The Philadelphia Phillies have been on absolute fire lately, arguably the hottest baseball team on either side of the Mississippi over the past week and a half. Vibes are high, and the Phillies’ win total is climbing even higher, to the point where the team now finds themselves in the 2nd wild card spot in the National League. Currently, they’re sitting right in between the San Diego Padres in the 3rd wild card spot and the Atlanta Braves in the 1st wild card spot. If the season ended today, this positioning would put the Fightin’s in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, which would be an awesome result considering how the team started the season. The 2nd wild card spot, though, is starting to look at the worst possible place for the Phillies to be seeded in the NL playoffs.
This is the first year that baseball has 3 wild card teams in each league as opposed to the usual 2 that make it in those spots. With the extra playoff spot, comes an interesting change in how the playoff set up works for those wild card teams. In the new playoff format, the 3rd wild card would travel to face the lowest-record division winner in a 3 game series, and the 2nd wild card team would face the 1st wild card team. Both of those 3 game series would be held ENTIRELY at the higher seed’s ballpark, meaning that the 3rd and 2nd wild card teams would have to win 2 of 3 on the road to advance. The winner of the 3rd wild card-division winner series would then face the 2 seed, while the winner of the 2nd and 1st wild card seed series would face the top seeded team. Complicated sounding, right? Let’s apply it to this year to make it clearer.
The NL Playoff Standings look like this currently:
- Los Angeles Dodgers, 76-33
- New York Mets, 72-39
- Louis Cardinals, 60-49
- Atlanta Braves (1st WC), 65-46
- Philadelphia Phillies (2nd WC), 61-48
- San Diego Padres (3rd WC), 62-51
So the first round of the playoffs would have the San Diego Padres playing 3 games in St. Louis against the 60-49 Cardinals, and your Philadelphia Phillies playing 3 games in Atlanta against the 65-46 Braves. Then, the winner of the Padres-Cards would play the 72 win Mets while the winner of Phils-Braves would play the 76 win Dodgers. When you look at the playoff scenarios, it becomes clear: the 2nd wild card spot is the worst place to be in the National League playoff bracket.
If the Phillies finish in the 2nd wild card spot, they’d be saddled with playing a 3 game series, all on the road in Atlanta, against the defending World Series Champions. Then, if they somehow make it out of that series, they would have to travel right to Los Angeles to take on the juggernaut Dodgers. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound fun to me. If, though, the Phils end up in the 1st wild card, they could still face the Braves or a talented Padres team, but it would be in Philly, which is preferable. Honestly, the 3rd wild card spot may be my preference because it would match the Phillies up with the NL Central champion, who could possibly be the worst overall team in the National League playoffs. Then, you also get the 2 seed in the 2nd round? That sounds like a deal to me. Whatever your preference, though, it’s pretty clear that the 2nd wild card spot is the worst place for the Phillies to be.