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 donâ€™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.