kab21 wrote:I disagree. it's definitely not a benefit to have 5 off days at the end of the season. The division winner gets a huge benefit with a one game series. It doesn't have to play in a 50/50 one game series. It gets two extra off days and no travel. And the wild card has to use their best pitcher in that game meaning that the division winner will only face someone like Verlander once in a series.
I agree with the part of your post that says the division leader benefits from not having to play in a 50/50 one game series. However, this will only benefit the AL West and AL Central winners
because the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays will win the wild card 90% of the time in the AL (possibly even the Jays). And since they cannot play each other in the round following the one match game, there is a built in handicap against the AL East teams. Great way to penalize the already toughest division in baseball.
I disagree with some other points. First, it may or may not be a benefit to have 5 days off once the season ends. Some pitchers and hitters play better with extra days off and some with less (when they stay in routine). You can't prove this one way or the other.
Secondly, the wild card team should be using their best SP in a 50/50 one game playoff series. However, I don't see this as being an advantage for the division winners. For instance, take the Red Sox vs. Rays in 2011. Both teams pitched their two best SP in the final 2 games of the season (Lester/Beckett and Shields/Price). Since the wild card could only go to 1 team (not both), they had to use BOTH of their aces. This led to Price starting game 3 of the ALDS and Shields starting game 2 on short rest.
Had both teams known that they would be in a 1 game series, none of those pitchers would have started over the last 2 games. Lester would have gone vs. Shields in the one game series and then you have Beckett or Price on full rest come the divisional series. So it seems to me that not having this one game playoff gives a larger benefit to the divisional winner that will be playing the wild card team
. Because if two teams know they will be making the "one game elimination round", then they don't have to use their stud SP over the last 2-3 games of the season. The only "disadvantage" comes from both wild card teams having to play their ace in a 50/50 match. Rather than use their #1, #2, #3 guys over the last few games of the season. So it affects a team like DET way more than a staff with actual depth at SP.
And if you think I am incorrect in saying this, the let us take a look at wild card history over the last 5 years, which I feel is a valid base to start from. Not too far back, nor too short of an example.
For the AL/NL Wild Card over the last 5 years (assuming we use the new 50/50 match)-
1) There was only one instance where more than 2 teams were competing for the wild card
. That was back in 2007, with COL slightly edging out both the Padres and Mets. So in this 1 instance of 10, those teams would have had to play their best guys in both the last 2-3 games of the regular season and in the one game playoff series. This would give a huge advantage to the division winner that would have to play the wild card team. Because that team would have burned ALL of its SP in the last 2 games plus the 50/50 match. But this happened only 10% of the time.
2) In 4 of 10 wild card scenarios, there were 2 clear cut teams competing for the wild card
. In 2011 you have the Red Sox vs. the Rays (LAA were 5 games back) and the Cards vs. the Braves (San Fran was 4 games back). In 2010, you have the Braves vs. the Padres (Cards were 5 games back). And in 2008, you have the Brewers vs. the Mets (Houston was 3.5 games back). In all of these instances, these teams had a big enough lead to not have to pitch Aces over the last 2-3 games of the season because they would have all made the playoffs. So in this scenario, whoever wins the 50/50 match will have played their ace already and then start with the #2 guy in the rotation for the next round. Again, not a huge disadvantage unless you have 1 elite SP like Verlander.
3) In the other 5 of 10 games, the team that wins the wild card is SO far ahead of everyone else, that it would downright SILLY to have a one game playoff
. For instance, in 2010 the Yankees won the wild card (Red Sox and White Sox were 6+7 games back). In 2009, the Red Sox won the wild card (Texas and Detroit were 8+9.5 games back) and the Rockies won the wild card (San Fran and Florida were 4+5 games back). In 2008, the Red Sox won the wild card (Yankees and Twins were 6+7.5 games back). In 2007, the Yankees won the wild card (Detroit and Seattle were both 6 games back). So in all of these instances, with maybe the exception of the 2009 Rockies, it would make no sense to have a single game playoff, as all of the other teams were very, very far back. Maybe
with the only exception being the NL race in 2009 (San Fran was 4 games back). In all of the other scenarios, this new format would be pitting a clear cut better team versus a .500 team (or barely above) in a one game series. And in these scenarios, the scrub .500 teams will all be using their aces to try to get that last playoff spot, while the team that actually deserves to be in the playoffs merely rests all of their players and uses their ace in the 50/50 match. But then again, ANYTHING can happen in a 1 game series. I think it would be downright wrong for any clear cut wild card team, who posted a great record over a full season, to be denied a real playoff series due to the luck of a 1 game series with an average team.
A three game series (do double-headers in a neutral ball park [say half distance between both cities] if time is a problem) would remedy both #2 and #3.
In scenario 2, it would make teams have to use 2-3 SP, not just one. This would grant an actual benefit to whichever team they end up playing (in addition to travel time that the wild card team has to go through).
In scenario 3, a three game series would give a slightly better benefit to the clear cut teams who SHOULD be in the playoffs. Their good seasons wouldn't come down to a 1 game coin flip with a garbage team. The benefits of scenario 2 also apply here.
As it stands now, a one game series between two wild card teams only stands to benefit the division leader ~10% of the time. Certain circumstances have to be met- more than two teams have to be in the mix for the wild card, otherwise those two teams rest their squad, lose their ace in the 50/50 match, and go with their fresh #2 guy. Only a real impact maker if said teams have to have only one great SP (who they will spend in the 50/50 match). If they didn't have this 1 game, they would be forced to play all of their good SP down the stretch to win the ONLY playoff spot OR play all of their good pitchers in a 3 game series.
A three game playoff series would also generate more revenue for MLB. But this is not a great reason, just a small plus.
The downsides to a 3 game series are obviously- timing issues and in scenario 1. In that type of scenario (10% of the time) things would play out normally for the wild card winner. Three+ teams would all use their aces down the stretch, then be forced to pitch their #3-4-5 guy in the 50/50 match, and then start the divisional series with their #1 and #2 SP. But this hasn't happened often.