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Monday, June 27, 2022

Rosenthal: MLB’s expanded playoffs not yet boosting competition and the risk of trading with the Guardians [$]

One of Major League Baseball’s great promises in pushing for an expanded postseason was increased competition. A team on the fringes of contention might push for one of the additional wild-card spots, producing better pennant races.

Nearly halfway through the season, the competition is not looking so hot. Through Wednesday, 17 teams — 10 in the American League, seven in the National — were 10 or more games out of first place. Though the season started a week later, that total was the largest on that date in the wild-card era, which began in 1995. And the Yankees’ ridiculous 120-win pace, which had three teams with winning records 12 or more games out of first place in the AL East, was only partly responsible….

Six clubs — in order of ineptitude, the Athletics, Reds, Nationals, Royals, Cubs and Tigers — currently are on pace to lose 100 or more games. That number would be the highest since the league expanded to 30 clubs in 1998; the previous high was four, in 2002 and the two most recent full seasons, 2019 and 2021.

It’s not terribly likely that some of those teams will improve, not when all are virtually certain to part with some of their better players at the trade deadline. And if, say, the Cubs get hot — stop laughing — it might come partly at the expense of a division rival such as the Pirates, who are on a 94-loss pace.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 27, 2022 at 12:18 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: expanded playoffs

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   1. John DiFool2 Posted: June 27, 2022 at 07:30 AM (#6084044)
...producing better pennant races.

You keep on using that phrase. I don't think it means what you think it means.
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 27, 2022 at 09:43 AM (#6084058)
Of course, every year the situation could change - but in 2022, the expanded wild card is not likely to produce more will produce less.

The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays are all out of the division title chase, as a practical matter. However, the three are increasingly in very good shape for the three wild card slots. The problem with baseball compared to other sports is that the value of the #4 seed vs #5 or #6 is probably pretty minimal. There is a legit scenario in the AL where those three teams are largely doing a lot of "workload management", especially with their pitchers, during the month of September.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2022 at 10:14 AM (#6084060)
The problem with baseball compared to other sports is that the value of the #4 seed vs #5 or #6 is probably pretty minimal.

It would probably be better if you gave all three division winners a bye. #5 and #6 play an elimination game. Then the 5/6 winner plays three games vs. #4.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: June 27, 2022 at 05:08 PM (#6084140)
Wild cards do not increase "competition" or create "pennant races." Whatever tension they create in the battle for the last X playoff spots is balanced by the tension reduction for the best teams. Obviously the Dodgers are trying to win every game but they aren't exactly feeling a lot of competitive pressure. Give or take, regardless of how many playoff spots there are, the in-season competitive pressure exists for, what, 2-4 teams per league most of the time. The number of wild cards mainly just determine how good the teams under competitive pressure are -- the potential battle to win a division is now a potential battle to be the 6th-best team in the league. (Extreme thought experiment: give a playoff spot to every team that finishes above 500 and all of the end-of-season "excitement" will be for teams playing around 500.)

But sure, a season with the Yanks leading ALD1 by 10 games wasn't going to be very "exciting" so generating a bit of competition among the Twins, Guardian, Rays, Jays and, if they ever get their act together, White Sox can't hurt. On the other hand, the Red Sox, Rays and Jays have less incentive to try to catch up with the Yanks next year if they kow that 87 wins probably gets them in. (A feature not a bug in MLB's eyes.)

Where WCs do generate "excitement" (and revenue!) is in the playoffs themselves. Jays fans can dream about getting hot at the right time. They'll scream their heads off when the previously anonymous reliever comes on in the 5th inning to face the previously anonymous Christian Arroyo in a tough spot. Good for them, Canada needs all the excitement (and revenue!) it can get.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: June 27, 2022 at 05:24 PM (#6084145)
Not sure what the point about the Guardians was ... I assume that they do well in trades with some evidence provided. Regardless, I'm pretty impressed with this year's Guardians team which I didn't expect to be. The Cubs and Reds are in year 1 of a teardown meaning the kids aren't close to ready yet so they are lineups of washed up vets and AAA lifers. The Guardians jumped straight to youth and winning. Average position player age at b-r is 26. Even Jose Ramirez is still only 29. The only guy over 30 is backup C Luke Maile. I don't think any of these guys are uber-prospects but Gimenez is just 23, 25-yo Josh Naylor is having a very nice season as is 24-yo Oscar Gonzalez.

Pretty much the same story on the pitching side, the only guys over 30 getting any innings are relievers Bryan Shaw and Anthony Gose. They've got control of Bieber through 2024, a 5+2 buyout of Emmanuel Clase (shutting things down again) -- again, other than that no big names but not a lot of suckitude.

Sure, they're lucky to be in the ALC where only the White Sox have much real revenue potential and they seem determined to let this opportunity go to waste. With a weak division and the expanded playoffs, being the RaysLite will keep you in the hunt.

Yes, that's Anthony Gose the old glove/speed-only CF/PR from the Jays. He's K'd 12/9 in 26 IP so I guess he's got a gun. Can he still run?

EDIT: As I understand the criteria, Gose would not qualify as a 2-way player because he hasn't had any recent PAs. I think a guy like Gose (>1200 PA) should qualify.

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