Cubs could be among big winners in new expanded postseason format

In the newly announced postseason format, the Cubs could be big winners.

After hemming and hawing over the length of the regular season, the MLBPA and the league’s owners have agreed to an expanded postseason format for 2020. This means 16 teams will play in October, eight from each league – good news for the Cubs.

Under the new format, the top two teams in each division will qualify for the postseason. The final two clubs from each league will be selected based on their overall win/loss records to round out the field. The big difference in all this comes in the first round, in the new best-of-three series that will determine who plays in the next round.

Here’s how the new seeding system shakes out:

  • Seeds 1, 2, 3: These are the three division winners in each league; ranked based on their final win/loss record.
  • Seeds 4, 5, 6: Division runners-up, again ranked based on their final win/loss record.
  • Seeds 7, 8: Based solely on their win/loss record.

The aforementioned three-game set will take place at the higher seeded team’s home ballpark, which means there’s no need for travel days on the calendar. Then, it’s business as usual with the five-game League Division Series and best-of-seven League Championship Series, followed by the Fall Classic.

So what does all this mean for David Ross’ Cubs team? If nothing else, it makes what we all anticipate will be a hotly contested National League Central more ‘winnable’, if you will. Even if Chicago winds up hot on the heels of an eventual division winner, they can now punch their ticket to October in multiple ways.

That could come via a second-place finish; or by having one of the best records of the non first or second-place clubs. After all, we’re talking about more than half the teams in MLB reaching the postseason in 2020. That’s only good news for the North Siders.

In the 60-game sprint, most divisions could come down to a handful of games. Not only does this help more teams make the postseason (thus putting more money in the pockets of owners and players), but it adds some more baseball to the calendar for fans who’ve been going without for the last several months.

Taking a look at Fangraphs’ postseason odds – here’s how the new format impacts the Cubs’ chances come October:

  • Old postseason format: 45.9 percent chance to make the postseason, 3.1 percent chance to win the World Series
  • New postseason format: 72 percent chance to make the postseason, 3.7 percent chance to win the World Series

I like those new odds. On this week’s Climbing the Ivy podcast, I opined the Cubs could very realistically finish fourth in the NL Central – much to the chagrin of some of you out there. In short, the division is a crap shoot. Besides Pittsburgh, any team in the Central could walk away from the 60-game season with a division crown.

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We still have a long ways to go to get to that point in the calendar. There are a ton of variables that could derail the 2020 season – but if we manage to make it through the next two months, this year’s postseason could be exciting for more fans than ever before.