Let me preface this post – I’m not a fan of the added Wild Card spots. Not even a little bit. But a doubter can be turned into a believer, especially if our Dodgers benefit from the extra spot. I think it’s a shame they are turning the new format into a one-game playoff, since an 80-win team could conceivably out-duel a 90-win team in the playoff. Anything can happen in one game. Look no further than Game 6 of last year’s World Series.
Anyway, teams that were peering through the playoff bubble with eager eyes are now jumping for joy as their potential roads to the postseason get a little more clear. Are the Dodgers one of those teams? I think so. And here’s why:
The Diamondbacks are the clear favorite in the West this season. They are young, talented and fresh off a surprise division title in 2011. They bolstered their already-solid rotation with the addition of Trevor Cahill and we all know about their offense. The Giants and Rockies both made some big moves to improve their rosters, but I don’t think it was anything game-changing.
That being said, I saw the race for second place (unless the D’Backs sputter, in which case there could be a four-team race for the division) as a pretty close finish in this order – SF, LA, Colorado. But really, it could be any combination.
And of course when talking about Wild Cards, you have to consider the rest of the league. There are three teams in the N.L. Central and four teams in the N.L. East who will be legit contenders in 2012. You take out two that will win their divisions, and you’re still stuck with the Dodgers battling seven other teams for the Wild Card.
In all honesty, the East will probably get the Wild Card. Let’s give it to Philadelphia, and I’m giving Washington the division. Cincinnati is my pick in the Central, so let’s say the Dodgers are up against San Francisco, Colorado, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Miami and Atlanta for the extra spot.
On the surface, this new format is fantastic news for the Dodgers. I don’t like the rule in its entirety, but I can deal with it in a season like this. The Dodgers will have to out-maneuver six very talented ball clubs. Looking at the list of teams above, the Dodgers’ rotation is at the bottom. The offense is ahead of everyone except maybe Miami, if everyone stays healthy. So it will be on the back of the offense that this team rides to the fifth seed in the playoffs.
There are 162 very important games to be played before we know if the Dodgers will be in contention for that second Wild Card, let alone the playoffs at all. But assuming they play to the level they are capable of, they could find themselves in that position at the end of the regular season, and throwing the reigning Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw at a very unfortunate opponent.
So in essence, yes. This new playoff format certainly affects the 2012 Dodgers, and it would seem to be in a positive manner. The format sucks in general, but again, I’ll drop it if the Dodgers boost themselves into the playoffs because of it.
Let’s sit back, count down the hours to Opening Day, and see if our team gets Bud Selig and his ineffective Commissioning off the hook!