A short season brings urgency. Every loss is equal to 2.7 losses in a 162-game season. Consequently, panic buttons are closer within reach. After one weekend of play, three teams already are in trouble in the standings: the Phillies, Red Sox and Reds. All three teams lost two out of three at home to bad teams.
An overreaction? Sure, especially in a season in which eight teams in each league qualify for the postseason, which means a .500 record is contending status. The point here is that by losing games early to bad teams an apparent contender loses a big chunk of its margin of error.
Four hundred fifty teams have qualified for postseason play in baseball history. Only one of them did so with a losing record against losing teams: the 2016 Texas Rangers (34-36). Among World Series teams, the “worst” record against losing teams was the 36-31 mark of the 2007 Colorado Rockies.
History tells us that playoff teams dominate bad teams. The past six pennant winners were 376-173 against losing teams, a .684 winning percentage. Last year the 10-team playoff field was 562-276 against losers, a .670 winning percentage.
Playoff teams need to win almost 70% of their games against bad…