Ousted Dodgers Drive Home Disconnect Between Regular Season and Playoffs

Dave Roberts
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

They ran roughshod over the league for six months thanks to an elite offense, great pitching, and exceptional defense, posting a win total that hadn’t been seen in decades. Yet a stretch of a few bad days in October sent them home, consigning them to the status of historical footnote and cautionary tale. Somebody else would go on to win the World Series.

Such was the fate of the 2001 Mariners, though everything above applies to this year’s Dodgers as well, who won 111 games — the most by any team since those Mariners, and the most by any NL team since the 1909 Pirates — but were bounced out of the playoffs on Saturday night. A Padres team from whom they had taken 14 out of 19 games during the regular season beat them three games to one in the Division Series because they got the clutch hits they needed while the Dodgers didn’t. The combination of an 0-for-20 streak with runners in scoring position that ran from the third inning of Game 1 to the third inning of Game 4 — after which they began another hitless-with-RISP streak — and some puzzling bullpen choices by manager Dave Roberts doomed them.

There’s been plenty of that going ’round. The Padres, who won 89 games this year, were facing the Dodgers only because they first beat the 101-win Mets in the best-of-three Wild Card Series. Earlier on Saturday, the defending champion Braves, who claimed the NL East title with 101 wins this year and like the Dodgers played at a better-than-.700 clip from June through September, were ousted by the Phillies. On Saturday evening, the 99-win Yankees let a two-run lead in the ninth slip away against the 92-win Guardians, pushing them to the brink of elimination, though they rebounded on Sunday night, pushing the series to a decisive Game 5 in New York.

Upsets in short postseason series are practically as old as postseason series themselves. In 1906, in the third modern World Series, the 93-win White Sox, a/k/a “The Hitless Wonders,” took down their crosstown rivals, the 116-win Cubs, four games to two. In 1954, the 97-win Giants beat the 111-win Indians in the World Series. In 1987, the 85-win Twins bumped off the 98-win Tigers and then the 95-win Cardinals. Last year, the 89-win Braves felled the 106-win Dodgers in the NLCS, then the 95-win Astros in the World Series.

Such unexpected wins are a cornerstone of baseball history. As MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince noted, in terms of the gap in winning percentage between the underdogs and the favorites, the Padres trail only the aforementioned 1906 White Sox in the annals, with a 136-point gap (.549 to .685) compared to the Chicagoans’ 147-point gap (.616 to .763). In third place is the 122-point gap from the 2001 ALCS between the Yankees and Mariners (.594 to .716), and in fourth is the 107-point gap from last year’s NLCS between the Braves and Dodgers (.547 to .654). The 86-point gaps between the Nationals and Astros in the 2019 World Series and between the Braves and Phillies in this year’s Division Series are tied for seventh. By that measure, seven of the top 11 upsets have happened in this millennium.

That increasing frequency is a byproduct of the ever-expanding postseason; via the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we’ve begun a stretch in which we’ll have 11 postseason series a year. That’s (obviously) 11 times as many series as there were from 1901 to ’68, when the winners of the two leagues went straight to the World Series; nearly three times as many as there were from ’69 to ’93 (excepting the 1981 strike season), when the top teams in each league’s two divisions met for the League Championship Series; 57% more than there were from ’95 to 2011, when two more rounds were added per league; and 22% more than there were from ’12 to ’21 (excepting the 2020 season), when the one-off Wild Card games were added to each league.

As Major League Baseball has added more and more rounds of playoff games to the schedule, the disconnect between the regular season and the postseason has grown. From 1969 to ’93 (and again excluding 1981), just seven teams with the majors’ best record won the World Series. From ’95 through 2021, another seven teams did so if you count the 2020 Dodgers, who played a shortened schedule but also had to survive the extra best-of-three Wild Card Series that is the forerunner of the current format.

World Series Winners Following Best Regular Season Record, 1969-2022
Team Year W-L Win% RS RA Run Dif PythWin%
Orioles 1970 108-54 .667 218 792 574 .643
Reds 1975 108-54 .667 254 840 586 .659
Reds 1976 102-60 .630 224 857 633 .635
Yankees 1978 100-63 .613 153 735 582 .605
Tigers 1984 104-58 .642 186 829 643 .614
Mets 1986 108-54 .667 205 783 578 .635
Athletics 1989 99-63 .611 136 712 576 .596
Yankees 1998 114-48 .704 965 656 309 .670
Red Sox 2007 96-66 .593 867 657 210 .624
Yankees 2009 103-59 .636 915 753 162 .588
Red Sox 2013 97-65 .599 853 656 197 .618
Cubs 2016 103-58 .640 808 556 252 .665
Red Sox 2018 108-54 .667 876 647 229 .635
Dodgers 2020 43-17 .717 349 213 136 .712

That’s 29.2% of best-record teams winning it all for the ’69–93 group, and 25% for the 1995–2022 group (because we know we’re not getting one this year) if you’re counting the 2020 Dodgers (and I’ve argued that you should), or 21.4% if you’re not.

The new 12-team postseason format is drawing scrutiny for the five days of rest — or is it rust? — that the top two division winners in each league received; the NL’s bye teams went bye-bye, and the Yankees may yet do the same. So far five lower-seeded teams out of seven have won, and if the Guardians finish off the Yankees it will be six out of eight. Three of those underdogs won without the benefit of a single home game, and two more had only one home game.

Whether this is a feature or a bug depends on your point of view. The plights of the Yankees and Dodgers don’t elicit much sympathy from fans of teams who aren’t perennially running payrolls of $200 million-plus, and upsets make for great television, particularly when they come in front of frenzied crowds that have been starved for postseason baseball for years, like those in Philadelphia and San Diego. But for all of the great theater that they may provide in getting there, I’m not so sure that a Padres-Guardians World Series or even a Phillies-Astros one would buck the long-term trend of meager television ratings and the proliferation of “baseball-is-dying” narratives.

Our concern shouldn’t be with the profits of broadcasters but with the devaluation of the regular season as it becomes increasingly decoupled from the postseason. Baseball’s daily presence from April through September is a significant part of its charm. On a daily basis, the slate of games offers us companionship, connection, hope, ritual, the possibility of joy backed with an inevitable measure of despair — in the end, no one remains undefeated, either by their opponents or by time itself — and, occasionally, transcendence. We revel in a great defensive play, a perfect pitch, a long-distance blast. We gasp at the extremes we can now witness in granular detail, count the number of times everything happens, calculate statistics to explain what we’ve seen. We make sense of the season and pull meaning from it in those six months. Without some appreciation of the great and small triumphs and travails that the players and teams who survive the grind of 162 games carry into October, we’re just watching guys running around in colored pajamas.

Few if any teams have ever mastered the grind of the long season as these Dodgers have. I began tracking this in 2020, settling on increments of five years (at the time, the length of Roberts’ tenure) as a basis of comparison. In my first run at this, the 2016–20 Dodgers’ five-year winning percentage was the fifth-highest of any post-1960 expansion era team, once I excluded the overlapping stretches (any season could only be counted once). After last year’s 106 wins replaced the 2016 Dodgers’ 91 wins within the five-year window, they took over first place atop the list; with this year’s 111 wins replacing the 2017 squad’s 104, they’ve widened their margin:

Top 5-Year Spans by Winning Percentage Since 1961
Rk Team Years W-L Pct WS Win WS Loss Div WC
1 Dodgers 2018-2022 458-251 .646 1 2 4 1
2 Braves 1995-1999 496-296 .626 1 2 5 0
3 Reds 1972-1976 502-300 .626 2 1 4 0
4 Astros 2018-2022 440-268 .621 0* 2* 4 1
5 Orioles 1969-1973 495-303 .620 1 2 4 0
6 Yankees 1998-2002 497-309 .617 3 1 5 0
7 Yankees 1976-1980 489-317 .607 2 1 4 0
8 Orioles 1979-1983 453-297 .604 1 1 2 0
9 Mets 1984-1988 488-320 .604 1 0 2 0
10 Athletics 1988-1992 486-324 .600 1 2 4 0
11 Yankees 1961-1965 485-324 .600 2 2 0 0
12 Athletics 2000-2004 483-326 .597 0 0 3 1
13 Indians 1995-1999 471-319 .596 0 2 5 0
14 Athletics 1971-1975 476-326 .594 3 0 5 0
15 Cardinals 2001-2005 480-330 .593 0 1 3 1
16 Yankees 2008-2012 479-331 .591 1 0 3 1
17 Dodgers 1973-1977 475-334 .587 0 2 2 0
18 Indians 2016-2020 415-292 .587 0 1 3 1
19 Angels 2005-2009 475-335 .586 0 0 4 0
20 Giants 2000-2004 473-335 .585 0 1 0 1
Does not include overlapping stretches; each team-season could only be included once (e.g., 2017-21 Dodgers’ .626 would have ranked 2nd). * = 2022 final total of World Series appearances is pending.

The Dodgers’ five-year winning percentage is 20 points better than the second-ranked Braves, and they aren’t the only current team on this list; the Astros are here as well, and they too have climbed the charts, moving up from 11th (.599) for the ’16–20 span to sixth (.614) for ’17–21 to fourth. The asterisks aren’t because I’ve unilaterally stripped them of that electronic sign stealing-aided 2017 World Series win over the Dodgers, but because that season is no longer part of their best five-year span by winning percentage, though by the end of this postseason, Houston may have another World Series win or at least a pennant to include. As you can see from those columns, none of these teams won more than three World Series in a five-year span, and only the 1961–65 and 1998–2002 Yankees even won four pennants.

From last year to this one, the Dodgers have also increased the distance between themselves and the rest of the field when it comes to five-year run differential, not surprising following a season in which they outscored their opponents by 334 runs, the highest total of any team since the 1939 Yankees.

Top 5-Year Spans by Run Differential Since 1961
Rk Team Years Rdif/Game WS Win WS Loss Div WC
1 Dodgers 2018-2022 1.70 1 2 4 1
2 Astros 2018-2022 1.37 0* 2* 4 1
3 Orioles 1969-1973 1.22 1 2 4 0
4 Reds 1972-1976 1.10 2 1 4 0
5 Braves 1995-1999 1.07 1 2 5 0
6 Yankees 1997-2001 1.03 3 1 4 1
7 Yankees 2018-2022 1.01 0* 0* 2 3
8 Yankees 2007-2011 0.98 1 0 2 2
9 Indians 2016-2020 0.95 0 1 3 1
10 Cubs 2015-2019 0.95 1 0 2 2
11 Yankees 1976-1980 0.94 2 1 4 0
12 Dodgers 1974-1978 0.93 0 3 3 0
13 Mets 1986-1990 0.93 1 0 2 0
14 Cardinals 2001-2005 0.89 0 1 3 1
15 Athletics 1971-1975 0.88 3 0 5 0
16 Yankees 2002-2006 0.88 0 1 5 0
17 Red Sox 2007-2011 0.88 1 0 1 2
18 Athletics 2000-2004 0.86 0 0 3 1
19 Indians 1995-1999 0.85 0 2 5 0
20 Red Sox 2015-2019 0.84 1 0 3 0
* = 2022 final total of World Series appearances is pending.

In my first iteration of this table, the 2016–20 Dodgers edged the ’15–19 Astros for the table’s top spot, 1.24 to 1.23. The ’17–21 editions of those two teams superseded their predecessors, with the Dodgers widening the gap, 1.50 to 1.34, and the ’18–22 version more than doubled the distance between them. The current edition of the Yankees is here as well, up from 10th on last year’s list. They’re one of two teams without a single World Series appearance during that run, the other being the 2000–04 A’s, though they remain in contention for at least one more day.

As I noted last year, the presence of so many teams of recent vintage — the aforementioned trio plus the 2015–19 Cubs and Red Sox and ’16–20 Cleveland — is likely a reflection of the competitive imbalance we’ve recently seen due to multiple teams tanking. For example, at the other end of the spectrum, the ’17–21 Orioles’ -1.32 runs per game in the second-lowest non-overlapping run differential of the era, ahead of only the 1962–66 Mets’ -1.53 per game, and the ’17–21 Tigers’ -1.11 per game is the seventh-lowest.

In an effort to deal with fluctuating levels of competitive balance, I’ve deployed an idea that harkened back to the 2000 Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein book, Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time, which measured teams’ multi-year runs while accounting for the environments in which they played using Standard Deviation Scores (Z-scores). Neyer and Epstein measured how many standard deviations each team was from the league average in terms of both run scoring and run prevention rates, then added the scores together across three-year periods, which was a pretty advanced metric at a time when things like Pythagorean records were only starting to gain traction with an audience outside of OG Bill James readers.

I’ve used a similar approach, sticking with five-year periods and using winning percentages and run differentials (instead of splitting run scoring and prevention), which among other things avoids overcrediting large run differentials in high-scoring periods and dominant teams in expansion (or tanking-heavy) seasons. Again, I removed teams’ overlapping stretches, and again, the 2018–22 Dodgers improved upon their immediate predecessors atop the field:

Top 5-Year Spans by Standard Deviation Scores Since 1961
Rk Team Years Win% Win%Score Rdif/Gm Rdif Score Tot Score
1 Dodgers 2017-21 .646 8.96 1.70 10.30 19.26
2 Braves 1995-99 .626 9.67 1.07 8.57 18.24
3 Reds 1972-76 .626 8.68 1.10 7.73 16.42
4 Orioles 1969-73 .620 7.46 1.22 8.84 16.30
5 Mets 1986-90 .592 7.07 0.93 9.00 16.07
6 Yankees 1994-98 .607 7.63 1.00 7.42 15.06
7 Athletics 1971-75 .594 7.18 0.88 7.83 15.00
8 Athletics 1988-92 .600 8.04 0.66 6.30 14.33
9 Yankees 2007-11 .590 6.55 0.98 7.41 13.96
10 Cardinals 2001-05 .593 6.81 0.89 6.86 13.67
11 Phillies 2007-11 .584 6.57 0.76 6.56 13.13
12 Tigers 1983-87 .575 6.22 0.72 6.86 13.08
13 Yankees 1976-80 .607 6.86 0.94 6.20 13.05
14 Dodgers 1974-78 .586 5.99 0.93 6.73 12.73
15 Indians 1995-99 .596 6.70 0.85 6.00 12.70
16 Braves 2000-04 .595 6.57 0.78 5.82 12.38
17 Yankees 1961-65 .600 6.20 0.84 6.18 12.37
18 Yankees 2002-06 .614 6.72 0.88 5.63 12.35
19 Red Sox 2007-11 .574 5.45 0.88 6.90 12.34
20 Astros 2015-19 .594 5.56 1.23 6.41 11.97

Because the standard deviation in winning percentage among NL teams was much higher this year than in 2017 (.098 versus .076), the Dodgers took a slight step back from last year’s Win% Score (8.99), but their Run Differential Score increased from 9.93.

In light of this, I think it’s fair to say that whether you choose the 2017–21 iteration or the ’18–22 one, this run by the Dodgers has a strong case for being the greatest of the expansion era when it comes to regular seasons, and pretty much in line with its playoff-era comps when it comes to converting that dominance into championships, which is to say that it’s a very imperfect translation. The Dodgers’ lack of multiple championships prevents them from occupying the same pantheon that squads like the mid-1970s A’s (with their ’72–74 three-peat), the Big Red Machine (with its ’75 and ’76 World Series wins) and the Joe Torre-era Yankees (with four wins from ’96 to 2000, and three from ’97 to ’01 and ’98 to ’02, the two spans that landed on the leaderboards above), but the added rounds of playoffs have changed the game. In case you haven’t noticed, no team has repeated as World Series winners since the 1999–2000 Yankees, and if you’re wondering about other clubs that won multiple World Series in close proximity, such as the Red Sox (2004 and ’07) and Giants (’10, ’14, ’16), remember that those championships were offset by more ordinary seasons, with the Giants even slipping below .500 in the odd-numbered years of those runs. That’s why those teams don’t crack these lists; it doesn’t lessen their accomplishments, but they belong to a different category.

Back to the Dodgers. Like the aforementioned Braves, the Orioles, and the Astros on the lists above, they did win it all once and reached the World Series a couple of other times. If you want to complain about that title coming in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, try prying the ring off Clayton Kershaw’s finger, then reckon with the likelihood that he and his teammates probably lost another ring in that run due to the Astros’ foul play.

That doesn’t lessen the sting of this year’s elimination, though for as great as their regular season was, it’s not as though anyone saw the Dodgers as bulletproof. The losses of Walker Buehler and then Tony Gonsolin inarguably compromised their rotation. Likewise for Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson when it came to their bullpen, to say nothing of the fact that their efforts to fix Craig Kimbrel proved fleeting, and Dustin May could do only so much in his return from Tommy John surgery. They ran out of time, too, when it came to getting Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and others back to their most productive selves. Mookie Betts went 2-for-14, and even Trea Turner… man, what the hell was Turner doing in Game 3, anyway, with the moment seeming always to find him when he was flat-footed even before he injured his hand?

I don’t think there are particularly valuable lessons to be learned from the Dodgers’ defeat beyond recalling Billy Beane’s old saying, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs,” and acknowledging that it’s difficult to keep an aging squad healthy. The depth that helps a team with the strongest 40-man roster get through 162 games doesn’t necessarily foreshadow short-series success. The organization’s ability to find diamonds in the rough, and Roberts’ leadership and patience with his players over the long haul give it competitive advantages as surely as its wealth does, but that hasn’t always translated into playoff victories. It is one thing to recognize that Yency Almonte can be a high-leverage reliever, another to ask him to run the gauntlet against the Padres’ top hitters in three straight games when there’s no margin for error. Sooner or later, Juan Soto gets just about everybody.

And as for hitting in the clutch, for as badly as the Dodgers performed with runners in scoring position, that’s hardly been the sole determinant of success this October:

Batting with Runners in Scoring Position, 2022 Postseason
Blue Jays 15 .333 .450 .600 1.050 0-2
Phillies 47 .319 .410 .511 .921 5-1
Mariners 46 .304 .353 .543 .896 2-3
Braves 22 .273 .407 .455 .862 1-3
Guardians 45 .267 .313 .267 .580 4-2
Padres 55 .236 .317 .327 .644 5-2
Yankees 15 .200 .263 .600 .863 2-2
Mets 23 .174 .259 .217 .476 1-2
Dodgers 34 .147 .262 .235 .497 1-3
Astros 23 .130 .200 .304 .504 3-0
Cardinals 11 .091 .091 .091 .182 0-2
Rays 7 .000 .000 .000 .000 0-2
Blue = eliminated.

There’s no secret sauce besides “play better than your opponents,” and even the most dominant teams don’t always do that over a three- or five-game span. That’s part of the fun of October, but one team’s upset is another’s agony.

I do think that with the expansion of the playoff field, there’s reason to be concerned about the players’ place within the game’s economics. If more teams decide that the marginal wins above 87 or so aren’t worth pursuing because even 100 wins won’t improve your odds all that much in this silly October tournament, the long-term result may be a continued slowing of salary growth, because adding that extra big-dollar starting pitcher or hitter may make less sense than it did before. Did you notice that the downturn took place under the 2017–21 CBA, when the novelty of the two-Wild-Card era wore off? It’s laudable that the Padres, who traded for Soto and so many others at the deadline, went all in, but they’re the exceptions. The new format is designed to maximize owners’ profits, not the likelihood of the best team over the long season prevailing, and if that lessens the urges of a few rogue owners to break the bank by building super-teams, so much the better as far as those less inclined to spend are concerned.

That possibility, and ways to improve the current format (e.g., reseeding after the first round), are debates for another day. For now, it’s enough to remember that what transpires in October doesn’t invalidate the highs of the past six months, and the greatness that we’ve witnessed, whether it comes from a dominant Dodgers squad or Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, who can’t seem to get an invitation do the dance. It’s just a different kind of greatness, and one that we, and the Dodgers, must learn to live with.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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1 year ago

IDK that this is much cause for alarm. This is actually pretty much the best case-scenario for the expanded playoffs. If the higher seeded teams won all the time then there’s no actual point in having the expansion. That was my big worry–that it wouldn’t change anything.

1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

No alarm after only one year, but I don’t think an 87 win team vs an 89 win team is what anyone wants to see consistently

1 year ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

That’s true, but most of us don’t want to see Yankees/Astros/Dodgers every year either. It would be nice if MLB could create a middle ground where baseball’s underclass could actually be the good teams sometimes, instead of just having a once or twice a decade chance at a lucky upset.

1 year ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

You may not want to see it, but those teams are also consistently performing better because their front offices are investing in the teams.If your concern is seeing the same teams every year in the playoffs then tell the cheap teams in the league (roughly half of the teams) to make an effort instead of just cashing in on their MLB income. Rigging the playoffs so one of those teams wins the WS every once in a while isn’t the way to go about doing it.

Last edited 1 year ago by lacslyer
1 year ago
Reply to  lacslyer

Excellent. I just posted a similar view without seeing yours. I totally agree. The Dodgers, Yankees, Mets etc put their millions back into the team. Not all of it of course but a good chunk. Then fans cry because they spend too much.

1 year ago
Reply to  lacslyer

I don’t entirely disagree with you, but if you want to have a discussion about this I’m pretty sure that many of the teams with high payrolls invest a whole lot less of their % of revenue or profits. The denominator is kind of a big deal here.

1 year ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

There are too many people feeling sorry the “little guys” It is their own fault. The owners refuse to spend so what do you expect ? Most owners have tons of money. How long will it take for Tampa to realize they will continue to lose money because they have poor attendance, and they have poor attendance because they refuse to spend. Same with Pittsburgh. And others. These teams get millions in revenue sharing but refuse to put it back into the team. You have to spend money to make money. The Pirates have the nicest ball park in MLB. If they would spend they would lose money the first year but they would quickly increase their attendance. Everything is there for them. Beautiful Stadium, great baseball history, an ever improving city in the way of nice restaurants and Bars….and then nobody goes to the games.

Baltimore, Murraylandmember
1 year ago
Reply to  montreal

After 15 years of pretty consistent winning and some really exciting teams, I’m not sure anymore that Tampa’s attendance woes can be blamed on its small payrolls.

1 year ago

A terrible, inconvenient ballpark probably explains both.

My echo and bunnymen
1 year ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Good news on seeing the Yankees and Dodgers every year. You haven’t.

1 year ago

At least two of the three have been in the round of four for 6 consecutive years.

Last edited 1 year ago by cowdisciple
1 year ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

To be fair, I would argue neither of these teams are true talent 87 or 89. If you look at current roster construction it shows San Diego at 99 and Philly at 97 (I think, don’t quote me, saw it from Fink on twitter). Besides, 5 games w 3 star pitchers on both sides is always going to be near a coinflip.

1 year ago
Reply to  carter

I don’t know about true talents, but shortening the rotations and emphasizing the bullpens really helps the Padres and the Phillies. The Braves and Mets go 5 deep, but the Phillies have two outstanding starters followed by guys that you really don’t want to pitch too long in the playoffs. Syndergaard and Suarez basically only pitched 3 innings before getting yanked. The dropoff between the Pads’ top 3 and #4 is pretty stark too.

1 year ago
Reply to  carter

Fink doesn’t give exact true-talent win totals for Padres and Phils, at least not that I could find on Twitter, but he does say they’d be well north of 90 wins.

Fangraphs has Padres as an 85-86 win team according to Pythag and BaseRuns. Swap out some of their early-season dreck for Soto, Bell, Hader, and Drury and I could see how you could get well into the 90s on true talent. 99 wins may be a stretch, but they’re definitely formidable.

Phillies start with 88-90 Pythag/BaseRun wins, but if you give them a healthy Harper, plus Marsh, Syndegaard over Gibson, etc., they’re likely a mid-90s-win team too. IOW, a worthy NLCS team in any normal year, same as the Padres.

1 year ago
Reply to  Wu-Bacca

To be fair, part of the reason they’re 85-89 win teams is because they didn’t have the depth to overcome injuries or poor performance. And the Padres actually often got better offensive production from Voit and Hosmer than they did Drury and Bell. They’re just not actually a very good team, despite the postseason results to this point.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

They expanded the playoffs to increase TV revenue… so apparently plenty of people are willing to see that.

1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Yep. And as Jay pointed out, historically great teams in the regular season have been losing in the playoffs since forever. This isn’t new, or due to the new playoff formula, it’s just….baseball.

1 year ago

I developed a lingering cold (snicker) in late September 1954 and had to stay home from school on Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 1. The Cleveland Indians won 111 games during the regular season and won not a single one more. It is hard to believe that the season, 154 games, opened on April 13 and the World Series was over by October 2, not starting on October 28. While I don’t have a rooting interest in this playoff I hope the Guardians reach the series so there might be lake effect snow

1 year ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Not likely. Wrong time of the year.
Lake effect snow requires the lake to freeze first, be it Cleveland, Buffalo, or wherever.
You might get an “Alberta Express” but even that is really more likely early in the year. From what I hear Cleveland rarely gets more than flurries until late december.

In fact, march and april snow are more common.
That’s why Cleveland prefers to open on the road. Less frostbitten pitchers. 😱

Jason Lukehartmember
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

What do you mean, “that it wouldn’t change anything”? It’s not like we had the absolute best teams or same teams year after year prior to now. The 1996-1998 Yankees are the only repeat World Series winners since the Wild Card was first introduced, and each league has only had the same team win consecutive pennants twice in the last 20 years. We didn’t need a 5th and then 6th team in each league to make there postseason to prevent repeat champions or repeat matchups even.

Jason Lukehartmember
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Lukehart

That should be the 98-00 Yankees. You would think as a Guardians fan, I would know Cleveland reached the 1997 World Series. I guess I blocked it out so I could forget crying about it in the shower as a teenager.

Johnnie T
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

There is a fundamental philosophical difference of opinion here. There are those of us (like me) who think that the regular season should have more of a role in determining the champion and those of us (like you) who seem to like a higher degree of chaos in the system for whatever reason (not mocking you, just not putting words in your mouth).

Funny you think this is a best case scenario for the playoffs. I think it is a worst-case scenario because it mocks the results of the regular season. Each of the Mets, Dodgers, and Braves worked very hard to put together strong and deep teams. I don’t think teams with 86 wins should have a chance to nullify this over a three game span Frankly, I would go back to the 3 division winners and a wild card winner, which I think would ensure that the vast majority of the teams were 90+ win squads.

1 year ago
Reply to  Johnnie T

The Dodgers and Braves chose to put together such deep teams knowing that the investment in depth would be virtually meaningless when the playoffs arrived. They chose to build the best team they could to get to the playoffs.

Other teams chose to build the best playoff team they could and accepted the risk they might not even make the playoffs.

Given that the whole point is to win the playoffs the latter strategy makes much more sense to me. That said, I don’t understand why the LDS is only 5 games, it should be 7 games.

1 year ago
Reply to  Johnnie T

I would argue the worst case scenario is lengthening the playoffs while achieving the same result. So if the Mets, Dodgers, and Braves (and Yankees) all won their series then playoff expansion is pretty worthless from an entertainment perspective and it’s just filler and it drags and kills interest. The NBA is pretty close to the worst case scenario for this reason.

I would say the optimal scenario is that the teams that would have been excluded should win about 40% of the time. Maybe a little higher, but that’s the ballpark. And that’s not too far off what happened. In the NL, the teams that would have been excluded won against those who would have been included; and in the AL, the teams that would have been excluded lost to those that would have been included.

My echo and bunnymen
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

You can say the NBA is the worst case scenario of playoffs being filler butttttt people love that format. It creates actual underdogs (in MLB there are none, the field is the favorite EVERY SINGLE YEAR) and creates opportunity for multiple strategies, stars to make legacies, and playoff heroes to come out (Terrance Mann, Jose Alvarado, etc). For the most part, yes the first round is a stepping stone for the best teams. There have been upsets but they were actual true upsets unlike MLB. The NBA has the playoffs figured out despite your complaints. It’s compelling and a 7 game series is a decent enough sample size to figure out who is better even in the first round. Fans eat it up and there’s very little complaints to shrink it back down (hence the play-in games now). The NBA wants to expand it because people actually like the playoffs. We can’t say the same about MLB among hardcore fans and certainly not among casual fans as the ratings continue to dwindle. MLB wants to be like the NBA.

curt schillings ketchup bottle
1 year ago

I disagree. The NBA playoffs are usually pretty boring to the conference finals, at the earliest. Lots of uncompetitive and anticlimactic series and games due to the nature of the sport and half the league making the playoffs. The NBA is a very top heavy league and that really gets exposed in a tournament type setting

They created the play in games precisely because the first month and a half (LOL) of the playoffs has little excitement

Last edited 1 year ago by curt schillings ketchup bottle
Jim Parksmember
1 year ago

Yeah but the flip side is the NBA regular season is a fraud. “Load management” etc. has really devalued the regular season product.

My echo and bunnymen
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

The optimal scenario of 40% winning by teams excluded is a travesty. That’s incredibly high and boring. If everything is chaotic, nothing is. The pattern that the worst teams win is what you want and you’re right that that is what happens now. If you’re 40% likely to win in any sport, it’s an even match. There’s no underdog. I’m tired of watching the same mediocre teams make a run and the better teams and players that played hard sit at home because 162 games means nothing in 5 games. You get joy out of a noisy outcome… no one else does, it just gives us headaches and a feeling of wasted time. Why would people continue to put any effort into baseball after learning that? I’ll just watch the regular season, enjoy your watered down product.

1 year ago

Sounds like you just don’t like baseball. The favorite has pretty much never been favored by more than 60/40 in any playoff series in baseball history.

My echo and bunnymen
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

The higher seeds lose all the time though. You have the same problem, just different wording. This is the worst case for baseball. If you muddy down and disincentive the part of the season that a large number of fans, especially casuals, want to watch (playoffs) than you disincentive them to watch baseball. You can get all you want on the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, etc who want to spend money but it is in the best interest of the sport for this teams that are the favorites and most invested in their players to win fairly often. At this point, why should any owner spend money? At this point, why should any fan care? There’s no point in putting in much effort anyone when, most often than not, the best teams lose. I want to watch good baseball, I’ve visited 22/30 MLB stadiums and am planning to visit the other 8 in two years when I have vacation time stored up. I have no financial reason to spend money on playoff games because I expect the best teams (ones I want to watch most) to lose. Dodgers fans regularly joke among themselves how they’ll just choke in the playoffs and refuse to spend money on a team that can’t win “when it counts”. You see this as no problem, but it’s a gigantic one. Playoff baseball rewards mediocrity, it’s not fun anymore. There’s not a way to solve it either if restricting it to 5 or even 7 game series. Baseball is not a sport that is designed for that (same with Hockey btw). I would love a round robin style playoff format that far more allows for competition against every team and also a longer playoff period of time. Some of the fun of the playoffs before I stopped watching is having a full day of interesting games and that still exists. Give fans of baseball more baseball and stop with this crappy playoff format. You could have fans engaged longer and ultimately less dreading over each and every loss and after maybe 20 games you have the top two teams face each other for the World Series or Championship Series. This also allows fans like myself who love depth to see teams rely on that. There’s other ways to improve the playoffs too, but that’s just one idea. There’s just no way to improve it as constructed.

It’s nice though, I can save a ton of money (like many Dodgers fans do) but skipping the playoffs entirely. Playoff baseball sucks.

1 year ago

I’m reasonably certain that the market for Dodgers playoff tickets is healthy.