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New format a boon to SD's playoff chances

Padres have 68.4% postseason odds, fourth-highest in NL, per FanGraphs
@AJCassavell
July 25, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- It takes only some basic math to understand that an expanded MLB postseason drastically helps the Padres' playoff odds. The Dodgers are once again heavy favorites in the National League West, and until Thursday afternoon, the Padres' best path to the postseason was through one of two

SAN DIEGO -- It takes only some basic math to understand that an expanded MLB postseason drastically helps the Padres' playoff odds.

The Dodgers are once again heavy favorites in the National League West, and until Thursday afternoon, the Padres' best path to the postseason was through one of two NL Wild Card spots. They'd have been competing with nearly a dozen other NL clubs who have serious postseason aspirations.

Everything to know about expanded playoffs

Now? Eight teams from each league will reach the postseason, with a minimum of two from every division. In theory, those numbers have turned the Padres into a serious playoff contender.

But that's not a theory that Padres manager Jayce Tingler subscribes to. He already viewed his club that way.

Preller has lofty goals for Padres entering '20

"Nothing changes for us," Tingler said a few hours before his first game at the helm of the Padres. "It truly doesn't. It's about the focus day to day, and we'll look up at the end of 60 games and see where we're at."

Fair enough. On the field, the Padres' goals aren't any different than they were a day ago. The presence of extra postseason teams isn't going to change their desire to win that night's game.

But the big picture is clear: An expanded postseason seems likely to help the Padres. Behind the scenes, several members of the team's front office acknowledged as much. Even Tingler subtly noted the difference between eight teams and five.

A reason to believe for all 30 teams

"If it does anything ... it may allow for a little bit more breathing room," Tingler said.

It also makes for a very important four-game series this weekend, when San Diego hosts Arizona. Ultimately, the Padres and D-backs might be the Dodgers' two biggest challengers in the NL West. But if L.A. takes one of the division’s two guaranteed postseason spots, the other could come down to the Padres and D-backs.

They'll play 10 times -- all in the first 3 1/2 weeks -- with seven of those games at Petco Park.

To add further credibility to the Friars' chances, FanGraphs' postseason odds upped the Padres' chances to 68.4%, which are the fourth-highest odds in the NL and first among NL teams not projected to win their division. Plus, as Opening Night hero Eric Hosmer pointed out, the Padres’ excellent bullpen might give them an extra boost in a short series.

“We love it,” Hosmer said of the playoff expansion. “That's the beauty of this game -- any team can win, anything can happen when you get to the postseason. We certainly feel like we have a team that's built for this type of format.”

Padres and D-backs unite
The Padres dedicated a portion of the pregame ceremony Friday toward addressing racial injustice. In a show of unity, players from both teams picked up a long black cloth that stretched around the infield, after they were introduced.

As they did, a Black Lives Matter video produced by The Players Alliance -- a nonprofit organization made up of Black current and former baseball players -- played on Petco Park’s video board.

Padres outfielder Trent Grisham took a knee during the moment for reflection, but he stood during the national anthem, as did the rest of the Padres.

Several Padres players, including Fernando Tatis Jr. and Tommy Pham, donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts during batting practice.

Mejía gets the early nod
On Wednesday, Tingler cautioned not to read much into the fact that Austin Hedges had started both of the team's exhibition games at catcher. Tingler backed up those words on Opening Day.

In what qualified as a minor surprise, Francisco Mejía got the nod at catcher on Friday night against the D-backs, over Hedges. To put it simply: The Padres went with an offensive threat over a defensive threat.

"We've talked about splitting time," Tingler said. "Both Hedges and Mejía have played very well. With Opening Day, I get it, there's a certain feeling to who's playing Opening Day. But just because Hedges isn't starting today doesn't mean he's not going to play. We just like a little bit more the offensive matchup."

As Tingler noted, Hedges and Mejía are expected to share time behind the plate to open the season. But with a 60-game schedule, the Padres aren't too concerned about the wear and tear on their catchers, and they wouldn't mind seeing either Hedges or Mejía seize the starting role for good.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.