I have to admit: Major League Baseball’s playoff expansion hasn’t been quite the disaster I was expecting.
That still doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
In a sport where a team relies on five starting pitchers all year long, only to drop that dependance to three in the playoffs made it simple enough: whichever team’s rotation was more top heavy likely was going to win the series.
Now – with a one-game wild-card round having been added in 2012 – some teams’ playoff lives depend on one pitcher in one game, where anything can happen.
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But with baseball being such a game of numbers, I’d like my odds in that game with one true stud on a team that was average 2 through 4 the rest of the season over a team that was simply solid 1 through 5 in the rotation.
What I feared would happen when MLB expanded the playoffs – in such a preposterous way – rang true in the first season it was implemented.
In a season where the Atlanta Braves ran away with the first wild card spot, winning by six games, the St. Louis Cardinals knocked them off in a one-game setup.
Now, it can be argued that the Braves – with Kris Medlen at 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA entering the game – had the better pitcher for one game as St. Louis countered with Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
But what isn’t fair is the fact the Braves essentially won a week’s worth of games more than the Cardinals, who got the chance – and made the most of – a one-game playoff.
In fact, as of last week’s “play-in” games, the second wild-card team has won eight of 10 of these matches. That’s 80 percent!
Looking deeper into the numbers supports MLB’s case, however, as the Atlanta-St. Louis matchup was one of only two times that the wild-card game featured teams separated in the standings by more than one game.
Therefore, the league is getting the excitement it sought because of league parity, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.
But it could be so much better.
My original argument when the expansion was implemented was that you need to at least make it a three-game series. Why not? Does it make the season too long? Hard to explain that one when you play 162 games in the regular season.
At least then you would get a legitimate sample size with teams relying on two starting pitchers.
There’s no denying that the expansion has made the races down the stretch of the regular season much more exciting.
To that I say: Why not keep it exciting without the possibility of a team’s season going down the drain despite what it did in a 162-game season?
If not, we might as well go back to the more recent traditional system (not the original one you diehards are thinking of, I know).
Baseball can only have it both ways for so long before another Braves-Cardinals scenario brings this flaw to light again.