central team finishes in third place has the best record of any wild card candidate.

THIRD SEED

How: White Sox win, Minnesota loses, Oakland wins. The A’s would have the better intradivisional record by a game, as they went 26-14 in the AL West.

They would play: Houston. The Astros might finish under .500, but they’ve locked down second place in the AL West regardless.

FOURTH SEED

How: White Sox win, Minnesota wins OR White Sox lose, Cleveland loses. The Indians hold the tiebreaker over the White Sox by beating them in eight of 10 games. The White Sox have locked up the best record among non-Central runners-up. It’s just a matter of whether they finish second or third in their own division.

They would play: The Yankees or the Blue Jays. The Yankees can lock in the fifth spot with a win, but if they lose and the Blue Jays win, Toronto leaps ahead due to their superior record in the last 20 AL East games (12-8 to 11-9).

SEVENTH SEED

How: White Sox lose, Cleveland wins.

They would play: Minnesota or Oakland. The former if Minnesota beats Cincinnati, since the Twins lead Oakland by one game. If the Twins lose and Oakland wins, the White Sox would head to the Coliseum, as the A’s have the better intradivisional record.

* * * * * * * * *

With so many scenarios in play, all eyes will be on the scoreboard. All games will start at 2:05 p.m. Central in order to level the playing field, so the updates should be coming fast and furious. The good news? All of the teams the White Sox would like to lose are facing credible starters.

AL TeamOpponentStarterStarter
White SoxCubsReynaldo LópezAdbert Alzolay
TwinsRedsRich HillSonny Gray
AthleticsMarinersFrankie MontasMarco Gonzales
IndiansPiratesCal QuantrillJ.T. Brubaker
YankeesMarlinsClarke SchmidtJose Ureña
Blue JaysOriolesTanner RoarkKeegan Akin

And if you’d like the scenario in chart form, @DirtySox on Twitter provided an update this morning:

From here, your rooting interests come down to what you consider most important.

If your priority is the AL Central and the highest seed possible, then you’re rooting for a White Sox win, Minnesota and Oakland to lose. That ensures a first-round matchup with Cleveland no matter what.

If your priority is the AL Central pennant while avoiding a team with lethal right-handed starters, then you want a White Sox win, a Minnesota loss and an Oakland win.

If you’re not counting on the White Sox to win the AL Central, yet you don’t want them to back into the postseason, but you also want to avoid a team with lethal right-handed starters in the Wild Card round, you’re counting on a Minnesota win and rooting for a White Sox win, paired with a Toronto win while the Yankees lose. If the Yankees win, you’d have to hope that they bring the reasons for their awful road record to Chicago.

If you want the White Sox to face lefties above all else, then the A’s might be your team. That would require a White Sox loss, a Cleveland win, a Minnesota loss and an Oakland win. With Hill starting for the Twins today, it’s clear that he won’t be a part of any Minnesota wild card plans.

Personally, I think the A’s are flexible enough with pitching assignments to avoid steering their boat into the only truly dangerous course. The White Sox should be on guard for a bait-and-switch, and thus they should resist the four-dimensional chess. Here’s hoping the White Sox win, and if they end up lining up with the Indians for a best-of-three, here’s additional hoping they’ve absorbed the lessons from those four straight losses.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Neat_on_the_rocks

Its very Whitesox that probably the worst case scenario is them winning the division and the highest seed possible. 3rd seed is absolutely ideal. As first round matchup and opposite side of the bracket from Tampa. Plus, looking at it on paper, it sure looks like they’re better off just losing today. A loss today guarentees a matchup against MN, OAK, NYY, or ‘Toronto’. 2/4 are the ideal targets (OAK or Toronto) while the other two aren’t cleveland.

Icing on the cake of course, is that having said all that I expect the Whitesox to win today. I agree that ultimately they should just try to win and see what happens. With Quintana on the mound, advantage whitesox this afternoon. I dont expect either team to use their main bullpen arms though. so it could be a wild finish!

metasox

I would like to see the Sox play a series at home. Even without fans. It would feel like they won something.
Going East or West means the rookies venture to stadiums where they have never played and where no one else has played this season, FWIW. Perhaps there is some home field factor in that. That experience can wait for the SoCal bubble.

Oddvark

If the Sox win today, they play at home. If they lose, they travel.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

There have been more manned missions to the moon than White Sox division titles. Gimme the division title. Win something that flys forever and deal with the consequences whatever they may be.

If the Sox think this is the start of a stretch of playoff appearances they’re going to have to figure out how to deal with good pitching in the postseason regardless. Might as well start learning those lessons now.

Foulkelore

Ok, definitely rooting for: Sox win, Minnesota loss, and Oakland win today. I’d like them to win the division, but really want them to avoid the best scenario (odd), so they don’t play Cleveland. I also don’t want them playing Oakland in Oakland. Fans in the stands haven’t exactly been the key factor throughout the years as it relates to their struggles in the Coliseum.

HallofFrank

Yeah, this is the easy scenario to cheer for, for me.

Oddvark
Foulkelore

As a helpful tip to those using this, the start block should be above the “Did the Sox win?” block.

GrinnellSteve

I’ll be happy if the Sox open against Houston. That said, we can’t get too caught up in trying to game this out. I just want the Sox to win the division because that is an accomplishment. If that means they play Cleveland, so be it. They’re beatable. My other wish is that the Yankees finish as the 8 seed.

I hope Jose hits 4 homers today and puts an exclamation point on an MVP season. And I want to see a Lopez perfect game.