The 2020 season required more than a few adjustments just to make it happen. One of the biggest changes was the playoff bracket. For the first time ever, 16 teams – eight from each league – reached the postseason.
For now, it doesn’t appear the season will be shortened to the extent of 2020. However, with much about this season to be decided, there has been no announcement about the size of the 2021 playoff field. But if it were up to fans, the playoffs should shrink before they expand.
According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, a majority of fans would rather not have the playoff field expand beyond the standard 10 teams.
From a statistical point of view, a shorter season should probably mean smaller playoffs, not larger ones. That would help filter out statistical anomalies. In a 60-game season, it’s significantly easier to fluke your way to a .550 win percentage, so the cut-off point to qualify should be higher, rather than lower. But, of course, the post-season is where all that sweet, sweet money is to be made, and so naturally, MLB wants to squeeze that cash cow for every drop of milk possible. Especially if revenue is being lost from having fewer games during the regular season.
While some fans are willing to make an exception for some of the oddities that may happen in 2021, even fewer want those changes to stay in place. Only about a third of fans want an expanded playoff format to be put in place permanently.
The playoff field expanded from just four teams to eight teams for the first time in 1995 with the first inclusion of a Wild Card team. Then a second Wild Card team was added in 2012 with the first Wild Card Games.
While 16 teams may not be realistic for a normal season, the idea of expanding the playoffs has certainly been considered by baseball. But it’s clear, if anything, fans would rather have fewer teams in the postseason. From a D-backs perspective at this point, more teams would be better, considering we currently need a telescope to see the Dodgers and Padres in the 2021 projected standings.
31 percent of MLB fans said they would most prefer an eight-team playoff bracket. That’s followed by 27 percent that want a return to the 10-team bracket. Only 30 percent want the playoffs to expand in any way.
I think there’s something to be said for the ten-team format, pitting the two wild-card teams against each other immediately after the end of the season. This gives the division winners a genuine benefit, in time to rest and get their rotation lined up. But, again, the more playoff games that are played, the more money MLB will make, and some of that will trickle down to the players as well. I think playoff expansion is considerably more likely, and will probably be part of the new CBA - whenever that gets worked out. But the exact form could be almost anything.
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