Expanded Major League Baseball Playoff Format Makes Rangers, Reds, and Rays Attractive Longshots

Baseball Aug 12, 2020

The expansion of the 2020 Major League Baseball playoffs from 10 to 16 teams will require several betting adjustments to the usual routine.

The favorites to win the World Series – including the New York Yankees 4/1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers 15/4 (+375) – lose appeal from a betting perspective, while 50/1 long shots such as the homeless Toronto Blue Jays and the 80/1 Texas Rangers become more attractive.

However, the new format further accentuates this dynamic.

In an agreement with the Players Association and in an obvious money grab, MLB has decreed that the top two teams in each division will automatically qualify for the playoffs as well as the non-auto-qualifiers with the best two records in each league.  The one seed will play the eighth seed; two will play seven and so on.

What is surprising – maybe shocking – is that the first round is a best-of-three game series; followed by a best-of-five; then a best-of-seven League Championship Series; and a best-of-seven World Series.

Not only does this format cheapen an already tawdry 60-game regular season; it puts enormous pressure on the top seeds to perform in the first round.

Think this is an exaggeration?  Think again.

Let’s face it: the Baltimore Orioles can beat the Yankees in a best-of-three series. It isn’t likely according to the anticipated odds, but sure – it could happen.

More to the point and short of a miracle, a team better than the Orioles will face the top seed in the first round of the playoffs.  Two great pitching performances from the underdog and an already shortened season could get shorter for the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers.

The normal playoff format featuring ten teams is already a minefield to negotiate, leading to non-division champs, such as the 2019 Washington Nationals, winning the World Series.  Not that the Nationals were not deserving.  

Washington rode outstanding starting pitching, which will likely be the biggest key to postseason success during the 2020 playoffs.  Why?  Because no starting pitchers will be entering the playoffs with 200-plus innings of stress on their arms, meaning that they can be extended into the later innings of playoff duels without a meaningful decline in effectiveness. This unique circumstance allows teams with weaker bullpens to hide them more effectively in what would be (at a maximum) a 22-game playoff run.

Yes, the Yankees and Dodgers are blessed with excellent starting pitching, but they are now obvious shorts with the new playoff format.  The question becomes which teams – barring injury – that are currently considered longshots have solid enough starting staffs for a playoff run.

Here's a few teams to consider:  

At 80/1, the Texas Rangers could qualify with a rotation of Minor, Lynn, Gibson, and Lyles.
In the NL, the defending champion and Anthony Rendon-less Nationals stack up against the best in the game with Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, and Sanchez. At 22/1, and only needing to finish in the top two to guarantee a playoff berth in the tough NL East, Washington merits consideration.
The Reds 25/1 and Rays 16/1 also have the starters capable of carrying their respective squads to a championship.

Make these bets before the odds makers adjust at Spreads.ca.

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Headline Photo Credit:  Yahoo.com

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