Friday, March 2, 2012

MLB Expands Playoffs

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Major League Baseball's wild card has been so successful since its introduction in 1994, that 2012 will feature an additional wild card team in each league. Each league's two wild card teams will face off in a do-or-die one game playoff with the winners advancing to the Divisional Round. For Braves and Red Sox fans, it's probably a year too late, but the reality is this is a really good thing for baseball. No major sports league in the U.S. had fewer than baseball's eight playoff teams. The NFL went from 10 to 12 in 1990, the NBA and NHL each have 16 and even MLS had 10 last year with the 7 through 10 seeds being involved in play-in games.

In addition to giving more teams a chance this set up also should, in theory, give the division winners an advantage over the wild card teams. The wild card winners now have to play an extra game, have an extra travel day, and presumably won't have their ace available for Game 1 of the Divisional Series. These may not be considerable disadvantages, but it's certainly more than they had to deal with in the old format and it makes winning the division a little more important.

And look, you can argue that baseball's postseason is long enough already, but we're only talking about adding one extra game. This isn't going to result in playing baseball into December. And really it's not the number of games that's the problem now, it's the number of days off during the postseason. It shouldn't take 12 days to play a 7 game series, but that's another story.

And yes it's true that now a third place team could conceivably win the World Series, but it's been possible to win your division with a losing record and win the World Series for decades and no one's had a problem with that. 

My favorite quote in opposition to the new postseason format came from Boston's David Ortiz today:

"One game? That's kind of crazy. You know how many things we've got to move around and pack for one game?"

No, David, I have no idea how many things you've got to pack for one game. I'd assume it's less stuff than when you pack for a normal three game series though. If that's the best argument against the new format, I'd say they probably did a pretty good job. Unfortunately you could probably add ten wildcards in each league and my Astros would still probably miss the playoffs. Oh well.

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