The Atlanta Braves and the “what if?” playoff scenarios

What if we had more playoffs? How would the Atlanta Braves be positioned today? (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
What if we had more playoffs? How would the Atlanta Braves be positioned today? (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

10 days to go… but how much more (or less) interesting would this playoff chase be for the Atlanta Braves with different rules?

The Atlanta Braves are clinging to a 2 game lead in the NL East as of this morning, and three tests (the Padres, Phillies, and Mets) remain, but it’s an interesting question to pose about how things might be different had last year’s rules — or perhaps next year’s rules — been in force.

In 2020, 16 teams made the post-season:  all six division winners, all six second-place teams, and then the 4 best of the rest (2 per league of course).

As of this moment, this is how that would play out in the National League:

  • The Braves and Phillies would be cruising to playoff berths with no drama whatsoever.
  • Milwaukee and St. Louis would likewise be on the glide path to October.
  • The Giants and Dodgers wouldn’t be so concerned about their pecking order
  • The extras?    Cincy and San Diego… both rewarded despite their recent swoons.

The American League representatives would be (as of now)…

  • Tampa and Boston; the White Sox and Cleveland; Houston and Seattle as the 1st and 2nd place teams.
  • The extras would be the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The shocking bit is this:  in that 16-team format, the Detroit Tigers are just one game behind Cleveland right now… imagine if we were talking about that right now… and there had been late proposals to try and increase the number of playoff clubs going late into Spring Training this year!

The 2022 Proposal?

Right now, negotiators for the owners and players are discussing the possibility of an expansion of playoffs for next season.  In one of those proposals, a 14-team format is involved.

If you apply that to this season, that would knock out the Blue Jays and Padres, leaving the rest of the clubs noted above.

The format would give the team with the best overall record in each league a first-round bye.  The division-winning club with the next-best record would take on the single Wild Card team (the best team finishing in third place).

Here’s a sample bracket for the National League:

  • Giants (bye)
  • Milwaukee vs. Cincy
  • Braves vs. Phillies
  • Dodgers vs. Cardinals

That would produce 4 teams for a divisional series round, then 2 for the league championship round, finally sending the NL rep to the World Series.

One of the major changes under consideration:  in no case would there be a single-game-takes-all series.  All matchups would be at least best-of-3 games in duration, though the first round could involve teams playing all games at a single location… something to provide an advantage to the team with the better record.

Personally… I might want a twelve-team format… even 14 sounds like too many, as few third-place clubs would ever deserve to be rewarded with playoff games.

I do like the idea of an extra round… and having the Braves host the Phillies for 3 games at Truist Park sounds like something that we could get behind too.

Right now, it appears that Atlanta may be heading to Milwaukee as the visiting club in a first-round matchup this year… that’s less enticing.

Next. Braves Marshal up Dylan. dark

But of course, there’s still some work to do… and 10 more days to see that it gets done!