What if I told you that when it comes to picking postseason teams, there is a trend that has held true for 17 straight years and 27 of the 28 years of the wild-card era? You would not make the common mistake this time of year of picking nothing but winning teams from last year to fill your playoff bracket this time around.

Except for 2005, every postseason since 1995 has included at least one team that bounced back from a losing record the previous season—usually more. The count is up to 64 teams in 28 seasons that have pulled off this turnaround, an average of 2.3 surprise teams each year. The trend continued last year with the Guardians (turning around from 80–82), Mets (77–85) and Padres (79–83).

Rest assured, the 12 best teams on paper right now are not all going to the postseason. One or two teams that stunk last year are going to the playoffs.

How can we help identify these surprise teams? The two biggest factors in this 28-year trend are:

  1. Improved run prevention.
  2. A change in managers.

Thirty-eight percent of the 64 turnaround teams had a new manager. With that helpful hint, here are the most likely surprise playoff teams this year.