Sep 06

Resting up for the trip Up North

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is in honor of Elmer Valo.

While pinch hitting for Jon, I’ll try to keep up with the news as best I can, but I think most of you will probably know it before I do.

Wednesday’s night game against the Padres was quite typical of the Dodgers in the past two weeks. There was disappointment (down 3-0 early), hope (tied 3-3), some more disappointment (down 4-3), hope (Kemp almost hit it out, Victorino got an HBP!), and then disappointment more bitter than yogurt left in the refrigerator two weeks too long. (Gonzalez grounds out to end the game as the Padres bullpen retires 12 of the 14 batters it faces.) On the other hand, I did get to come home with TWO Hello Kitty Dodger tote bags.

There is a small slate of games in baseball on Thursday, just five, and only one of them will have any bearing on the Dodgers. Colorado will be playing at Atlanta at 9:10 am. The Dodgers are presently 4 1/2 games behind the Braves for wild card spot #1, which is the same distance they trail the Giants in the NL West. The Cardinals lead the Dodgers for wild card spot #2, but now the Dodgers are behind Pittsburgh by .0005. (Or you can just look at it as the Pirates having two games in hand.)

Later tonight, I’ll be back, I hope with a preview of the upcoming series the Dodgers will be playing in California’s fourth largest city.

Mar 03

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.