Red Sox: Postseason hopes boosted by 16-team format
The Red Sox playoff hopes have improved with an expanded format.
The chances of seeing the Boston Red Sox in the postseason just got a bit brighter. The MLB and MLBPA reached an agreement today to expand the 2020 playoffs to 16 teams, effective for this season only.
In the expanded postseason, the top two teams from each division will qualify along with the two teams who have the best record but weren’t first or second in their division. The new format will do away with the Wild Card game and instead feature a first-round series consisting of 3 games, all played at the higher seed’s home ballpark. The winner of each of those games advance to a 5-game division series and we’re back to normal from there for the LDS, LCS, and World Series.
I usually don’t care much for large playoff pictures. I enjoy the exclusivity of it. I believe you have to earn your right to vie for a championship. You shouldn’t be able to skate by on mediocrity all season and still have a fair shot to win it all in the end. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks made the NFL postseason at 7-9 and I’m sick to my stomach just thinking about it.
But this season everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is different. We’ve got a 60-game regular season, a DH in the NL, and not a fan in the stands across the land. If there’s ever a time to test a new concept for the league, its this season. It also doesn’t hurt that this will absolutely give the Red Sox a better chance to sneak into the playoffs where there was otherwise little hope.
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Prior to the announcement of the expanded playoffs (when we all assumed just 10 teams would be in the postseason), the Red Sox had just the 7th best odds of making the A.L. postseason, according to FanGraphs. The Yankees (72.9%) and Rays (61.6%) both lead the Red Sox (33.9%) in the AL east.
But like Han Solo navigating an asteroid field, never tell me the odds. By the way, Han’s got an absolutely wipeout curveball.
There’s a clear class structure in the AL. You have the Yankees, Twins, and Astros at the top who will almost certainly win their respective divisions. The Rays, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, and A’s, and Angels in the middle who will by vying for a spot in the bracket. And the Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, and Mariners who nobody would give a snowballs’ chance in hell to make the postseason even with the expansion.
That essentially leaves 9 teams playing for 8 playoff spots. I like those chances for the Sox. And to be quite honest I mean both Sox – Red and White. The White Sox (who represent the 3rd highest percent chance to make the postseason out of the AL Central) are a lot of people’s dark horse team this year and will almost definitely find themselves in the playoffs at the end of the year.
If the Red Sox can just live up to a reasonable 31-29 projection, they should find themselves in the playoffs, too. Eovaldi might have to throw 300 innings over the course of two months to get them there (which he absolutely would be willing to do, that absolute psychopath), but it’s a realistic possibility. Without the help of this 16-team playoff, the Red Sox looked to be in dire straits. Now I have something I didn’t have much of for this team coming into the season, hope.
The NL is a bit more interesting (besides the West where the Dodgers are a consensus World Series Favorite) with a competitive East and Central Division. This expanded playoff will make the NL central and even closer contest. I could see any team except the Pirates coming out of there. With the new structure it could theoretically be every NL east team except the pirates which would be very funny.
Four teams from one division making the playoffs isn’t something any of us imagined a couple months ago, but hey none of this is. Love or hate the idea of an expanded postseason, let’s all just be happy that baseball is back. Play Ball!