Thursday, March 01, 2012

Baseball playoff expansion: I am.... torn

People have a clarity of conviction when it comes to the additional two teams in the major league post season, and I wish I could join them in that stance, but I'm just not sure. Originally, I was uncomfortable with the expansion of the post season, because it watered down the post season. If more teams make the postseason, it get's watered down. The long regular season for a few cherished spots in the playoffs is one of the things that make the game unique.
But then, I reconsidered. One of the things about the wild card chase is that it allows some teams to coast in to the post season, assured their spot in a 5 game series. Wild Card teams have been met with a great deal of success since they were introduced in 1993, so there really isn't a stigma for ending up in that spot Now, if you are the best team not to win your division, you can't just skate to the playoffs. There is an impetus to win your division. The best teams have something to play for even as the season winds down, trying to avoid the ignominy of losing the 1 game playoff. The team they would face would have the advantage of aligning their starting pitchers, where as the wild card winner likely would have used their ace the game before. Of course, they would also have an extra day off.
But again, there is the whole idea of watering down the post season. That said, remember that baseball started with 16 teams and 2 teams in the post season. Then, when the Twins won, it was 26 teams with 4 teams in the postseason. It was expanded to 8 teams in the playoffs with the addition of the Rockies and Marlins, meaning 28 teams, 8 spots. If you want to do the math, that is 14, 22 and 20 teams left out of the post season. With 30 teams and 10 teams in the playoffs, we are still leaving 20 teams out, which is pretty much in line with the way it has always been.
I wish there was a better way to do this than a 1 game playoff, but for the life of me, I can't think of one. If anything, I just hope the season starts sooner going forward to accommodate the extra game Right now, that's my biggest sticking point. That and the inevitability of the Twins losing 5 1 game series in a row.

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Anonymous JimCrikket said...

I'm firmly in favor of the new format, but I can understand fans being unsure. Change means uncertainty and uncertainty is uncomfortable.

The "use their ace for the WC game" argument is questionable, though. Maybe that will be the case if the team(s) go in to the final few days with (a) a WC spot locked up and (b) no chance at the Division title. But if they're still playing meaningful baseball that last week (which should happen a lot), teams will likely keep their rotation in order and use their "ace" wherever he falls that final weekend. Maybe that means he's not available for the WC game... but WILL be for a potential first LDS game. Too many factors to assume the two WC teams will be using their respective aces.

Likewise, some Division champions may have had to use their aces on the final weekend, meaning they have to start the LDS with their #2 guy. It happens.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

I like the way you think, JC. I don't know that it was an "argument" so much as a potential strategy. I like the idea of division winners having all the advantages they can get.

4:00 PM  

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