In case you missed the massive, last-minute, game-changing news, the 2020 MLB season will be capped off with an expanded postseason, featuring 16 total teams. You can check out the full details here, but in short, the first and second place team from each division will make the playoffs, plus two addition wild card teams with the next best record in each league. That’s eight total in each league, out of 15 teams.
That’ll leave each league with four three-game series in the first round of the postseason, followed by the traditional format (two five-game Division Series, one seven-game League Championship Series, and then the seven-game World Series). And with a new playoff format, comes new playoff odds, courtesy of FanGraphs, so let’s take a look at the NL Central and rest of the league.
2020 Expanded Playoff Odds
As you can see, the NL Central is still projected to be an extraordinarily tight race this season, however the Cubs are also still expected to come out on top. And with several new ways to actually sneak into the postseason, their odds of playing playoff baseball this year have risen dramatically (up to 72.7%!). The question, of course, is how much winning the division really matters.
If you are one of the first place teams, or the second place team with the best record, you’ll get home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs this year (that means all three games). But even with that carrot, you’ll still be at the whim of a THREE-GAME baseball series at the end of the most unusual season of all-time. Seeing as any team in baseball can beat any other team in baseball two out of three times, no matter the venue, this reduces the value of first place quite a bit in my eyes. In other words, a second place finish is almost as valuable as a first place finish this year. And in reality, the Cubs just need to avoid entering the postseason as one of the Wild Card teams, presumably to avoid the Dodgers at home, which may be the toughest matchup in the National League.
With all of that said, I think you’ll find the Cubs relative odds of making the postseason quite strong:
NL Playoff Odds:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 95.9%
2. Washington Nationals: 72.8%
3. Chicago Cubs: 72.7%
4. Atlanta Braves: 72.5%
5. New York Mets: 69.2%
6. San Diego Padres: 68.5%
7. Milwaukee Brewers: 66.2%
8. Cincinnati Reds: 64.7%
Thanks to uneven schedules, the Chicago Cubs are the third best bet to make the postseason in the National League in 2020. They’re basically tied for second with the Nationals. And no one in their division is even inside the top-5. You can’t hate that.
As for World Series odds, by contrast, they are lagging far behind:
MLB World Series Odds:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 15.0%
2. Houston Astros: 13.3%
3. New York Yankees: 10.5%
4. Tampa Bay Rays: 6.8%
5. Minnesota Twins: 6.6%
6. Washington Nationals: 4.5%
t-7. Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves: 4.3%
t-9. Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs: 3.8%
This year promises to have all sorts of surprises, but by the numbers, the best teams on paper are still projected to be there by the end. We’ll see.