Every year, there are unexpected teams that start off the season hot. With a shortened season, those teams could crash the MLB playoffs.
We see it every season. There are teams that start off white hot, despite a roster that would seemingly indicate that they should be battling for the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. That hot streak could last for a few weeks, or even into the beginning of June, before the lack of talent eventually comes to the forefront. A 162 game schedule has a way of unmasking the pretenders to the throne.
That may not be the case this year. Major League Baseball is staring down an uncertain future, with the season projected to start anywhere from Memorial Day weekend to the middle of July. While the league says that they are looking to play a full season, that is seemingly impossible given weather constraints.
If the worst case scenario happens, and the season begins in July, then the season may be shortened to 80 to 100 games. A half season certainly seems plausible, with the final three months of the regular season used to determine the postseason.
However, this could have the unexpected circumstance of putting in a team that has no business appearing in the postseason. For instance, on July 1, 2019, the Cubs were in possession of the first Wild Card, with the Rockies and Phillies tied for the second berth. The eventual World Series winning Nationals were 1.5 games out of the playoffs.
The same scenario plays out in 2018. That year, the Mariners were just a half game behind the Astros on July 1, and in firm possession of a Wild Card berth. The Diamondbacks led the NL West, with the Giants tied with the Dodgers 2.5 games behind. Once again, the Phillies would have made the postseason, as they were the second Wild Card at that point.
The old adage is that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That is why depth is vitally important, One does not get too excited about the highs, or too disappointed about the lows. A bad week or two does not end the season. Hell, in the case of the Nationals last year, a bad two months did not factor in.
A short season changes all of that. It is a matter of getting hot out of the gate, and trying to sustain that lead. There will be movement in the standings, but a shortened schedule could allow those pretenders to sneak in. The schedule would not allow sufficient time for those teams to be exposed.
The 2020 MLB playoffs could be utterly fascinating just because of the teams that reach postseason play. In some cases, those teams may not belong there at all.