Tuesday, Sept. 29, Major League Baseball will make history. Not because of the new playoff format or the shortened season or even the Rays winning their division over the Yankees. No, this Tuesday, the baseball playoffs, NBA playoffs, WNBA playoffs and possibly the NHL playoffs will all be happening at the same time. A sports experience such as this is not only exciting from a historical standpoint but also from a sports fan’s perspective.
Usually in late September and early October, sports fans get treated to the MLB playoffs and the NFL, NBA and NHL regular season. Thanks to COVID-19 though, this year fans will get what will probably be a once in a lifetime convergence: four professional sports playing for their respective championships all at the same time.
While the WNBA, NHL and NBA playoffs have been going on for a while, the MLB is showing up a little late to the party. This year’s MLB playoffs look a little different than what baseball fans are used too. For starters, instead of 10 teams qualifying for the postseason, 16 teams have made it to the playoffs this year.
As usual, the three division winners from the National and American League are in, but this year the three division runners-up from the both leagues also qualified, as well as the two remaining teams with the next best records in both Leagues, also known as wild-card teams.
Another major change is the structure of the playoffs themselves. Usually there are two wild-card games, where the winner of each goes on to play a five-game series against the division winner with the best overall record, while the other two division winners play each other in a best-of-five series. This year though, each team will have to play a best-of-three series to make it to the best-of-five divisional series. This change is going to create huge upset potential, as well as lots of excitement and high stakes games.
This also means that the seeding of the teams is crucial to their first-round matchups. Enter one of the major controversies of the MLB playoffs.
Seeding is normally based on record, where the team with the best overall record is a one-seed, the team with the second-best overall record is a two-seed and so on. In the regular 10-team MLB playoff format though, the two wildcard teams aren’t always the two teams with the worst records in the playoffs.
It is possible for division winners to have worse records than wild-card teams, but most of the time this isn’t the case, and when it is no one has a problem with it because division winners won their division and therefore deserve to be seeded higher. This year though, the addition of more teams creates a giant seeding problem.
The three division winners are the top three seeds, while the division runners-up get the next three seeds and the wild card teams are the last two seeds. If you went off of each team’s individual record though, the playoff seeding would look drastically different.
For example, the Chicago White Sox have a 35-25 regular season record and came in third in their division, making them the seven-seed, while the New York Yankees have a 33-27 record but since they came in second in their division, they get to be the five-seed.
Chicago has to play the two seeded Athletics, while the Yankees are playing Cleveland who are the four-seed. Depending on the outcomes of these three-game series, a lot of fans are going to be very angry, whether it’s because their team lost to an opponent that should’ve been seeded higher, or their team lost because they should’ve played a higher seeded team.
Looking past the seeding complications, there are a lot of exciting matchups and potential upsets in this year’s first round. A short best-of-three series means that there is little room for error.
It gives a lot of teams who might be weaker on paper the chance to potentially knock out some of the stronger teams by playing two great games. Some teams to watch out for are the aforementioned White Sox, who have two great pitchers in Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito, as well as the League RBI leader Jose Abreu.
The Cleveland Indians, who are also in the American League, are entering the playoffs on a hot streak, winning eight of their last 10 games.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the team to beat, coming into the postseason with the best record in Major League Baseball and an embarrassing amount of stars including Mookie Betts, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Cody Bellinger.
The Padres are another impressive team, and though they lack playoff experience, they have an impressive offense that includes Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.
With the new format, this year’s MLB playoffs promise to be exciting, featuring an array of potential upsets, pitching duels, high powered offenses and high stakes competition. Last year’s champions, the Washington Nationals, didn’t make the playoffs this year, which means there’ll be a new champion crowned in 2020.