Yesterday, Buster Olney of ESPN reported expanded play-offs as being imminent this season. Rather than waiting until 2013 like most thought the two additional wild card teams are likely to go into effect for the 2012 season. Setting aside our personal thoughts on whether this was a good change or a bad change (and trust me, I know there is no shortage of opinions), the additional wild card slot in each league will certainly help the Padres.
Since moving to Petco Park, the Padres have been much less of a laughing stock than when they played at San Diego Stadium/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm. They’ve had their down years at Petco, and even their up years haven’t generally been great, but the team is finding itself more competitive more consistently than ever before. That moderate level of success, you know the type of success the Yankees and Red Sox consider failure, has allowed the Padres the opportunity to sneak into the play-offs twice since moving into the Park and come very close two other times. Now, with the additional National League wild card team, the Padres will see their postseason chances increase.
The average number of wins in the National League for the next best team that did not get the wild card since 2000 is less than 89 wins (88.67 to be exact). I’m not one to play the what-if game, but I’m sure there will be skeptics who say even with an average win total of 88.67 equaling a play-off berth, there is no guarantee the Padres would make the postseason still. To that, I will play the what-if game. Of course there are no guarantees. However, had the additional wild card format been in play in 2007 and 2010, the Padres would have been in. Add that to there already decent two play-off appearances since moving to Petco, and suddenly the Padres are a threat.
Since moving to Petco, the Padres have had five winning seasons out of eight total seasons. Because the down years are so bad, I do not want to average out wins throughout their entire time at Petco. Instead, I will average the number of wins per winning season. The Padres have won an average of 87.2 games in their good years at Petco. Not quite at the 88.67 required to make the postseason with the additional wild card, but close.
Many will say the additional wild card teams will water down the play-offs, that they will take away the meaning and difficulty of making the postseason. That, of course, can be argued. However, we should simply concern ourselves with the fact that the Padres now have an increased chance at a postseason berth. The additional wild card team may not have meant much when San Diego was playing at Qualcomm, but with their newfound success at Petco, it means a lot.