If you follow basketball, then you know that the Philadelphia 76ers are going through a process called “tanking.” It’s when you build a bad roster in the hopes that you lose just enough to get a supremely high draft pick and repeat that process so as to stockpile young, cheap talent. Well, that might be coming to baseball this season. And it could affect the Dodgers’ playoff chances.
Tanking isn’t anything new. It’s something the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs did for a couple years in order to replenish their farm systems enough to be able to compete in the future. Both teams used that model successfully this season as one reached the NLCS and the other came within 6 outs of reaching the ALCS.
It’s worked enough for those teams that now other teams are going to try and go into “rebuild mode” a little bit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’ll be just one or two teams, but rather four teams in the National League who go through this in 2016.
Two of those rebuilding teams (The Braves and Phillies) play in the NL East and two in the NL Central (Reds and Brewers). That gives the teams atop those divisions extra games against the worst teams in the league. The Reds, for instance, play 19 games against the Cubs and seven games against the Dodgers.
Bottom line: The Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks might well be fighting for one playoff spot, with no wild card available to the other two teams. Both NL wild-card entries last year came out of the Central, where the bottom two teams combined to lose 192 games. The bottom two teams in the East lost 194 games.
The bottom two teams in the West combined to lose 182 games.
The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies were bad last season, but not as consistently bad as the other teams at the bottom of the other two National League divisions. That could play a factor in the Dodgers’ playoff hopes.
With fewer games against worse teams, it appears as if the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks are going to have to slug it out against each other for just one spot. That is unless any unforeseen circumstances happen – i.e. a team like the St. Louis Cardinals or New York Mets massively regressing.
If there’s only one spot left up for grabs, then this is going to be a hellacious season in the NL West. A second team might make it, but a lot might have to break right for them to do so based on the schedule imbalance. Especially since the NL West has to play the tough AL East this season in Interleague.