Thirty-one quick bullet points about MLB’s expanded playoffs

Something close to everything you need to know about the new postseason system that Major League Baseball made official Friday …

The skinny:

  • Three division winners and two wild-card teams in each league make the postseason, scheduled to end on Wednesday, October 3.
  • There will be a 163rd regular season game if needed to break a tie for a division title, even if both teams make the playoffs, on Thursday, October 4.
  • The two wild-card teams will play each other in a one-game playoff on Friday, October 5.
  • Division series for the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in each league will begin Saturday, October 6.
  • Division series for the No. 1 seed and the wild-card champion will begin Sunday, October 7.
  • For the first time, teams from the same division can meet in the division series.
  • For 2012 only, because of scheduling limitations, the lower seed in the division series will host the first two games of the best-of-five division series. Following a travel day, the higher seed would host the next three games, as needed.
  • The World Series begins on Wednesday, October 24.
  • Beginning in 2013, the higher seed in the division series will host the first two games and the fifth if necessary.

The pros:

  • There is more value to winning a division title. You get more rest before the division series starts and have a greater opportunity to set your starting rotation. Runners-up will have more reason to use their best pitcher in the wild-card playoff.
  • If two teams vying for a division title are playing head-to-head at the end of the regular season, they’ll give a full effort.
  • The odds of the best team in each league reaching the World Series have slightly increased.
  • In the absence of any hope that baseball would eliminate the wild-card, this arguably makes a second-choice playoff system better.
  • Hopes for teams that have been buried in baseball’s most challenging divisions don’t seem so dim.
  • The excitement of the occasional winner-take-all 163rd game is guaranteed to occur every year.
  • Everyone likes March Madness, so why not October Obsurdity?

The cons:

  • The regular season is devalued – there is now a greater chance for the fifth-best team in either league to win the World Series.
  • The changes move MLB farther in the wrong direction, away from eliminating the wild-card and increasing value to the regular season. Joe Sheehan makes this argument at length for SI.com.
  • Forcing the changes through in 2012, after the season schedule was already finalized, creates a chance of postseason chaos, if there is bad weather or if there are ties for the No. 5 spot in either league.
  • The system still doesn’t account for the unbalanced regular-season schedule, meaning that teams in the toughest divisions still face a tougher road to the playoffs than teams in weaker divisions.
  • The second-best team in either league might be eliminated before the division series starts.
  • In having to fight off the challenge of the second-best team in the league to win the division, the best team in the league might be in worse shape for the playoffs than the weaker champion of a weaker division.
  • The “just win your division” argument falls flat when an 81-win team in a weak division might have an easier path to the division series than the 100-win team in a stronger division.

You be the judge:

  • The extra wild-card is less likely to let more 81-win teams into the playoffs than it is to let in 89-win teams.
  • Major League Baseball will still have fewer playoff teams than the other four major sports, both in percentage (33 percent) and in total quantity (10).
  • Putting the No. 1 seed on the road for the first two games of the division series might seem unfair, although if the team can’t win a single road game and can’t protect its own home-field advantage, the end result is no different than it has ever been in baseball.
  • For better or worse, the extra wild-card will affect midseason trades and could encourage mediocre teams to go for broke rather than rebuild.
  • Alternatives were left on the table, including this one:

    Alternative #5: MLB will create a committee to weigh the intangibles of each team’s rosters. They’ll measure the story lines of each player to see if they have any players that America is really rooting for. They’ll also measure the stick-to-it-ness of all of these players. They will also measure their run-into-it-ness, in which video of the season will be reviewed to see if anyone on the roster has a propensity to run into things for no reason–be it dug outs, the stands, railing. Teams can gain bonus points throughout the season for making ordinary plays seem as though they require extraordinary effort, if they have a teammate that resembles Derek Jeter, or if they have ever completed a flip play.

Conclusion:

  • In terms of the number of playoff teams, I generally think less is more, though it’s not as if I’m in favor of a single 30-team league with no playoffs.
  • Given that Major League Baseball doesn’t feel that way and will never feel that way again, I do think the 2012 system will be an improvement over the 2011 system.
  • If you’re a Dodger fan desperate to return to World Series glory, above all else, you should probably be a happy camper.
  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Dodgers Prospect Alfredo Silverio Out Indefinitely After Car Accident
    http://sbn.to/yjkXTP

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      Seriously bummed about this, though at least it (the one bright side) wasn’t even worse.  But sounds like he’ll be out for awhile. Was looking forward to seeing how he looked in ST.
      Guess we’ll get looks at Van Slyke, Songco, Russell, Castle, etc. in the meantime. I’ve been very curious about him, though. 

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that the value of the regular season increases, from a certain point of view. Without the wild card, more teams get to the point where playing well doesn’t matter sooner. From a ‘make the playoffs’ point of view. 

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister
    • Anonymous

      I think column is borked. I don’t see how contraction will magically make anything better.

  • Anonymous

    I’m with Sheehan. Given the option to choose between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, Bud Selig will always choose the latter.

    • Anonymous

      His argument about two good teams in a division doesn’t really change anything wild card or not. Is it better to just go back to division winners in playoffs? Then you have possibly the 2nd best team (in 2010 scenario) not making playoffs just as it happened many times before when there were only two divisions…sometimes there are weak divisions and that’s not going to change whether you have a WC or not.
      Valid points certainly but not an outright clear answer as Sheehan seems to be saying he has.

      • Anonymous

        Also we would have missed great races down the end of the wire last year if you eliminate the wild card. How exciting was the last day of the season with the Braves, Cards, Rays and Sox games all being must see action because a playoff spot was at stake. 
        The WC doesn’t change races for the playoffs it may just change the race for the division.

      • Anonymous

         Second-best teams don’t deserve to make the playoffs.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           Without second-best teams, it’s physically impossible to have a playoff game.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    I have an off topic question for anybody who has been to Camelback Ranch:
    My friend has an interview in Phoenix Tuesday morning so I am going to tag along with him with the hope that I can swing by the Dodgers facility. Will probably get in to town Monday evening and will have a chance to make a visit Tuesday morning. I’ve never been to spring training so I’m just wondering can I just show up and watch batting practice or drills or whatever is going on at the time? I always see folks hanging out by the practice fields getting autographs, is this just open to the public? Don’t think I’ll be able to catch a game but would at least like to see some of the boys out on the field. Any insight to Camelback or tips on what I should do would be greatly appreciated.

    • Anonymous

      Parking is free at Camelback.  You can go to the major and minor league practice fields for free.  The only thing you need a ticket for is the main game in the stadium.  Typically there is very little to see until 10 AM.  Practice is from 10-11:30 or Noon.  There is a path where the players walk to get to the practice fields that goes right by the fans.  That is the time to get autographs.  Some will sign on the way out; more tend to sign after practice.  After major league practice winds down, you can go to the minor league fields and they are usually still practicing.

      I will be at Salt River Fields (D-backs) on Monday and Camelback on Tuesday.  This week is a good week to go.  Crowds will pick up as the month goes on!

      • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

        Perfect! Just the sort of info I was looking for. I guess I’ll try and get to Camelback around 10 on Tuesday and at least catch their practice. Thanks for the tips!

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see two new expansion teams, one of them being a National League team in Brooklyn.  8 team divisions, no interleague play, no interdivision play, no wildcard.  It will never happen, but I think the post season was much better when it was the LCS followed by the WS.  I don’t like it when a team doesn’t win its division, yet it ends up winning the World Series.  I also think the WS was a lot more special before the advent of interleague play 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    Mixed feelings on this development–I prefer the number of teams, playoffs, and schedule used in the National League from 1969 to 1992.

    But I have an important question  ****What happens if there is a tie for the second Wild Card berth?****