After speaking to a few fellow baseball heads over the last week, it has become apparent to me that there is an awful lot of confusion as to how Major League Baseball’s new expanded post season will work this year, and on a go forward basis. Allow me to de-mystify it for you.
There are now two wildcard spots up for grabs in each league. The two wildcard teams will playoff against each other in a single elimination game. The winner of this game moves into the post season against the Division winner with the best overall record in that league. The other two division winners play each other for the right to move onto the LCS.
First and foremost, I hate this. I know people are begging for a way to include more teams in Baseball’s post season, but this is a mess. If ever there was a sport that did not lend itself to a single elimination format, its baseball. What I love about March Madness, I hate on the diamond.
There are so many variables in baseball … the biggest one being starting pitching. Your team may not even be able to run their best hurler to the mound for that single game playoff depending on how your rotation unfolded going down the stretch. On the flip side, if you win with your best arm, you’re now in a best of five game Divisional Series and can’t run him out until possibly game three which effectively limits your Ace to a single start.
There are purists that say this format is great, because despite the two wildcard spots – the focus should all be back on the pennant race and not the consolation prize of the Wildcard spot, since it will be very difficult for a Wildcard team to advance under these new rules, and damn near impossible to win the World Series. By the way, for some ridiculous reason, the Division series this year will be played under a 2-3 format as opposed to the 2-2-1 we’ve seen in the past. This change was apparently made to “reduce travel” but will only be in effect for 2012, after which we will revert to the 2-2-1 format; which begs the question… “Why?”
Another major issue with this new post season setup... we may lose some late September drama. This past season, both the Braves and the Red Sox had monumental collapses going down the stretch to fall out of the playoff picture. If there was an extra wildcard spot, these nearly automatic playoff teams would have gotten in once again regardless of their month of futility.
Personally, I’d like to see the Wildcard single game playdown turned into a best of five, with the next three rounds all being contested under best of seven rules.
In terms of who I think will be in the playoffs, I’ll save that for another article.