Part of the MLB’s plan for 2020 may include an expanded 14 playoff teams. For the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020, this would help their chances in a big way.
The St. Louis Cardinals made the playoffs in 2019 for the first time since 2015 and while they made it to the NLCS, fans were still somehow disappointed with the season’s results. This could be because the team was carried by a stellar pitching staff that covered for a shotty offense that sputtered at the end of the season.
As much last year’s Cardinals team was flawed, they won the division and they made it out of the NLDS. This is yet another example of how a hot team in the postseason is way more dangerous than a cold team with better talent.
The more talented Dodgers were steamrolled by the red-hot Nationals and the… less talented Cardinals were… also steamrolled by the Nationals. Just like the Cardinals in 2006, the 2019 Nationals proved that all you need is to get in the postseason. Even if it’s the one-game Wild Card game.
So, in what will be a shortened 2020 MLB season, the MLB will apparently consider expanding this year’s playoff field to 14 teams rather than the current 10. For the Cardinals in 2020, this would be a great thing.
This offseason, expanded playoffs were discussed as a permanent thing, and I wrote about possible benefits here.
With a shortened season, this becomes an even better idea.
Even if the regular season is pushed back into mid-October, a full 162 games won’t be played. While ideas about shortening the season have been floating around for years, there are many times that a team’s full identity takes the entire year to be flushed out.
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If the playoffs were expanded by another two teams per league, the Cardinals would’ve made the playoffs every year of the past decade. Just get in, and you always have a chance.
I want to revisit the claim that expanding playoffs would disincentivize teams to build the best ones they can because they can still make the playoffs with a worse team. Look at the NHL. Over the course of their long playoffs, the pretenders are very clearly outed most years. Sure, you get upsets every once in a while, but teams that are built to just “make the playoffs” don’t usually make it very far.
The other result of expanding the playoffs is that just making the playoffs is no longer such a high expectation and doesn’t warrant as much praise. As the bar lowers, the expectations go with it. Everything will adjust.
For a team full of question marks like the 2020 Cardinals are, playing just well enough to make the playoffs may be their best bet to see what exactly they have in terms of talent. Putting pressure on their young outfielders to perform in a shortened season will help quickly figure out who’s got what it takes.
Playing as many regular season games as possible is all you can do, but expanding the playoffs will let the identities of each team come out more. The teams that deserve it the most will have more time to prove that. The cream always rises to the top.
Before I use any more clichés, I want to reiterate that I believe a 14-team playoff would be best for the league in 2020. It will be an odd year regardless of what happens, but changing up the playoff format (at least for this year) may be the best option for the health of the league.