Has the expanded MLB Playoff fixed baseball?

MLB Phillies
Members of the Philadelphia Phillies including Bryce Harper, right, and Kyle Schwarber, second from left, celebrate in the clubhouse after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals to win a National League wild-card baseball playoff series, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

Before the 2022 Major League Baseball season, the MLB decided to expand the playoff format from 10 teams to 12.

This meant there would be six teams representing each league, the three division winners, and then the three best remaining records.

This expansion was met with a lot of debate, but it ultimately helped the Phillies as they were able to take the final spot in the 2022 playoffs before making a run for the World Series crown.

Through 50 games in the second season of the expanded playoffs, I think it is safe to say that the expansion has improved Major League Baseball for the better.

Phillies onto the NLCS
The Philadelphia Phillies pose for a photo after a win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Phillies won, 8-3.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Parity in the MLB Playoffs?

In the first season of the expanded MLB playoff, there were only 14 of the 30 MLB squads that were “going for it.”

The Brewers and Orioles missed out on the post-season, the last remaining teams with winning records.

It demonstrated why the initial thought of a 14-team playoff would have been crushing for the league, as it would have rewarded mediocrity. While I was against the expansion from 10 to 12 teams, I believe that this season has given clubs ample time to try and find ways to get into the postseason.

If the season were to end today, there would be six new teams in the post-season. While we are only 50 games into a 162-game schedule, it is safe to say that more MLB teams are trying to compete this season.

Currently, the Rangers, Twins, Orioles, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Pirates would all get into the playoffs. The Mariners, Blue Jays, Guardians, Phillies, Cardinals, and Padres would all have dropped out of the hunt.

Calling Up Prospects

One of the benefits of the new MLB CBA is that prospects are being called up earlier in seasons to try and win. Besides new rules that tried to disincentivize teams from holding back players to manipulate their service time, with the extra playoff slot, teams are trying to win those extra games to try to get in.

The Arizona Diamondbacks did not hesitate to bring top prospect Corbin Carroll to the Major League roster. Carroll has a .889 OPS on the season and is one of the favorites to win NL Rookie of the Year. He even signed an 8-year, 111 million-dollar contract, a full commitment for Arizona. The Diamondbacks are currently 29-21 and have the third-best record in the National League.

The Yankees started shortstop Anthony Volpe on Opening Day. They gave one of their top prospects a chance to grow, and while Volpe has had some struggles, he has shown flashes of the potential he commands. New York is 30-22 and currently in the Wild Card hunt, mostly due to the Rays and Orioles behind so dynamic.

Had Baltimore called up Adley Rutschman sooner in 2022, they might’ve made the postseason. The Orioles have the second-best record in baseball this season, and Rutschman has become a star. His influence on the team and the city has completely revitalized baseball in Baltimore.

Where We Stand

As I said before, we are only 50 games into the MLB season (give or take).

There is still plenty of time for the outlook of the playoffs to change. There will be injuries, trades, hot/cold streaks, players heating up, and prospects making an impact on their team. There is no way to tell how the end of the season will look until we get there.

With this being said, it is nice to see that more teams are still in the hunt for the postseason.

At this point last season, there were six teams in the National League with less than 21 wins. The worst team was the Cincinnati Reds at 14-30, and this year, it is the Washington Nationals at 21-29. That seven-game difference has put Washington just 4.5 games back of the final Wild Card seed.

Aside from the Royals and Athletics, the American League has been better as well. There were seven teams that had less than 21 wins at this point in time. Oakland and Kansas City are the only two that have not exceeded that mark this season.

With just two months until the MLB Trade Deadline, things will certainly shake up. Teams will decide whether they want to buy or sell, and the hunt for the World Series will officially begin.

We will continue to monitor how the expanded playoffs make a difference in how teams construct their rosters. As of today, the expanded playoff has given teams the incentive to try and win. Better quality of baseball can only help the sport, and hopefully, it means we are in for a treat as the summer draws near and the MLB season begins to ramp up.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Scott Kane