So You Hate the MLB Playoff System, huh?

A Playoff System that is currently benefiting our current Wild Card winner by championing the victor of the All-Star game, the system is indeed flawed. I have a restructure that will never happen, but makes sense and is fun to talk about. Enjoy.

Lots and lots of people are complaining that Bud Selig has effectively destroyed the playoffs with his silly little Wild Card ridiculousness. Lots of people are complaining that because of it, it doesn’t matter how many games you win in the regular season, you have just as much chance to win as a team that was two full weeks of wins worse than you in the regular season (such as the Phillies against the Cardinals was). In a sense, that is all true.

The MLB playoff format is designed similar to that of the NFL, and while the NFL employs the popular motto “Any Given Sunday” as its weekly go get ‘um catchphrase (which works for their playoff format, as any team can beat any team is an expected notion) the same theory does not apply to the baseball community.

Obviously, baseball is a marathon. A journey over six months to discover who the best team is. For a hundred years the playoff format remained the same: the team with the best record in the American League faced the team with the best record in the National League. They played a seven game series and the first one to four victories was announced “World Series Champion”.

Sidenote: For those purveyors of New York Yankees history and haters of the new format, you have reason to complain: The Yankees won their first 20 World Series victories with this limited playoff format, and, if the current playoff structure was employed over the course of history I guarantee you they would have half the number of Championships they do now (Of course, this makes the run from 1996-2001 even more impressive). Source.

Since 1969 there has been the League Championship Series, since 1981 there has been the League Division Series, and since 1995 there has been the Wild Card. This format has expanded as the teams have (There were 18 teams in the league before expansion in 1962). Critique what you want about the structure and the game as we know it; there have always been variables that make different generations of the game easier or more difficult in comparison.

Sidenote: Take our Yankees as an example again. The Yankees won most of their Pennants (26 of 40) and most of their World Series (19 of 27) from 1921-1961, when there were never more than 18 teams in baseball. Given today’s format, (30 teams, 3 round playoff system as opposed to 1) I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I will assume they wouldn’t have won as many WS as they did. Source.

This is not a knock on the Yankees (far from it, as a boy I lived less than two hours from Yankee Stadium, and to this day I have a soft spot for the Bronx Bombers) but since they have the most extensive history in baseball in terms of postseason appearances, they are the easiest to make example of.

My point is this: To find the best team in baseball there are two arguments,:

Have a singular series between the two best teams to discover the winner, or have a formatted playoff structure which holds more value to luck and chance than anything. There is no good solution here. You could just leave it as is. Its not like fans are boycotting the playoffs. I think that being around from 30 years, the 3 series format has garnered some respect. Given the media market and today’s salaries, the suggestion to return to the original format is not even a realistic idea. No, I think that going forward, the playoffs are going to further expand, and should. More controversy, more fun!

Wild Card expansion is being discussed in the Office of the Commissioner, though no real ideas or solutions have been put forth. So, I’m going to provide one of my own that has no chance of making it past the stairs of the Commissioner’s Office, and isn’t really meant to even though it’s an awesome idea. We’re just having fun, because we can. And besides, isn’t it nice to daydream?

Major League Baseball remains at 30 teams because that actually makes sense. The Houston Astros (in a move that actually makes sense) are in the A.L. West and that move provides the 15 team league structure that so many want. There are five in each division. The Designated Hitter is introduced into the National League and Interleague Play is simply standard scheduling.

The Regular season is reduced to 150 games, which all end on September 11th. Unfortunately, the marketing ploy, Legends are born in October, is destroyed by this notion.

This is a sample final season standing graph with this format to provide a visual, as well as an opportunity for me to insert a graph into this column.

American League East

W

L

y-Tampa Bay Rays

91

59

w-New York Yankees

85

65

Boston Red Sox

84

66

Toronto Blue Jays

75

75

Baltimore Orioles

63

87

American League Central

W

L

y-Detroit Tigers

89

61

w-Cleveland Indians

74

76

Chicago White Sox

73

77

Kansas City Royals

65

85

Minnesota Twins

57

93

American League West

W

L

y-Texas Rangers

90

60

w-Los Angeles Angels

80

70

Oakland Athletics

68

82

Seattle Mariners

61

89

Houston Astros

50

100

National League East

W

L

y-Philadelphia Phillies

96

54

w-Atlanta Braves

83

67

Washington Nationals

74

76

New York Mets

71

79

Miami Marlins

66

84

National League Central

W

L

y-Milwaukee Brewers

90

60

w-St. Louis Cardinals

84

66

Cincinnati Reds

73

77

Pittsburgh Pirates

66

84

Chicago Cubs

65

85

National League West

W

L

y-Arizona Diamondbacks

88

62

w-San Francisco Giants

80

70

Los Angeles Dodgers

77

73

Colorado Rockies

57

83

San Diego Padres

65

85

So we have a nice 150 game schedule here. And yes, I simply lifted the 2011 Final standing, popped out the Astros, altered the Marlins, flipped the Rays and Yankees just for fun, and subtracted 6 games from each Win/Loss column (see, professor, I showed my work). Im not going to spend a day making sure the Astros could have that record in the AL West, I know the wins/losses would be altered, but that’s not the point of our cool graph.

y- indicates division winners, w- indicates wild card winners. There are now 12 playoff teams instead of the current 8. I think this is completely reasonable and more respectful of the talent pool in the big leagues. We took away 12 games from the regular season, and have turned them into playoff rounds: One more 5 game series, one more 7 game series, simple, right?

Now we have the following playoff format:

World Series 7 Game format 2 teams
A. League Championship Series 7 Game format  2 teams
N. League Championship Series 7 Game format  2 teams
A. League Divisional Series Group 1 7 Game format  2 teams
A. League Divisional Series Group 2 7 Game format  2 teams
N. League Divisional Series Group 1 7 Game format  2 teams
N. League Divisional Series Group 2 7 Game format  2 Teams
A.L Wild Card Group 1 5 Game format  2 teams
N.L. Wild Card Group 2 5 Game format  2 teams
A.L Wild Card Group 1 5 Game format  2 teams
N.L. Wild Card Group 2 5 Game format  2 teams

The top 2 teams from each league get a Wild Card Round Bye. They automatically play in their respective Divisional Series round.

Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers receive Wild Card Byes. Tampa with the best record in the A.L. are in Group 1, Texas with the 2nd best record in the A.L. are in Group 2.

Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers receiver Wild Card Byes. Philadelphia with the best record in the N.L. are in Group 1, Milwaukee with the 2nd best record in the N.L. are in Group 2.

American League Wild Card Group 1: Detroit Tigers (Division Title, seeded to face 6th place team) vs. Cleveland Indians (6th in League)

American League Wild Card Group 2: New York Yankees (4th in League) vs. Los Angeles Angels (5th in League)

National League Wild Card Group 1: Arizona Diamondbacks (Division Title, seeded to face 6th place team) vs. San Francisco Giants (6th in League)

National League Wild Card Group 2: St. Louis Cardinals (4th place team) vs. Atlanta Braves (5th place in League)

Now, this is going to lead to lots of people complaining that these teams sitting for a week give them a disadvantage in the Divisional Series. Of course, if we had them playing in the Wild Card Series, and they lost, then those people would complain that they shouldn’t have had to play that round. Hint: strategize your season to finish with the third best record ;)

Furthermore, home field advantage I based on your record, like it should but doesn’t now.

Now, let’s say the Tigers and Yankees advance. The Tigers (3) and the Yankees (4) took care of business during their Wild Card Series and now the Yankees go on to face Tampa Bay (1), the best record in the A.L. in the regular season and the Tigers go face the Texas Rangers (2).

The same goes for the National League. However, San Francisco upsets the Diamondbacks and move on. The Cardinals take care of the Braves as they should. The Giants (6) still have to go on to play the best seed in the League, the Phillies in Group 1 of the NLDS. The Cardinals (4) play Milwaukee (2) in Group 2.

The Yankees (4) destroyed the Rays (1) and the Tigers (3) lost to the Rangers (2). The ALCS would be the Yankees vs. the Rangers.

The Giants (6) are making everyone panic. They beat the Phillies (1) in their NLDS Group and move on. The Cardinals (4) beat the Brewers (2) who just forgot how to field and pitch for some reason. The NLCS would be the Giants vs. the Cardinals.

Home field advantage still applies at this point. The Rangers having seeded 2nd, have home field and the Cardinals having seeded 4th, have their own.

Say the Yankees face the Cardinals in the World Series. The Giants had their run, but since the playoffs ran so long, their luck petered out. The Rangers lack of starting pitching was exposed and it was bat for bat in their ALCS.

Now you have a problem. Both Pennant winning ballclub’s finished seeded 4th. What to do? Should the All-Star game or a coin flip determine who has home field? Perhaps they should look at the better weather forecasts.

No, how about since the Yankees won 1 more game in the regular season, they win the advantage (and if they tied, the winner would be the champion of the season series, and then if they tied that it would be who scored more runs in the season series, and if that was tied, then they would ask Tim McCarver how many letters were in Strike, and if he answered Yes, the winner would be the National League.)

And because Tim McCarver said five the Yankees won home field and took their 28th World Championship home, dispelling all Yankee complaints that the playoffs were rigged for other teams.

And that, is how the MLB Season and Playoff format should be done.

  • George

    Cool

  • Mr Goodkat

    Or leave it the way it is, which is fine imo.

    But if they do introduce extra wildcard teams then have the 5th and 6th best teams play each other in WC rnd 1, then the winner of that plays the 4th best team, with the winner of that going to the division series where the division winners lie in wait.

    And hello ‘George’.

    • http://docworn.wordpress.com the62284

      Yeah. I just dont want to see “more significant changes to the All-star game” that Selig is threatening us with.

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