Off-Base Percentage: Playoff Expansion

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In the midst of spring training there seems to be a calm before the storm in the American League West. Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes have had so-so starts. Yu Darvish apparently left his pitch control at customs. The Angels are trying to find their identity. And the Mariners are about to win the spring training Cactus League division. Too bad that doesn’t earn you a wild card spot. So, there is not much “off-base” news in the west. With that being said, I’m going to turn to the league’s new labor deal and the expanded playoff system.

As many of you know by now, the MLB will be expanding their playoffs to ten teams by adding a wild card spot to each division. The two best records in the division will play a one-game playoff to see who will move on to the division series. If you’re a team that is consistently chasing the wild card this could be treacherous for your World Series ambitions. But, this also makes winning the division much more desirable.

This change in playoff format will make managers examine their pitching rotations in late September depending on where they are in the standings. In the old playoffs, if a team earned a wild card spot it had to match up with the best record outside of its division. Now, that team has to play another wild card team and  lineup decisions are much more critical. Managers will have to ask themselves, “Do I throw my best pitcher to make sure we move on to the division series? Or do I throw someone else so I can pitch my ace against a better team?” It becomes a much more strategic game. Which could be a good thing.

If we go back to last year’s season the Red Sox and Braves would have both made the playoffs after collapsing in September. All they needed was one good game to be on to the division series. We may be celebrating a different World Series champion if the Braves could have pulled it together for one game. On the other side, Boston could have fixed their rotation, turned things around, and mowed through the playoffs to the World Series. A one-game series does not necessarily show the better team. Baseball is a different type of game that pretty much has a different team every five days because of pitching rotations. Imagine if Aaron Rodgers or Kevin Durant only played every five games. It would change the whole makeup of their team. Many of the players throughout the league, however, are in favor of the change.

The teams and players across the league are now more focused on winning their division to avoid the wild card play-in game. For many years, a lot of teams have had the “let’s play for the Wild Card” mentality. This new format will change the mentality for the year-in, year-out division contenders AND it also changes the mentality of the teams that hang around the middle of their division. They can now sneak in to the fifth spot and hope to make a run in October.

At the end of the day, us baseball fans get another game to heighten the tension in the fall as the leaves change colors and lights shine on the diamond. (Yeah, I can get pretty poetic). So, there’s not much to complain about here. And for the Cleveland fans, it even gives the Indians another shot at making the playoffs.

What do you think about the new format? Tell me on Twitter @Believelander.

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