Michael Silberling
Michael Silberling
@MSilb7

Baseball. Is. Back.

For the first time in about 7 years, I'm excited about a baseball season. With a shorter season and expanded playoffs, every game means more, and anything can happen.

The season reduction from 162 games to 60 games means that every game actually counts as (162/60) = 2.7 normal games. Then right before opening night, Major League Baseball expanded the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 teams (5 per league to 8 per league). As a fan of a team which has been historically bad, my first reaction was "wow, this makes every game mean so much more!" This was motivated by seeing the odds of my favorite team making the playoffs increasing. But, if you think from a probability standpoint, or from the perspective of a team that is used to winning, then this playoff change should actually make each game count less than it did before. Games late in the season that may not have mattered previously will now matter, but if your primary goal is to make the playoffs regardless of seed, then the actual importance of each game should decrease.

So, this is where my math gets questionable. With a heap of assumptions, you could say that a team's odds of making the playoffs increased from 5/16 (31%) per league to 8/16 (50%) with the new format. So, roughly, (50%/31%) = teams are 1.6x as likely to make the playoffs as they were with the old format.

So, with the season reduction meaning that each game counts 2.7x as much, and the expanded playoffs resulting in each game meaning 1.6x less, then (more super questionable math) each game actually counts as 2.7/1.6 = 1.7 games compared to the normal 162 games - 10 team playoff model.

I almost guarantee that's there's some sort of probability/replacement/bayesian concept that I'm completely missing here, but the core takeaway is that the expanded playoffs make the 60 game sprint of a season actually mean way less than it did previously. This is definitely less exciting than what we were presented with before, but each game counting 70% more than it did last year is still insane. But, by expanding the playoffs, Major League Baseball just traded the volatility of a 60-game season for volatility in 3-7 game playoff series, with the big money TV contracts.

Regardless, the Marlins are 1-0, so next stop World Series? 🤷 #Sabermetrics

P.S.: The announcers keep referring to the second pre-season as either "spring training 2.0" or "summer camp." Summer camp sounds like a funny way to refer to grown adults preparing for peak athletic performance. "He really impressed the coaches in spring training" vs "He really impressed the coaches in summer camp." It sounds so silly.

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Michael Silberling
Michael Silberling
@MSilb7
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