First Pitch: Who Makes the Playoffs in a 60-Game Season?

With a 60-game season, there is a thought that almost any team has a chance to make the playoffs if they can go on a hot streak. A strong 20-game run could easily get lost over a 162-game season, but in 2020, that 1/3rd of a team’s schedule.

That thought got me interested in thinking about teams that may have had their best streaks after 60 games have already been played. The Pirates have made the playoffs 17 times in their history and they won the NL outright in 1901 and 1902 before the World Series existed. Below is a look at how those 19 teams stood after 60 games. While ten teams make the playoffs now, I used the rules of the time to determine whether or not they would still make it to the postseason.

1901: This is a little tough to do because the Pirates were up by one game when they played their 60th game. They were ahead of New York, who had weather issues limit them to just 52 games at the time. I looked at it two ways, how the Giants did through 60 games and then how they did in the makeup games from the earlier postponed ones. Either way the Pirates came out on top, so I’m giving them the title still.

1902: Pirates had an 11-game lead through 60 games. Keep in mind that this was their best season ever.

1903: Another title, this one in another close race with the Giants.

1909: Another title, with the fun fact that in a 60-game season, they would have finished their season on the same day that Forbes Field opened.

1925: The Pirates and Giants would have been tied through 60 games, with 37-23 records. I looked at this three ways and all favored the Giants. The next game between the two teams, the next series and the remaining season series. Giants won all three, so if fantasy 60-game season world, the 1925 title doesn’t exist (sad face).

1927: Here’s another interesting one. After 60 games, Pirates had a 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals, with the difference being a tie game. You can look at this two ways, which both lead to Pirates winning. Game 61 was against the Cardinals and the Pirates won, so that could be considered the tiebreaker. If you take the next game against the tied team (Braves), then Pirates lost. You would then still do the tiebreaker game, which they won. The actual season didn’t end much different, with the Pirates only winning by 1.5 games.

1960: The Pirates would have won by three games and Maz still hits his home run, just that it would have happened in July (I know, zero percent chance the series would play out the same, stop being a killjoy)

1971: Pirates still win, but just barely. They played first place St Louis and won three straight, which were games 58-60. They trailed going into the series.

1972: Another close won that they would have still won. Pirates were in second place a week prior to game 60.

1974: No playoffs here. Pirates were 26-34 at the 60-game mark, six games out.

1975: The Pirates were 36-24 after 60 and had a comfortable lead.

1979: We just covered this game recently in our 1979 season series. No playoffs here, Pirates were five games back. Second title that wouldn’t have happened.

1990: Pirates had a two-game lead over the Montreal Expos after 60 games.

1991: A 38-22 record gave them a comfortable six-game lead in the NL East.

1992: A 35-25 record gave them a comfortable five-game lead in the NL East.

2013: Nothing changes here except where the Wild Card game would be played. Still Pirates vs Reds, but Reds had a one-game lead.

2014: No playoffs here, they were 29-31 after 60 games.

2015: Nothing changes here except the Wild Card opponent. Wouldn’t have been the Cubs making it. Instead we would have got Pirates at home versus Giants in the Wild Card game. Since they didn’t make it in 2014, then this wouldn’t have been a rematch of the actual 2014 WC game.

So if they always played 60 games and nothing changed, the Pirates would have missed the playoffs four times and lost two World Series titles. I did not go through all of the other seasons to see where they may have picked up a playoff appearance, so we aren’t talking about them only have 13 playoff appearances and two NL titles (1901-02) if we revised history. For example, they would have went to the 1921 World Series in a 60-game schedule because they had a five-game lead over the Giants at that point. They also would have been in the playoffs in 1997, winning by one game. This list only includes the seasons in which they made the postseason.

**We will have at least four articles today, including the one you’re currently reading. If any news comes up, we will have more. The other scheduled articles for today are as follows:

This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History – Birthdays and a trade. Included are John Wehner and Burgess Whitehead. Everyone knows the former, but Whitehead has one of the craziest career home run stats you’ll ever see.

Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History – The Los Angeles, California, Anaheim, Los Angeles Angels edition.

1979 Season Recap – The Pirates take on the Expos in an important mid-season game.

Hope everyone has a great start to their week!




How about some 1925 World Series highlights because it actually did happen

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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