Last season, Major League Baseball expanded the postseason format by adding a third Wild Card participant in each league. The thought process was to create more excitement in the dog days of August. The move allows the San Diego Padres to control their fate in the 2023 Wild Card chase.
The Padres have 48 games remaining in the season. They’re playing more than half of them against teams who are ahead in the Wild Card standings. Some of the key matchups include seven games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants, and three games against the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers.
Too early to write off San Diego Padres
It is too early to write off the Friars, as they have been flirting with the postseason since spring training. The Padres have enough talent to be a participant, but they have not played to their potential.
The Padres have been a distant memory in the National League West division race since displaying the Clayton Kershaw meme on the Petco Park scoreboard following a victory in early May. Despite all their troubles and misfortunes, the Friars can still become eligible to play October baseball, as the Wild Card chase is very much up for grabs.
The NL Wild Card chase is tightening
The Giants and Phillies are in a virtual tie for the top spot, but San Francisco leads the Wild Card chase because they won the season series over Philadelphia. The Chicago Cubs hold a percentage lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the final Wild Card berth. The Miami Marlins (1/2 game back) and Arizona Diamondbacks (two games back) are holding steady in fifth and sixth place.
Momentum changes quickly in baseball, and the Reds (16-18), Marlins (11-21) and D-Backs (8-23) have all struggled since July. But that does not change how they have exceeded expectations all season long. And just like Cinderella, the clock might have struck midnight for those organizations. It is not impossible to think each could fall into baseball’s abyss of sub .500 teams.
The month of August will determine the fate of the Padres
The next four weeks will determine the fate of the 2023 Padres. Their quest for the postseason begins with a three-game weekend series against the D-Backs on Friday night. It marks an important stretch of the season for the Friars, with 13 of their next 18 games are against the D-Backs, Marlins and Brewers. It's a perfect time for the Padres to get on a hot streak before the teams ahead distance themselves in the Wild Card standings.
According to FanGraphs, the Padres have a 24.9 percent chance of making the postseason. They find themselves four games off the pace, but the Friars will have to play near-perfect baseball to make up ground in the Wild Card standings. And that only occurs with improved starting pitching, the emergence of the offense and more consistency from the bullpen.
2023 has been a strange baseball season for the Padres. There is still time left to get on the roll and participate in the chase for the final wildcard berth.
Lo and behold, the Friars making the playoffs is not as implausible as it sounds.