What is Wrong with MLB

What is Wrong with MLB

In my last article I outlined how good pitching teams are able to win in the playoffs with about as much consistency as an average pitching team. There is more to come on this and stay tuned to find out how much of a wash it is for trying to find a trend in which type of team will win in the playoffs. I would, if I was a GM, make no attempt to make the playoffs with average pitching. Great pitching will get you into the playoffs but it does not always win you a championship. If my team average pitching team make the playoffs I would not worry about not being able to compete with the better teams. With this said and in regards to it I also feel that there is a problem with Major League baseball and the playoff format.


The Major Leagues can pride themselves on making sure that the best team wins each division. The 162 game schedule should account for stars being injured on each team, hot streaks, cold streaks etc. The large sample sizes in most statistical categories, including win-loss gives baseball an edge that most other sports don’t have and use a simple count instead.
It takes baseball 162 games to decide that the New York Mets are 12 games better than the Philadelphia Phillies and as a result of those 12 games the Mets make the playoffs and the Phillies do not. Then the National League pits the Mets against the Cardinals with seven games to decide who is better, the Mets being 14 games better over 162 games but 1 game worse in 7. Did the best team really represent the NL in the World Series?
I have a sour taste in my mouth with the Cards winning the World Series, I feel and I know they were not the best team in the National League, let alone the Majors. In the off season the Cards are going to have to tinker with their line-up to improve coming off a WS Championship while the AL Champs Tigers are probably content with the lineup they had but lost with. Do others see something wrong with this picture?
In other pro-sports, NHL, NFL and NBA teams play much less games but significantly more playoff games as a percentage. In past NHL seasons, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames both came from the lower seeds to make the Final. If they had won no one would doubt they were deserving of the Championship. They would have to play up to a third of the total games in two months, a grueling task to be had. However, in pro-sports other than baseball, it is rare that a lower seed actually wins.
The 2006 Super Bowl saw the 6th seeded Steelers beat 3 AFC teams, all on the road and the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl as a 6-point favorite. The Steelers were hardly a regular season slouch going 11-5 and were comparable with teams that were 14-2. Few would argue that Pittsburgh did not deserve to win Super Bowl XL (with or without help from the officials).
I feel that baseball, with the current playoff format loses some of the margin for error that it negates with sample size in the regular season.
In the ML regular season, last place teams will beat first place teams weekly and this decreases with the sample size, it is a big upset for Atlanta Hawks to beat Miami Heat, it is a big upset for St. Louis Blues to beat the Red Wings and it is a huge upset for Detroit Lions to beat Chicago Bears, but not so shocking when the KC Royals beat the Yankees.
Baseball is almost entirely dependant on a local market and perhaps with expanded playoffs baseball is trying to gain National TV audience that it does not get in the regular season. Some of the things that MLB has initiated in the last few years has helped increase attendance but it may have detracted from the statistical continuity that baseball depends on. I believe that Baseball needs to remedy some of the inequities that it has created. Some of my recommendations are too far fetched but they will get more reasonable as I go along
1) To make things fair baseball should revert to no divisional play and play a balanced schedule, no ILG, top team makes the World Series from AL and NL. This can be complemented by increasing the regular season, to say, 180 games. This will keep some teams in the race longer and the extra games will benefit gate receipts of all teams. Realignment based on geography is as random as pulling names from a hat. In 1969 Cincinnati and Atlanta were in the West while Chicago and St. Louis were in the East. In 1995 Cleveland was in the Central, Detroit in the East, Cleveland is further east than Detroit. In 1998 Detroit was moved to the Central to make room for Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is also farther west than Cleveland. It is a way to divide them up, by why geographically, and why not do it properly?
2) Total amalgamation of NL and AL or total segregation. And with that NL acceptance of the DH. The AL won about 60% of interleague games (ILG) in 2006. Is the AL that much better? It can be hopeless for AL bubble teams, Toronto, Boston, LAA to look at the NL counterparts with worse records making the playoffs while they are out of the picture by early September, this hurts gate receipts in the AL as well. The AL bubble teams are winning 85-90 games and may experince attendance fall off in September while NL teams are battling to be .500 and playing the last day for a playoff spot. ILG also distorts win loss records. ILG really only count as a half game in the standings as you are not competing in the standings with the team you are playing. Interleague play is popular amongst media and fans when Chi plays Chi or Yanks go to Shea but not too much to get exited about when Toronto goes to Colorado for a three game set, these games seem less meaningless to me than a intra-league game no matter how much hype. It would be more important if Toronto and Colorado were battling for a Wild Card spot.
3) I am a proponent of playing the most games against teams you are fighting for in the standings with. Every division sends one team to the playoffs regardless of record. If this is how MLB has it set up they should increase the amount of intra-division play to get a better gauge of who is best in each division, even more than it has. The Wild Card is merely a bonus.
4) Decrease the number of regular season games and increase the number of playoff teams. Play 120 regular season games and have a round robin style playoff with 6 teams in each league making the cut.
5) Play a shorter schedule and have 8 teams play in a tournament style playoff with 7 game series.
6) If all else fails, make the LDS a seven-game series. I am still puzzled as why MLB has not done this, more playoff revenue at the expense of 3 calendar days.

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  • It looks like your going with six different ideas, so it’s tough to comment on all of them. I would make the LDS 7 games, no question.

    Were the Mets the undisputed, best team in the NL? Not during September and October. The righting was on the wall down the stretch, they got nailed with injuries, and they were under .500 in September.

    I don’t have that big of a problem with the Cards winning the WS. They were the best team at the time, that’s about it. Healing from injuries, timely pitching and good managerial skills game together to get the job done. The only real way to avoid a .500 club like the Cards winning is to cut back on playoff teams, which would be silly.

    Baseball is probably the only sport amongst the big three (sorry hockey) were the #1 seeded regular season team rarely dominates in the playoffs. But you can see it in football, and especially basketball. In baseball, anything can happen.

    The best team in baseball would have to be the team with the best regular season record. They proved over the course of 162 games that they were the top dog. It’s a nice consilation prize, but the champion is decided in the World Series. Once again, when you get down to small series, streaks can become an issue. Sometimes the best team doesn’t always win, but the best team at the time does. I’m sure if you take the same 2006 playoff teams, threw them in the WS playoff tourney in July, you’d get a different result. Then have them play again in August. Most likely a different result again. That’s just the nature of the playoff beast.

    Those are basically the facts. Does it create anything wrong with the MLB? I don’t think so, the playoffs are what they are, and I don’t think that aspect hurts the game with average fan.

  • Early

    The ILG thing really bothers me. MLB still has 2 MVPs, 2 CYA, 2 ROY etc., but they play against each other, sometimes. I feel the fad is wearing off. Sure it is nice for NYY to play NYM but wouldn’t they rater be playing Boston or Detroit in important games. Again, its good for the fans and media but it seems players, mgrs, etc. care less and less every year.
    Even in the NHL a first place team always wins. I cannot think of a team in my memory that wasn’t a good team. Chicago I think in the 1930s was the only sub .500 team to win the Cup. That is saying alot for a league that at times let 60-80% of the teams into the second season.
    And another thought, the WBC format, NCAA, one game decides all, what do we think about that?

  • Why don’t you like the Inter league games? Cause it messes with league average stats? Come on, people love it, many good regional or historical battles take place, and it spreads around some of the revenue that teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets generate when their on the road. I don’t give a damn if the players, managers care less (which i don’t think is true), the fans love it and the attendence numbers support this. Worst case scenario, it gets people talking about baseball. When interleague comes up, the media runs with it. There may be a few purists out there saying “When I was a kid, teams kept in their own ciruits. Even road the rails! Oh, the world today…”

  • BTW. I don’t mean to jack your sh*t too much. I disagree with well over 50% of your opinions, as you do with mine. But it creates discussion, which is $$$.

    WBC format for major league baseball?

  • Early

    Kman, you are the most traditionalist fan I know. I agree that having ILG playing with disperses revenue but I don’t think it has an effect that you think it would. The NY, LA, Chi, Bay Area rivalries which are the most hyped feature teams that draw big anyways (except Oak and CWS). There are many more stinkers that come from IL play than good ones. KC sits around and waits for StL to come to town, hopefully it doesnt rain, hopefully the studs arent hurt, but they also have to wade through Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, the media doesn’t have a word to say about that and it hardly disperses the wealth to KC, lets all get hyped up about 3 games mid-week, mid-season KC vs Mil. Yuck.
    I would rather see 162 intra-divison games than see the way ILG are set up now. If anything, I would rather see every AL team play every NL team on a rotating basis, one year at home, the next away.
    I am most familiar with the Blue Jays, and living in Toronto area on and off since ILP began, I will say I was excited when the Expos came to town, it cooled off fast.
    If you want regional rivalries, Toronto’s two closest opponents (Detroit, Cleve) aren’t even in the same divison, which takes away the importance and the quantitiy of the games.
    Sure, Boston and Yankees going to Fla helps that team, but when Fla consequently comes to Toronto or Baltimore they do not cause interest, if anything those games draw less. Toronto (one of the worst drawing teams) went to Atlanta and playedi n what could have been a hyped up 1992 WS rematch to less than average crowds, which can be expected because it is false hype – noone cares and its barely worth mentioning.
    Chicago came to Toronto a couple years ago and Sammy Sosa was suspended, did the swollen Toronto crowds get to see what they wanted? NO. Wait another 6 years to see the Cubs.
    Yes, when Yanks and Red Sox go into town it causes a swell in attendance (I would suspect mostly displaced New Yorkers showing up in the Yanks case) but they would similarly swell attendance if 3 more games were played in Minnesota, Oakland or Toronto and the games would mean so much more. Same in the NL, Mets, Cubs and LAD going for another tour of NL would lift the burden of the smaller drawing teams at the bottom of each divison playing each other infront of small crowds.
    IL play has to be revamped big time to a bigger purpose and get some credibility back.

  • Give me a break here Earl, you play up Detroit in post #2. Up until this season they were in the same league, team wise, as a KC, Pittsburgh, etc. Teams can flucuate. I’ve got some news for you, when KC goes anywhere nobody cares, AL or NL. So how you can use this as an arguement against IL is beyond me.

    Where has the IL lost credibility? With you? The fans and attendence figures are doing fine with IL.

    I hope your not going to start the whole “Jays are in th e wrong division” argument again. Nobody in Toronto cares about the Tigers or Indians, they want to see the Red Sox and Yankees. I’d even say that Baltimore has built up a stronger rivalry over the past 10 years than Detroit or Cleveland.

    I love your Toronto vs Atlanta example, rematch of 1992 WS. In 2006! Atlanta has had playoff series against 10+ teams since 1990, so they should care about Toronto coming in to “rematch” the WS 14 years later? With different rosters? Maybe your right, when the Giants came to Cleveland to rematch the 1954 WS there wasn’t much of a buzz. I don’t know why, it was the hyped WS rematch. Stupid IL….

    Now you want AL vs NL all season. You’ve put forth about 8 ideas, covering everything. Which ONE way do you want to see things?

    The only thing I would like changed is the 5 game LDS. Other than that, I’m cool with everything else.

  • Early

    “Nobody in Toronto cares about the Tigers or Indians, they want to see the Red Sox and Yankees. I’d even say that Baltimore has built up a stronger rivalry over the past 10 years than Detroit or Cleveland.” I agree totally, so let’s see them more. Yes, teams fluctuate too, and since interleague started there are 5 teams in the AL Cent and NL Cent in which we can count the winning seasons on one hand and these teams have been getting pounded with playing each other year after year. When these teams get good, ala Detroit, they don’t need ILG to hopefully boost attendanc.
    And I am not dead set against ILG, I said I don’t like the way it is now. If you are going to intgrate the leagues do it completley. If you want 2 major leagues that’s fine too. IL is not a new idea. Some of the poor drawing teams in the 40’s and 50’s thought they would piggyback on thier intra-city teams and play them, Yanks at Giants, Phils at A’s, Cards at Browns etc.
    Did the media really hype up the Cleve vs Giants rematch as a gimmick? The only thing I could see is bringing back all the players from those teams for an old-timers day which wouldn’t work in Cleve because they lost, and probably wouldn’t work in SF because they never have won a WS. But the rivalry? Its a joke, but it was always mentioned. Apart from intra-city rivialry and the odd working regional rivalry, the only one I can think of is SF vs NYY and LA vs NYY. Just as a response from New Yorkers who grew up in Brooklyn or Manhattan.

  • I don’t have a problem with the Interleague play except for the rivalry aspect. It should be fine if it is NL East vs. AL East and so on and so forth so that it is a level playing field where teams all play the same matchups. When the final standings are decided by 3 or 4 games, those unbalanced rivalry games become extra important.