Let’s Try To Make Expanded Playoffs Not Stink

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t tell you with any kind of certainty when the 2022 season will start or how many games will be played. I can’t even definitively say if there will be a season at all. But one thing seems nearly inevitable: When we have baseball, it’s not going to be identical to the product we saw last year. For one, the designated hitter, used for the shortened 2020 season in the National League, appears likely to become a permanent part of both leagues, ending the doctrinal schism between the junior and senior circuits. Another likely difference? The playoff structure.

It’s no secret that the owners are highly interested in expanding the playoffs again. Over at The Athletic, Kaitlyn McGrath, David O’Brien, and Katie Woo teamed up to discuss the various goings-on here. The owners have proposed expanding the playoffs to 14 teams, with only the team with the best record in each league getting a bye and everyone else thrown into a best-of-three Wild Card series. The players, meanwhile, have proposed conceding an expanded playoff structure of 12 teams, with multiple byes for top teams.

From the standpoint of the owners’ interests, the best teams winning often isn’t necessarily the ideal outcome. The World Series championship is basically a MacGuffin. MLB doesn’t need it to actually be important, it just needs the public to believe it is. And since the public appears to believe that the best team will win a short series far more often than it actually does, the more teams you can stuff into a postseason without making it seem like chance (rather than talent) is driving the outcome, the better. Who cares if a 107-win team loses two of three games to an 83-win team? They were probably chokers anyway!

The side effect is that the more a team’s goals (reaching the playoffs, winning a championship) become tied to randomness rather than ability, the less value ability itself has, and the less teams will pay for it. The MLBPA is no doubt aware of this dynamic, as they’ve proposed expanded playoff structures that give large advantages to all division winners, not just a single team in each league. From the point of view of the players, an ideal playoff structure would increase revenues — with a payment structure that ensures they aren’t once again left out of the growing pie — while not reducing the value of stars.

So, let’s test this out. First, let’s start with the current ZiPS projected standings for 2022. It doesn’t matter that these rosters are far from complete. We’re trying to see relative changes due to differing playoff structures, so we just need a league with a fairly typical distribution of talent. We have some great teams, some good ones, some mediocre ones, some lousy ones, and the Colorado Rockies, so I think we’ve got a good mix for experimentation.

For each team, I’m first looking at their projected probability of making the playoffs and winning the World Series, based on the current rosters. Then, I’m looking at how these probabilities change if I run each million-season simulation 30 times, adding four wins to the team’s projection. We use 4 WAR as a rule of thumb for calling a player an All-Star, so call this the star dividend (SD):

ZiPS Projected Playoff Probability, Current League Structure
Team Playoff% WS Win% Playoff% (SD) WS Win% (SD) Playoff Diff WS Diff
Los Angeles Dodgers 87.9% 12.2% 95.8% 16.7% 7.9% 4.5%
New York Yankees 74.3% 8.4% 88.4% 12.8% 14.1% 4.4%
Houston Astros 81.6% 10.9% 92.4% 15.3% 10.8% 4.4%
Atlanta Braves 70.3% 7.7% 85.6% 11.7% 15.3% 4.0%
Toronto Blue Jays 63.8% 6.2% 81.4% 10.1% 17.6% 3.9%
San Diego Padres 70.4% 6.9% 85.9% 10.8% 15.5% 3.9%
Tampa Bay Rays 61.7% 5.9% 79.7% 9.7% 18.0% 3.8%
Chicago White Sox 74.8% 8.0% 88.1% 11.7% 13.3% 3.7%
St. Louis Cardinals 65.5% 6.8% 82.0% 10.4% 16.5% 3.6%
New York Mets 58.7% 5.6% 77.2% 9.2% 18.5% 3.6%
Milwaukee Brewers 57.7% 5.5% 76.6% 8.9% 18.9% 3.4%
Boston Red Sox 30.5% 2.2% 50.3% 4.4% 19.8% 2.2%
Oakland A’s 24.8% 1.8% 43.7% 3.9% 18.9% 2.1%
Los Angeles Angels 24.7% 1.8% 43.6% 3.8% 18.9% 2.0%
Philadelphia Phillies 23.5% 1.7% 42.5% 3.6% 19.0% 1.9%
Seattle Mariners 17.4% 1.2% 33.9% 2.8% 16.5% 1.6%
Cincinnati Reds 17.3% 1.2% 34.0% 2.8% 16.7% 1.6%
Cleveland Guardians 17.5% 1.3% 34.2% 2.8% 16.7% 1.5%
San Francisco Giants 19.7% 1.2% 36.9% 2.7% 17.2% 1.5%
Miami Marlins 15.8% 1.0% 31.6% 2.5% 15.8% 1.5%
Detroit Tigers 10.4% 0.7% 22.9% 1.7% 12.6% 1.0%
Minnesota Twins 8.8% 0.6% 20.5% 1.5% 11.7% 0.9%
Chicago Cubs 6.8% 0.4% 17.2% 1.2% 10.4% 0.8%
Kansas City Royals 6.7% 0.4% 16.6% 1.2% 9.9% 0.8%
Washington Nationals 4.3% 0.2% 11.8% 0.8% 7.5% 0.6%
Texas Rangers 3.0% 0.2% 9.1% 0.6% 6.1% 0.4%
Arizona Diamondbacks 1.5% 0.1% 5.5% 0.3% 4.0% 0.2%
Pittsburgh Pirates 0.3% 0.0% 1.8% 0.1% 1.5% 0.1%
Baltimore Orioles 0.1% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0%
Colorado Rockies 0.1% 0.0% 0.7% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0%

Not surprisingly, the best teams in baseball get the most significant championship boost from the star dividend. The best teams are already likely to make the playoffs, and adding four additional wins allows them to vanquish their division rivals more often. The teams with the largest jumps in playoff percentage, meanwhile, are generally around .500 or a little above, like the Red Sox, Phillies, Athletics, and Angels.

In the current playoff structure, the star dividend for an average team is 13.0 percentage points of playoff probability and 2.1 percentage points of championship probability, while the average World Series champ ended up with 94.1 wins.

Now, let’s look at another recent season, the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Under that season’s playoff structure, we had a 16-team playoff format and no byes. The owners haven’t even proposed this one publicly, but it’s a notable contrast to the current system:

ZiPS Projected Playoff Probability, 16 Teams
Team Playoff% WS Win% Playoff% (SD) WS Win% (SD) Playoff Diff WS Diff
Los Angeles Dodgers 98.1% 8.6% 99.7% 10.5% 1.6% 1.9%
New York Yankees 91.7% 7.0% 97.5% 8.9% 5.8% 1.9%
Houston Astros 94.2% 7.6% 98.4% 9.4% 4.2% 1.8%
Toronto Blue Jays 86.7% 6.1% 94.9% 7.9% 8.2% 1.8%
Tampa Bay Rays 85.2% 5.9% 94.3% 7.7% 9.1% 1.8%
Atlanta Braves 91.3% 6.5% 97.2% 8.2% 5.9% 1.7%
San Diego Padres 92.9% 6.6% 97.9% 8.3% 5.0% 1.7%
New York Mets 85.7% 5.5% 94.6% 7.2% 8.9% 1.7%
Boston Red Sox 60.4% 3.4% 78.9% 5.1% 18.5% 1.7%
St. Louis Cardinals 89.4% 5.8% 96.4% 7.5% 7.0% 1.7%
Milwaukee Brewers 85.9% 5.3% 94.6% 6.9% 8.7% 1.6%
Oakland A’s 53.1% 2.8% 72.7% 4.4% 19.6% 1.6%
Los Angeles Angels 53.2% 2.8% 72.7% 4.4% 19.5% 1.6%
Philadelphia Phillies 56.0% 2.8% 75.1% 4.4% 19.1% 1.6%
Seattle Mariners 42.3% 2.1% 62.6% 3.6% 20.3% 1.5%
San Francisco Giants 51.7% 2.5% 71.4% 4.0% 19.7% 1.5%
Miami Marlins 43.8% 2.1% 64.5% 3.5% 20.7% 1.4%
Cincinnati Reds 46.8% 2.2% 67.3% 3.6% 20.5% 1.4%
Cleveland Guardians 45.8% 2.0% 66.3% 3.4% 20.5% 1.4%
Detroit Tigers 31.9% 1.3% 51.7% 2.5% 19.8% 1.2%
Minnesota Twins 28.9% 1.2% 48.2% 2.3% 19.3% 1.1%
Chicago Cubs 25.8% 1.1% 44.9% 2.1% 19.1% 1.0%
Kansas City Royals 23.6% 1.0% 41.8% 1.9% 18.2% 0.9%
Washington Nationals 18.0% 0.8% 35.0% 1.7% 17.0% 0.9%
Texas Rangers 11.9% 0.5% 26.0% 1.3% 14.1% 0.8%
Arizona Diamondbacks 9.6% 0.4% 22.0% 1.0% 12.4% 0.6%
Chicago White Sox 90.6% 5.9% 92.6% 6.3% 2.0% 0.4%
Pittsburgh Pirates 3.4% 0.1% 9.9% 0.4% 6.5% 0.3%
Colorado Rockies 1.6% 0.1% 5.8% 0.2% 4.2% 0.1%
Baltimore Orioles 0.6% 0.0% 2.6% 0.1% 2.0% 0.1%

The value of the star dividend toward winning a World Series drops by more than 40%, from 2.1 percentage points to 1.3. To keep the value of that star constant in the simulations in terms of championship value, that star would have to be worth 6.2 wins rather than the four wins I’ve been using. It’s just like when your favorite cookie brand reduces the number of cookies in a package from 64 to 56; you get less of a boost to your team with a better player. Nor does an overall playoff boost compensate for the loss in World Series benefit. The star dividend for playoff appearances also drops, from 13.0 to 12.6 percentage points. With more teams bunched as you get closer to .500, randomness plays a more prominent role.

The seasonal wins of the average World Series champion also drops by nearly three wins, from 94.1 to 91.4 wins. In other words, the typical team getting drenched in champagne in late October is about three wins worse under this scenario.

Given that the owners really want a larger playoff field and the players have quite a few other things they would like concessions on, I expect an expansion to 14 teams is the most likely. Here’s how the numbers shake out for the owners’ 14-team, one-bye playoff format:

ZiPS Projected Playoff Probability, 14 Teams, One Bye per League
Team Playoff% WS Win% Playoff% (SD) WS Win% (SD) Playoff Diff WS Diff
Los Angeles Dodgers 95.8% 10.6% 98.9% 13.8% 3.1% 3.2%
Houston Astros 91.6% 8.9% 97.4% 12.0% 5.8% 3.1%
New York Yankees 89.2% 8.0% 96.5% 11.0% 7.3% 3.0%
San Diego Padres 87.0% 7.0% 95.5% 9.8% 8.5% 2.8%
Atlanta Braves 86.4% 6.9% 95.0% 9.6% 8.6% 2.7%
Toronto Blue Jays 83.0% 6.5% 93.3% 9.2% 10.3% 2.7%
Tampa Bay Rays 81.4% 6.2% 92.5% 8.9% 11.1% 2.7%
Chicago White Sox 82.8% 6.1% 90.4% 8.7% 7.6% 2.6%
St. Louis Cardinals 81.6% 5.9% 92.6% 8.5% 11.1% 2.6%
New York Mets 78.8% 5.5% 91.0% 8.0% 12.2% 2.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 76.5% 5.1% 89.7% 7.5% 13.2% 2.4%
Boston Red Sox 54.7% 3.2% 74.7% 5.2% 20.0% 2.0%
Los Angeles Angels 45.6% 2.5% 66.3% 4.3% 20.7% 1.8%
Oakland A’s 45.7% 2.5% 66.4% 4.3% 20.7% 1.8%
Philadelphia Phillies 45.7% 2.4% 66.5% 4.1% 20.8% 1.7%
San Francisco Giants 40.7% 2.1% 61.7% 3.7% 21.0% 1.6%
Cincinnati Reds 34.8% 1.7% 55.9% 3.2% 21.1% 1.5%
Seattle Mariners 35.4% 1.8% 56.1% 3.3% 20.7% 1.5%
Miami Marlins 34.2% 1.7% 55.0% 3.1% 20.8% 1.4%
Cleveland Guardians 30.4% 1.5% 51.1% 2.9% 20.7% 1.4%
Detroit Tigers 19.6% 0.9% 37.4% 1.9% 17.8% 1.0%
Chicago Cubs 17.4% 0.8% 34.3% 1.7% 16.9% 0.9%
Minnesota Twins 17.4% 0.8% 34.4% 1.7% 17.0% 0.9%
Kansas City Royals 13.8% 0.6% 29.0% 1.4% 15.2% 0.8%
Washington Nationals 12.7% 0.5% 27.2% 1.3% 14.5% 0.8%
Texas Rangers 8.9% 0.4% 21.3% 1.0% 12.4% 0.6%
Arizona Diamondbacks 6.0% 0.2% 15.8% 0.7% 9.8% 0.5%
Pittsburgh Pirates 1.6% 0.1% 6.0% 0.2% 4.4% 0.1%
Baltimore Orioles 0.4% 0.0% 2.1% 0.1% 1.7% 0.1%
Colorado Rockies 0.8% 0.0% 3.5% 0.1% 2.7% 0.1%

The star dividend recovers somewhat here, and the average team gets a 13.3 percentage-point boost for the playoffs from our theoretical star (most likely Freddie Freeman or Carlos Correa), more than in the dreadful (at least for me) 16-team scenario. The average champion adds a win and change back, averaging 92.7 wins during the season.

But let’s try and do better while preserving the 14-team framework.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Russell Carleton tried his hand at developing a reasonable 14-team playoff system. Using ZiPS and a whole lot of season-simming, I went with a slightly different approach, trying to get the value of adding a star as close to the current system as possible while still keeping the eventual champion as strong overall.

One of the problems when designing playoff systems in baseball is the sport is missing a powerful tool to separate teams into “difficulty tiers” in the form of home-field advantage. Playing at home isn’t as big of a deal in baseball as it is in other sports, as we’ve seen in the decade since the Wild Card game was introduced. Getting to the playoffs via the Wild Card just wasn’t much of a penalty prior to 2012, so MLB only could divide the league into two real tiers: in the playoffs and out of the playoffs. The introduction of a second Wild Card team, and the one-game, winner-take-all Wild Card game, gave MLB another tier between division winners and playoff missers.

What I propose is to make the worst teams have to work for it a bit more. The top division winner still gets a bye, but the two other division winners in each league play Wild Card teams numbers three and four in what I’ve dubbed the Knockout Round. To knock off the division winners, the bottom two Wild Cards have to sweep a three-game series; the remaining two Wild Cards play a normal three-game series against each other. What this does is create more places where additional wins have a meaningful impact on your chances of winning it all; being the best in the league instead of merely winning the division is still better, and winning the division remains preferable to a Wild Card appearance. And the Wild Card teams themselves have real motivation to try to be one of the top two Wild Card teams rather than the bottom two; having a 50/50 shot of getting to the Divisional Series is better than the one-in-10 or so that the other Wild Cards would have:

ZiPS Projected Playoff Probability, 14 Teams, Szym Proposal
Team Playoff% WS Win% Playoff% (SD) WS Win% (SD) Playoff Diff WS Diff
New York Yankees 89.2% 7.5% 96.5% 12.2% 7.3% 4.8%
San Diego Padres 87.0% 6.3% 95.5% 10.3% 8.5% 4.0%
Toronto Blue Jays 83.0% 5.7% 93.3% 9.7% 10.3% 4.0%
Tampa Bay Rays 81.4% 5.4% 92.5% 9.3% 11.1% 3.9%
Los Angeles Dodgers 95.8% 11.1% 98.9% 14.9% 3.1% 3.9%
Atlanta Braves 86.4% 7.5% 95.0% 10.9% 8.6% 3.4%
New York Mets 78.8% 5.5% 91.0% 8.6% 12.2% 3.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 81.6% 6.8% 92.6% 9.6% 11.1% 2.7%
Boston Red Sox 54.7% 2.4% 74.7% 5.1% 20.0% 2.7%
Milwaukee Brewers 76.5% 5.6% 89.7% 7.9% 13.2% 2.3%
Chicago White Sox 82.8% 8.4% 90.4% 10.7% 7.6% 2.3%
Los Angeles Angels 45.6% 2.1% 66.3% 4.2% 20.7% 2.1%
Oakland A’s 45.7% 2.1% 66.4% 4.2% 20.7% 2.1%
San Francisco Giants 40.7% 1.5% 61.7% 3.6% 21.0% 2.1%
Philadelphia Phillies 45.7% 2.0% 66.5% 4.0% 20.8% 2.1%
Seattle Mariners 35.4% 1.5% 56.1% 3.2% 20.7% 1.8%
Miami Marlins 34.2% 1.3% 55.0% 3.1% 20.8% 1.7%
Cincinnati Reds 34.8% 1.5% 55.9% 3.2% 21.1% 1.7%
Houston Astros 91.6% 10.6% 97.4% 12.0% 5.8% 1.4%
Cleveland Guardians 30.4% 1.5% 51.1% 2.9% 20.7% 1.4%
Chicago Cubs 17.4% 0.6% 34.3% 1.7% 16.9% 1.1%
Detroit Tigers 19.6% 0.9% 37.4% 1.9% 17.8% 1.0%
Minnesota Twins 17.4% 0.8% 34.4% 1.7% 17.0% 0.9%
Washington Nationals 12.7% 0.4% 27.2% 1.3% 14.5% 0.9%
Kansas City Royals 13.8% 0.6% 29.0% 1.4% 15.2% 0.8%
Texas Rangers 8.9% 0.3% 21.3% 1.0% 12.4% 0.7%
Arizona Diamondbacks 6.0% 0.2% 15.8% 0.7% 9.8% 0.7%
Pittsburgh Pirates 1.6% 0.0% 6.0% 0.2% 4.4% 0.2%
Baltimore Orioles 0.4% 0.0% 2.1% 0.1% 1.7% 0.1%
Colorado Rockies 0.8% 0.0% 3.5% 0.1% 2.7% 0.1%

The star dividend for playoff probability in this format stands at 13.3 percentage points, with a two percentage point boost for championships. Both are close to the 13.0 and 2.1 projected under the old format. The regular-season record of the typical World Series victor gets up to 93.7, less than a half-win below our original target.

Personally, I’d go even further and give the lower-seeded teams a one-win disadvantage in Divisional Series matchups as well. But I’ve already proposed one rather significant change from baseball’s playoff tradition with the Knockout Round; another might get us into the realm of implausibility. I think something along these lines would be an effective means of increasing the number of teams in the playoffs without making individual players less valuable or greatly diminishing the value of a championship in addition to the regular season. If we’re doomed to a future where 80-82 teams get a final shot at rendering the previous six months irrelevant with a hot week, we should at least make them work for it.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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4 months ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Also, the NBA’s playoff system is terrible, sucks all life out of the experience, and should not be emulated by any sports league anywhere.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

FOH with that nonsense. The NBA has the single-best Playoff format of the three major sports. And it’s not even remotely close.

4 months ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

A best of 75 series would be fun! We could have baseball all year round!

4 months ago
Reply to  villapalomares

We could have each team play 162 games and call it the playoffs.

Achilles Heel
4 months ago
Reply to  villapalomares

I was reading about old cricket tournaments some weeks back. It basically read: you could not do this in your society as currently constructed.

Also, the Yankees are winning the best of 75 series like 26-12 right…?

4 months ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

The problems originate within a labor aristocracy signing pro management contracts, lacking a commitment to equality of compensation and to organizing the unorganized, to greed, etc. MLB and the MLBPA have effed up the sport to such degree that teams trying to compete are smeared for tanking! Those who write this kind of criticism, that teams tank for money, are carrying water for the owners. A bit of topical sarcasm:

Achtung, Mäuse! Weniger für dich, mehr für mich!

Jason Bmember
4 months ago
Reply to  szielinski

This is why we can’t order Chinese from Hop Sing’s anymore…

4 months ago

I prefer the current playoff structure, but it is clearly one of the primary reasons why the tank and rebuild model exists. In the first chat with the current playoff structure, there are 18 teams with playoff odds below 25% and a 19th team (the Red Sox) sitting just above 30%. That is precisely why the free agent market has become rough for anyone who isn’t a superstar.

If you need to be a ~93 win true talent team to have a legitimate shot at a World Series (which is roughly true in the current model), then there is little incentive for a .500 or worse team to bother spending money in free agency. The only free agents most bottom half teams even sign are bounce back candidates they want to flip at the deadline.

Expanded playoffs are inevitable because the MLBPA wants them also. They’re in the exact same category as the universal DH – both sides want them, but neither side wants to admit it, because they want to use it as leverage in the negotiation.

4 months ago
Reply to  ascheff

Wait, what? The players don’t get paid their “regular” salaries during the playoffs, and I’m pretty sure the math shows they make a lot less. There’s a real asymmetry going on here, and the MLBPA and MLB know it.

The whole “tanking” thing in MLB is seriously overblown anyway. The Cubs and Astros did the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a tank job 10 years ago and haven’t done so since. Many of the cheapest teams like Cleveland, Tampa Bay, D-Backs, and Oakland never totally tear down, and until the Brewers, Pirates, Royals, and Orioles completely collapsed and they had little choice, they didn’t either.

If anything, many of these teams aggressively maximize(d) the space between being at least watchable and cutting costs by focusing nearly exclusively on players with less than six years of team control. Heck, in the case of the Rays, they focus heavily on players who haven’t even hit arbitration yet. This is why increasing minimum salaries and moving arbitration earlier is (correctly) such a focus for the MLBPA.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Cubs are sort of tanking now.

4 months ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

They just signed Marcus Stroman, so no, I don’t think that’s what is happening. I think they’re gunning for .500.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I cleverly hedged

Scott Moorhousemember
4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I think the tank already happened. It occurred when payroll went from $194 million in 2019 to $140 million in 2021.

The Ancient Mariner
4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

If you want to know what *real* tanking looks like, look at the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, who practically put up an “Everything Must Go” sign on the front lawn last summer and haven’t taken it down.

. . . And if you want to know what cosmic irony looks like, consider this: they’re still likely to finish better than the Montreal Canadiens, who were in the Stanley Cup finals last year.

4 months ago

Right, tanking is not just cutting costs. Tanking is Mark Madsen jacking 3s in the final game of the season. We haven’t really seen much like that in MLB.

If I wanted to tank in MLB, here’s what I would do: I’d sign a million stars of yesteryear–Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Ian Desmond…and then I’d play them. Every day.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I wish someone would do that!

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Let’s do this. Can’t be anyone who has officially retired, but since players often don’t announce their retirement for a while I think that won’t limit us too much.
C: Matt Wieters
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Jason Kipnis
SS: Jose Iglesias
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Matt Kemp
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Adam Eaton
DH: Khris Davis
Backup position players: Ian Desmond, Jordy Mercer, Kurt Suzuki
SP: Jake Arrieta, Matt Harvey, Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez, Bartolo Colon
RP: Andrew Miller, AJ Ramos, Sergio Romo, Greg Holland, Archie Bradley, Sean Doolittle, Alex Colome, Brad Hand

Also considered: Asdrubal Cabrera, Dee Strange-Gordon, Matt Carpenter, Jeff Samardzija, Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana, Wilson Ramos.

Part of me wants to put Ian Desmond at shortstop but realistically hasn’t played shortstop in something like 4 years…he’s a 4th outfielder, even on this team. I still think there’s a better option at shortstop than Iglesias, since he might still be a competent baseball player, but I can’t think of anyone.

I’d slot Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, or Chris Archer in somewhere for sure but I don’t think they’d make it out of spring training health-wise.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

this team rocks.
also the nationals have rostered like a third of them in the last 3 years

4 months ago

I think if we really wanted to tank and make it consistent, we’d try and find a way to reassemble all the stars of 2011. Wieters and Kemp combined for something like 14 fWAR that year. But in order to do that and still find players that were active, we’d probably need to get some guys currently under contract for other teams. If Evan Longoria and Robinson Cano and Elvis Andrus would get themselves released, then we could sign them too.

I also realize I missed out on signing Andrew McCutchen. If I wanted to assemble 2011’s best possible team at positions they currently play, my ideal team would be something like:

Wieters, Miguel Cabrera at first, Robinson Cano at second, Elvis Andrus at short, Evan Longoria at third (who would be the best player on this time by a lot), Justin Upton and McCutchen in the corners, Kemp at DH (that was where he played in 2020, almost exclusively), and Jones in CF.

Pitching would be pretty fragile since I don’t think Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Cole Hamels, or David Price are going to be giving a lot of innings but Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, and Madison Bumgarner might. Maybe if we could find a way to keep Hernandez and Shields around on MiLB contracts until they’r needed?

Bullpen could include Greg Holland, John Axford, Tyler Clippard, Joe Smith, Steve Cishek, and Mark Melancon.

This team would be absolutely bonkers good if they hit and pitched like 2011. Might be the best team of all time. In 2022 they would probably lose 120 games.

Achilles Heel
4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Maybe player salaries can be a retro-pro-rated regular season plus average post-season share. That wa. They can be properly invested in the playoffs and their actual paycheck is tied to both making the playoffs and their postseason performance.

Achilles Heel
4 months ago
Reply to  Achilles Heel

League minimum exempt from salary reduction but still receiving playoff bonuses if their team advances above league average (not sure how you math that though).

yes, also not sure how to divy up games played/revenue versus series won…

4 months ago
Reply to  ascheff

It’s not just the pure tanking. It’s also the disincentive to spend for self-identified small market teams like the A’s and Reds. If the difference between late arb and pre arb salaries weren’t so big Matt Olson and Sonny Gray might not be trade candidates. If less popular teams kept more of their stars they might get more popular even if their chance of winning the WS actually shrunk due to playoff expansion

4 months ago
Reply to  ascheff

The tank and rebuild model does not exist. It is a cheap narrative to not try to put resources into a team.