A new reality in planning for the 2020 season has everything on the table, including possible playoff expansion, something that would help the Angels.
Will there be baseball in 2020? If so, how many games? When would the season begin? How would they cram a large number of games into a condensed schedule? What would the playoffs look like? All of these questions are being bounced off haphazardly set-up white boards within the homes of teleworking executives across baseball.
One idea that has been floated, according to Jon Heyman, is an expanded playoff format that would increase the number of playoff teams from ten to fourteen. Major League Baseball has been looking to expand the playoffs under a proposal they submitted to the Players Association earlier in the year.
Baseball is usually a marathon played over 162 games, something that is clearly untenable for the 2020 season. While a full season might feel tired, when it’s played, it is the best method for sorting out the real contenders from the fake. A shorter season opens up the possibility for teams to use a hot streak to catapult them into contention without the schedule being long enough to catch back up with them.
FanGraphs currently projects the Angels to win 83 games over a full schedule in 2020, putting their playoff odds at 18.3 percent. Running a few scenarios for a shortened season, the Angels see their playoff odds increase to as high as 33.2 percent over an 81-game schedule. However, these projections assume the current playoff set-up. Accounting for seven playoff teams in the American League, the Angels would see their odds drastically increase.
Presumably, the Angels would enter a shortened 2020 season with a healthy Shohei Ohtani ready to take the mound as the team’s Ace, as well as a healthy Griffin Canning to add depth to a rotation that needs it.
MLB’s original proposal for 14 playoff teams called for the best team in each league to receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs, with the remaining 12 teams playing in a best-of-three wild card round. Everything is speculative at this point in time, so it’s unclear if a similar format would follow if MLB and the Players Association agree to expand the number of playoff teams in 2020.
Of course, money drives everything. With a large chunk of the schedule unrecoverable, an expanded playoff format would allow MLB and the Players Association to generate added revenue from playoff games. This makes the possibility of a unique playoff format in 2020 more likely, in my opinion.
As of March 27, we are a long way off from knowing whether it will be safe to play baseball anytime soon. A new agreement between MLB and the Players Association stipulates that no games will be played while public health officials and local governments recommend restrictions on large public gatherings.
For now, all we can do is dream of baseball eventually returning, and maybe with a new format that helps the Halos return to the postseason tournament, however it looks.