MLB’s new expanded playoff format could open the door for the SF Giants during the shortened 2020 season.
Carpe Diem, SF Giants.
A unique opportunity has presented itself on the heels of the 2020 MLB regular season, which began in earnest on Thursday night, and it would be a shame if the Giants missed out on a chance to seize the moment.
According to multiple reports, the MLB and MLBPA have agreed in principle to a framework that would expand the postseason field for 2020 from the usual 10 teams (five from each league) to 16 teams (eight from each league).
Under the agreed-upon format, the three division winners from each league would be given the ability to select one of the five wild card teams as a first-round, best-of-three opponent.
The teams that did not get chosen would then face each other — also in a best of three first-round series.
As you might expect, this development is unprecedented territory for baseball. Not because of postseason expansion, as baseball last expanded its playoff field back in 2012 with the addition of a second wild card team.
Rather, it’s the chance for teams to pick their playoff opponents that would mark a radical departure from anything fans have ever seen before.
This is exactly what should incentivize teams like the Giants to go full-throttle over the relative sprint that should be a 60-game season, (assuming COVID-19 doesn’t run rampant over baseball’s plans), especially when contrasted against the typical 162 game marathon.
Don’t expect the SF Giants to win their division, but a playoff berth isn’t out of the question.
Now, of course, the chances of San Francisco winning the NL West are minuscule if we’re looking at things realistically.
Residing in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have exemplified regular-season greatness in recent years, doesn’t help the Giants’ cause.
So no, before you get too excited, San Francisco probably won’t get to pick their first-round opponent should they find themselves in the running.
In fact, they’d probably be one of the teams picked by an NL division winner if they were to qualify for postseason contention in 2020.
That would be the whole fun of it, though.
In a best-of-three series, literally any outcome is possible. Juggernauts like the New York Yankees and Dodgers are just as susceptible to elimination as the scrappy underdog team that claws their way in at the last possible moment.
After all, if any team in baseball knows how to write a Cinderella story, it would be the SF Giants. They won the 2014 World Series as an 88-win Wild Card team.
Not to mention, how about the extra chip on your shoulder factor that would come with being intentionally chosen by a division winner because your team was perceived as being inferior over a 60-game sample?
Think the players would be motivated enough to avenge that reputation?
If that’s not enough to drive a team into a tizzy, imagine if it were the Dodgers who could hypothetically choose the Giants in this situation?
I couldn’t think of a circumstance with more potential stakes for San Francisco — unless the scenario involved a role reversal of those two clubs’ current standing.
In a best-of-three series, the Giants have two veteran arms they could turn to right away in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Assuming health, both have playoff experience. Cueto especially, since he pitched in the 2015 World Series, which he won with the Kansas City Royals.
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Just having two quality starters would give the team a fighting chance given the unpredictable nature of a short playoff series.
Sure, San Francisco’s overall roster construction is far from an incredible specimen. Their lineup is average, at best. Their bullpen is a work in progress.
Call this whole proposition insane, but crazier things have happened than the heavily under-favored SF Giants potentially making a miracle run at the playoffs (like I don’t know, the whole coronavirus pandemic, which is the principal reason this is even a relevant scenario).
When 16 out of 30 teams in the MLB have a shot at the playoffs, it would be crazy not to envision your team having a legitimate case.
The 2020 SF Giants are playing with house money and low expectations. With nothing particularly material to lose at the moment, why not go all “carpe diem” on the season?
Crazier things have happened.