Postseason Changes In 2012? My Thoughts on the Matter

All I know is that change is on the horizon, and I'm waiting to see what happens. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig alluded to his support for installing the postseason changes on the docket for the 2013 season as early as this upcoming 2012 campaign.  After reading the post by C. Trent Rosecrans on CBS.Sports, the thought of the immediate change to the MLB postseason structure for this upcoming season intrigued me.  Thus, I figured that it would be appropriate if I shared my thoughts on the matter at hand.  So hit that Continue Reading button, and let’s get started:

Pro Changes

To me, the expansion of the MLB postseason has a couple of extremely positive benefits.  Expanding the playoff field opens up the opportunity to numerous “hot” teams that can parlay their solid September play into making noise come October.

The “one game playoff” will create a tremendous buzz and feature two teams fighting for their “playoff lives.”  In fact, one game playoff situations have featured some of the most exciting games in postseason baseball history.  I mean, it stings as a Padres fan, but that Wild Card game from ’07 at Coors Field was incredible looking back on it.  Elimination games have high drama, and with high drama come high television ratings.  If the MLB is serious about marketing its game, more postseason excitement can only help.

Opening up the “Wild Card Field” to new teams can create more and more opportunities for upsets and dark-horse teams to have their shot.  Think about it, since 2002, 5 out of the 10 teams that have won World Series Titles (including last season’s St. Louis Cardinals) came via the Wild Card.  Teams will be scratching and clawing to get those final two spots to just procure some hope for their World Series’ dreams.

Furthermore, more emphasis will be placed on teams actually winning their respective Divisions come the changes.  A division title equals a solid 5 game division series, and a chance to rest the rotation and the lineup.  A lolleygaging effort down the stretch and a Wild Card berth after falling out of first means a one-game playoff against a team that more than likely fought its way there.  I’ve seen Wild Card teams lag down the stretch due to the postseason berth being “in-hand” and not even give 100% for the Division Crown with multiple weeks to play.  The incentive for a Division Title will make the final weeks of the season that much more meaningful.

The final rule which I am in favor of is that teams from the same divisions will be matching up in the Division series ending a rule that has existed since 1995.  Instead of a #1 seed playing a #3 seed due to the Wild Card team being from the same division as #1, the Wild Card team will have to go on the road and face the #1 seed, no ifs ands or buts.  It will be fantastic to see Division rivalries in action as early as the “play-in-games,” and then moving forward to possibly the Championship series.

 

Con Change

While I may be happy at a lot of what the postseason changes are trying to bring, there is one issue I do have with the determination of division titles moving forward: the elimination of tie-breakers.  Instead of using head-to-head records to determine the Division champions, the records will be thrown out and a one-game playoff will determine the winner, while the loser will either have to participate in a “play-in-game,” or sit at home come October if their record is not as good as the other two Wild Card foes.

While I do believe that emphasis needs to be played on winning one’s respective division, I feel that head-to-head records should be a determining factor if a tie occurs at the top.  I mean, what’s the point of division games at all, if they have no bearing on determining a winner in the event of a tie?  I know the change has the right intentions, but seriously?  A team proved that they were better than their division counterpart in the regular season.  So why shouldn’t they be rewarded?

 

Conclusion

I’m honestly stoked to see this postseason format in action.  If it happens this season, great.  If we have to wait until 2013, then that’s fine by me.  None of the major sports which feature playoff series (I’m excluding the N.F.L. because they are all 1-game scenarios) have play-in-games no matter what the cost.  Thus, I am anxious to see what sort of excitement if anything MLB’s postseason changes can bring.  Who knows?  Maybe this structure could bring some popularity back to Major League Baseball?  When the postseason was expanded the first time it rocked a few boats, but over time we all embraced the idea of a “Wild Card” and a “Division Series.”  Maybe in time we can embrace yearly “Wild Card Playoffs” and “Division Playoffs?”  Time will tell.

 

Follow me on Twitter (@DominicDiTolla)

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  • Sammy

    I have two issues with the one game “play-in” wild card. One, what if one of the teams eeks into the play-in game with 84 wins and the other team is in a tough division and gets in with 93 wins? One game should not determine who plays the Wild Card round. Also, MLB is putting an awful lot to chance. If one team just happens to be at starter number 4 when the season ends and the other team is back to the top of the rotation, the better team will not be determined in one game. In fact, baseball is a sport in which one game never determines the better team.

  • ChickenFriars

    Sammy, I’m sure Dom has his thoughts on this matter, but I’ll share mine as well. While I understand what you’re saying and agree. The goal is not to reward teams who fail to win their division with an easy trip to the postseason. The goal is to reward those who actually win the division and make it so teams under the previous format, who would not try as hard to win knowing they already had a wild card spot locked up, must play up until the very last day in most cases. Baseball is never going back to a two division league where the winners face off in the LCS. Nor is it going back to the day when the National League winner and the American League winner go straight to the World Series. What this new format does is allows division winners that extra benefit and puts more emphasis on winning the division similar to the days before we even had one wild card team in each league.

  • gunu

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  • Sammy

    @ChickenFriars I understand that philosophy, and I realize it kind of strikes a balance between the modern day sports playoff system and a more traditional baseball system. But I still have a huge problem with a one-game play-in game in a sport that is based on 3- and 4-game series and working a pitching rotation. Plus, the past few years, the wild card races have kept teams in the race all the way to game 162 and even 163.

    Bob Costas has advocated for increasing the league to 32 teams, then splitting each league into four 4-team divisions, with only division winners going to the playoffs. I’d like that idea IF and ONLY IF the league went to a salary cap and true revenue sharing, and shortening the season so the WS doesn’t end up in November. Otherwise we’d end up with shitty teams in Portland and Indy with no money.

  • ChickenFriars

    @Sammy I agree with you there. 32 is a lot of teams though. But I’m all for anything to increase the competitive balance of the sport.