Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday Baseball Post

Back to playoff structure again; I can't help it.

I just flipped on the Orioles/Rays game when it got to the 15th's now the 16th. I have to admit: this is a great game between two division rivals competing for the same playoff spot, right near the end of the season. That's not bad.

And in my preferred system, this game would be irrelevant, assuming all else equal (which we absolutely cannot, but what else are we going to do?).

Assuming that the Tigers were in the AL East, they would have a lock on second place. But they and the Red Sox would be still be fighting for the division pennant, with Detroit down 3 1/2 games. Over in the AL West, and assuming Cleveland was in the East, Oakland would be locked into first while the Royals and Rangers fought for the second slot and a slot to play the Red Sox (or the Tigers). Now, that prize would be a bigger one than the WC slots that several teams are fighting over now, since there's no coin flip game to advance to the LDS round, although the LDS round itself would be less valuable to get into (since the division winners would have some sort of very large advantage, probably needing to win one fewer game to advance).

Here on the second-to-last weekend, there are three head-to-head series between teams directly competing for a playoff spot: KC/Tex, Orioles/Rays, and Reds/Pirates. That's not great, but it's OK. After the weekend, we'll have Rays/Yankees (although that may no longer be two contenders)...but that's it. That stinks! Then next weekend, there's Pirates/Reds again, and again, that's all. So while this week has been pretty good, the final week of the season really stinks for head-to-head showdowns.

Yes, there's some luck involved obviously, but only some. The nature of WCs is that any team can compete against any other (same-league, in this case) team. If you restrict competition to divisions, and play in-division at the end, then the chances of getting head-to-head games is much larger.

There's another thing. With in-division competition, as opposed to WCs, the result will be better rivalries rivalries because the same teams every year are competing. Not only that, but it makes for more sensible regular seasons; fans know right away which teams are competing for which spots.

Oh well. We're now in the top of the 18th in the Orioles/Rays game, and I think I'll wrap this up. It may not be the perfect system, but it's working very well right this minute.


  1. I find your proposal offensive in that you are effectively stacking the playoffs. The playoffs should be fair competition and your proposal stands that concept on its head. It makes the playoffs a hybrid of sports and professional wrestling. Besides baseball seems to be the only major team sport that this is even a question. Hockey often has eigthth seeds beat first seeds, but there is no movement to make it harder for the lower seeded teams to win. Wild card teams have won several super bowls, even with having to play an extra game, but there is no call to make their paths even harder. Basketball doesn't matter since the higher seed team always win anyway.

    While the other team sports provide a slight advantage to the "better team" in the form of home field advantage or seeding the draw in soccer tournaments, the games themselves are identical. If the playoffs are such a crap shoot that lower seeds can win, then it just shows that the difference in the teams are not that great. There is no need to artificially stack the competition to force an outcome that someone might find philosophically appealing.

    The bottom line is that if the higher seeded team is better, win the playoff series.

  2. Anon 10:43-- It's like that because baseball has the super-long regular season (akin to a marathon run) and a long history of just having the two best teams advance to the World Series before there was any kind of playoff. Purists feel the best teams should still be strongly favored.

    Personally, while I dislike the Wild Card and would prefer more or larger divisions so that only first place teams advanced, I do agree that a playoff series itself should be even. If it must be weighted, I'd rather give the better team all the games at home than have one team have to win more games. That seems unfair.

    My perfect league would have 24 teams in 4 divisions, no wild cards. But I dislike the thought of contraction, too, so I guess my perfect league these days would expand by two teams and simply have 32 teams in eight small divisions, heavily weighted for lots of divisional play.

  3. I'd be happy with a somewhat rigged and stacked structure to the playoffs under certain circumstances, such as all or nearly all teams in the playoffs. With 30 teams, you could give worst team in each league the boot, plus the top two teams get a first-round bye. First round, I'd stack it so the higher seeded team needs 2 wins to 6 (so still a seven game series), second round they need 3 wins to 5, and third round is straight up best of seven, with the winners going to the World Series. I'd go 4-2-1 for home-away-home, too.

    I'm somewhat down on the concept of divisions within AL and NL. Yes, rivalries, but it seriously #$%#&$ over some teams. Bluejays, for example, have to go through Boston, New York, and Tampa, and even the Orioles can't be counted on to lose anymore. Being a mediocre team in a bad division shouldn't get you further than being a good team in a stacked division.


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