September 30, 2022

How the new postseason format could affect the Mets

This story is excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, Click here. And subscribe to receive it regularly in your inbox.

According to FanGraphs calculations, the Mets (along with the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers) are one of four teams with a 100% chance of making the playoffs. That doesn’t mean they’ve clinched a spot yet, as they won’t be for several weeks. It simply means that in 10,000 computer-simulated stretches, the Mets missed the playoffs precisely zero times.

In the real world, star players could still suffer injuries. The team’s performance could take a significant downtown. Citi Field could sink in Flushing Bay. In each of these scenarios, the Mets will almost certainly qualify for the playoffs. So exhale; no 2007-style meltdown is coming. (And before you send those angry emails, jinxes aren’t real.)

So what does the playoff landscape look like right now? While the NL East title remains an open question that we should be getting closer to answering after four games in Atlanta this week, the Mets have around a 90% chance of both winning the division and earning a bye to the first round straight to the Division Series. They’re five games behind the Dodgers in the NL overall standings, making the No. 2 seed the Mets’ likeliest spot.

There is a popular argument that the second seed is actually the most attractive, because the No. 3 seed has to be a division champion, and the winner of the NL Central division will likely end up with a worse record than a or more Wild Card teams.

Here’s a quick look at how the revamped MLB playoffs work:

• Six teams qualify in each league, with the top two receiving byes to the Division Series.
• The winner of the remaining division receives the No. 3 seed and sets up a best-of-three playoff against the worst Wild Card team.
• The other two Wild Card teams, Nos. 4 and 5, are contesting a best-of-three playoff series for the right to face the DS’ first seed.
• There is no reseeding between rounds. Parenthesis is what parenthesis is.

This would be the seeding arrangement if the season ended today:

Dodgers (79-34)
Meals (75-40)
Cardinals (63-51)
Brave (70-46)
Padres (65-52)
Phillies (63-51)

In this scenario, the Dodgers would face the winner of Braves-Padres, while the Mets would face the winner of Cardinals-Phillies — the two teams with the worst records in this hypothetical playoff group.

So shouldn’t the Mets be trying to catch the Dodgers? I am of the opinion that it can be dangerous to relax in hopes of scoring an easier first-round game. Any playoff team is more than capable of beating any other, especially in a best-of-five DS. The Mets’ best course of action is to win as many games as possible and see where that takes them.

So far, this strategy is working very well.

(For more on the new playoff format, check out this primer from my colleague Anthony Castrovince.)

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