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  1. If Bud were concerned about fairness, he’d scrap the divisions and send the best team in each league to the World Series.

    Comment by Llewdor — February 2, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  2. It doesn’t cheapen the regular season if it gives teams more incentive not to finish as a wild card that features a play-in game.

    Comment by Dekker — February 2, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

  3. The current proposal actually increases the importance of the regular season. Now, teams have a huge incentive to win their division, whereas before no one cared if they won the division or got a wild card. However, I can certainly see how this could lead to more playoff teams which would dilute the system.

    Comment by DB — February 2, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

  4. Whatever, it’s 2 to 4 extra days… who cares!

    Comment by Joshsaysgomo — February 2, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  5. It wouldn’t be extra days this year, since the playoff schedule is already sort of locked in, even if the extra wild cards get added. But in the coming years it definitely could be.

    Comment by Alex Remington — February 2, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  6. Who cares if Selig’s reasoning is specious or doesn’t hold up to scrutiny? The only relevant question each fan should ask themselves is whether adding the extra WC is good for the game right now. IMO, yes it is.

    Here’s why:

    1) Until there is an equal financial playing field, then the more you give smaller market teams a chance to make the playoffs, the better it is for the game. With the luxury taxes and revenue sharing, financial equality is better than it was in the recent past. But significant inequality still exists. As long as a team like the Yankees continues to outspend its rivals by a wide margin, they will always have a competitive edge. The extra WC waters down this edge. So, of course, if you are a Yankees fan you are not going to like the extra WC. But this should be good news for most fans of smaller market teams.

    2) Contrary to diminishing the value of the regular season, the extra WC as presently planned increases it. As many have pointed out, it makes winning a division title more meaningful in divisions with strong wildcard candidates. No longer can teams coast to the finish line the way they’ve done in some WC situations.

    Kudos to Selig. He’s had some missteps during his administration, but overall he’s been spot on with his initiatives and good for the game.

    Comment by caseyB — February 2, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  7. I agree, I think a second playoff team will make the end of the season MUCH more exciting. In my opinion, little in baseball is more thrilling than a one-game playoff. Remember the game 163 between the Tigers and Twins in 2009? Padres-Rockies a couple years before? Baseball at its best.

    Comment by Fletch — February 2, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  8. I do agree, though, that the season is too long. I wish they would keep the planned extra WC and shorten the regular season by a dozen games or so. They will never do that, however, as it will decrease revenue.

    Comment by caseyB — February 2, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

  9. “My basic position is simple: more playoffs means that the regular season means less. It cheapens the product.”

    Your basic position is overly simple. Two Wild Card berths cheapens the value of any individual Wild Card spot, therefore increasing the value of winning your division in the regular season.

    Comment by Phils_Goodman — February 2, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

  10. It increases the importance of the regular season for some teams. But what about the 97-win wild card team that now has to play a one-game playoff against an 85-win second wild card team? Sure seems like you are diluting the importance of that fine regular season record.

    To me, the obvious solution is to go back to 2 divisions, and take the two division winners plus two wild cards. The Blue Jays could still make the playoffs in such a scenario, and you would almost certainly be including the best 4 teams (record-wise) in the playoffs.

    Comment by Mark — February 2, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  11. This.

    Remington is consistently short-sighted/narrow-minded in his analyses (google Remington Winter Classic if you don’t believe me). Adding a second wild card team with a 1 game playoff gives the regular season more meaning, not less. Win your division, or you’re ~50-50 to actually play in a playoff series

    Comment by Mike — February 2, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  12. It would certainly be an advantage to a team with that one stud SP for that one game play in. Jays fans have to like this.

    Comment by AL Eastbound — February 2, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  13. only if that stud pitcher didn’t have to pitch in the 162nd game to get their team into the wild card.

    Comment by attgig — February 2, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  14. I’m actually not against the idea of adding an additional wild card, I just hate the idea of a one game playoff. The bigger problem is that, as Alex notes, this doesn’t really do anything to make things more fair. It shifts some of the unfairness from division winners to wild card winners, but doesn’t change the fact that an 86 win Tigers team could get a first round “bye”, while a 96 win Red Sox team could be forced into a play-in game against a far lessor opponent. If they are going to create such a huge disadvantage to being a wild card, they should at least seed the playoffs based on record, and disregard division winner status (as far as seeding, not who gets in).

    Comment by Brent — February 2, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  15. I totally disagree.

    Comment by Brent — February 2, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

  16. Probably should have tried to end this piece with the words “defiling motherhood.”

    On another note, I’m with Alex but the most compelling argument I’ve heard was this:

    Baseball spends 162 games determining the best teams in the league. Do we really need a guaranteed 163rd to make sure we got it right between the 4th and 5th best teams? Unlike football, say, where there is only a 16 game season, it makes more sense to have a larger number of playoff teams. The regular season is much more important with less playoff teams because it’s harder to squeak in.

    I’m sure I’d get used to a second wild card, but I’m still opposed to it as of right now.

    Comment by Will — February 2, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  17. I completely disagree. By letting those weaker teams into the crapshoot that is short-series baseball, you’re rewarding mediocrity. And the small divisions already do more than enough of that.

    If you want good baseball, you should subject teams to strong competition. They’ll adapt.

    Comment by Llewdor — February 2, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  18. No need to Google: here it is.

    Not my best work, I freely admit.

    Comment by Alex Remington — February 2, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

  19. This idea works if they scrap the divisions, Best 3teams get in for sure then the other 2 play it out for the 4th spot in each league. Baseballs way more fair since you typically play similar schedules to the competition( yes i know inter-league wouldn’t be exactly the same for everyone but that’s not a lot of the year unless they go to some rotating/inter-league every week setup to accommodate the Astros in the AL, and if they do they can balance it out easier then also)

    The playing field is really becoming bad for the small market teams, when just the Yankee’s spent a ton they could write it off as just one team. Now honestly you can look at the AL and basically predict who is going to be in the running for the playoffs and not by nearly just the payrolls. (TB and Chicago are the outliers) Baseball has some serious questions about how to even the playing field over the next 10 or so years either its contraction, relocation or praying for new stadiums.

    Comment by Aj — February 2, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  20. Baseball is then way more fair* shame we cant edit.

    Comment by Aj — February 2, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  21. The fact that that 97 win wild-card team is in the playoffs in the first place should be questionable from people who think the two WC format cheapens the regular season. They should’ve won their division. If they did then they wouldn’t have to worry about facing the 85 win WC team in the winner takes all play-in game.

    I heavily agree with the other commentors here who think the four team, not the five team system is the one that cheapens the regular season. Plus, remember all the hoopla last year about the last playoff spots in both the AL and NL going down to the last day. Well, under the five team system you are in effect guaranteed of this scenario every single season. The WC play-in game is in effect a last game of the season winner take all game.

    Look – this new format is not perfect and it seems odd that someone would make a big deal about moving from the 1 WC to 2 WC system, when the arguments you are really in favor of could only be satisfied with 1 AL division and 1 NL division and only letting the teams with the top records advance. As long as you have multiple AL/NL divisions you are going to get some oddities. Sometimes these oddities are what makes the season interesting, as long as they aren’t ridiculous and the 2 WC system is not.
    vr, Xeifrank

    Comment by Xeifrank — February 2, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  22. Who cares? If these teams are really mediocre, then they’ll have little chance to advance in the postseason, right?

    And the point is, it’s an uneven playing field as it is, with some teams having a huge financial advantage over others. This is one way to even the playing field when it comes to postseason appearances and the rewards and riches that go along with them.

    Comment by caseyB — February 2, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

  23. No matter what play-off scenario you come up with, there will be years when it works out great, and years when it doesn’t – that is with respect to fairness, competitiveness, etc. However, I get the feeling Selig wants this because he thinks it will increase attendance and tv ratings. As long as baseball is going up against football at that time of year, don’t expect this to cause too much of an increase.

    Comment by David — February 2, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  24. Nobody has discussed the worst possible scenario with having a fifth playoff team, so I’m going to lay it out here to the best of my ability.

    This is all theoretical, so pardon me if you have big disagreements with the teams I’ve chosen and their respective records.

    Suppose we enter the final few days of the regular season in the NL. The Braves and Phillies have both had great years and are battling for the NL East lead, each with 98 wins(hey, I’m a Braves fan. I can dream.) The NL Central has long been decided, with the Reds at a surprising 90 wins and no one else close. The NL West is also over, with the Diamondbacks at 89 wins and the rest of the division underachieving. The fifth wild card team is the Miami Marlins, as Ozzie Guillen has coaxed 89 wins out of them. They have this position locked down, as no one is within five games of them going into the final weekend.

    The big problem? The two best teams in the league, the Phillies and Braves, have to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure they dont have to play a one game playoff, sacrificing rest and the added bonus of setting up their rotation for the playoffs. Meanwhile, the #2, #3, and #5 teams can all relax the last week of the season, rest their regulars, and set up their rotation as they see fit.

    The Phils outlast the Braves, but both teams pitch their #1 and #2 starters the last two games of the season. So the Braves pitch their third of fourth starter and lose to the Marlins and Josh Johnson in the one-game playoff. What is fair about this? The Phillies open their series against the D-Backs unable to pitch Halladay and Cliff Lee since they pitched the last two games of the season, and they get upset by the D-Backs as a result.

    Again, it’s very possible something like this could happen. The #1 seed and the #1 wild card could be at a big disadvantage entering the playoffs, while the #2-3-4 seeds can be fully rested with their rotation set up perfectly.

    Comment by bstar — February 2, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  25. Anyone who genuinely believes the aim of the World Series is to crown “the best team in baseball” is falling victim to the same arguments that they make against it (short series, etc).

    If baseball had a system like European soccer (an award for best regular season record AND an award for postseason play), nobody would bat an eyelid, surely. Just consider the team with the best regular season record the “league champion”, and the team who wins the World Series as some seperate event.

    You can even write articles about how the 95+ win Phillies can “dominate” league play but not “take the pressure” of knockout competition. Everyone wins!

    Comment by CJ — February 2, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

  26. You miss the point. So much in a game is luck: if a team has a 60% chance of winning a certain game, that’s a pretty dominant set of circumstances, and yet they’ll still lose 4 times out of 10. The more series there are, the more chances mediocrity has to steal the glory.

    Comment by mortimer — February 2, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

  27. …and only if the team could survive with just one start from said stud in the Division Series.

    Comment by mortimer — February 2, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  28. So isn’t that what happens now? With the current wildcard system, mediocrity as you put it can get in and prevail, right? I suppose you think the Cardinals are a mediocre team that doesn’t deserve the title, right?

    Are you thus suggesting only division winners get in? IOW, let the inequality and uneven playing field brought about by the uneven resources between small market and large market teams prevail? That is the most unfair system of all. We might as well just award postseason berths according to budgets and revenues.

    Comment by caseyB — February 2, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

  29. Thirded. This actually increases the importance of the regular season for many teams.

    1. Teams will be trying to win their division, rather than just coasting into the playoffs with a WC, to avoid that huge winner-take-all game.

    2. More teams will still be “alive” longer into September, which makes more fans happy. Meaningful games make people happy. I agree that there should not be any more than the new plan – half the teams making the playoffs a la NBA/NHL is just stupid. But one more wild card per league doesn’t hurt.

    Comment by Max — February 2, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

  30. For me, the problem stems from this concept of “division winner”. When baseball switched to six divisions in 94/95, it lessened the significance of what it means to win a division. A division winner was the best of only 5 other teams (well, let’s not get into the AL West/NL Central bit).

    In the other three major sports, divisions don’t determine playoff participants. By that I mean to say that if you lose your division and are still a good team, especially in the NBA and NHL, you’ll still be going to playoffs. The division battle is mostly over the rights to be seeded higher.

    In baseball, the stakes are much higher. With six divisions and only two wild cards, it becomes immensely important to beat your division and only your division. This is a problem. In other leagues, playoff spots are more about fighting half an entire league – 16 teams. In baseball the group stands between your team and the postseason is just 4-6 teams.

    What this means is, almost every year one of the top eight teams in MLB is excluded from the playoffs. Six times, the team that replaced said team was ranked 10th or lower in regular season wins. Six times in sixteen years. That’s where I believe a lot of the anger about the current playoff format comes from.

    So how to fix this? Get rid of the six division format. Go back to four divisions. Two division champs and two wild card. We’ll never again have a season like 2008 with the Dodgers (T-14th best record) get in and the Mets (T-7th best record) are left out. Here’s a bonus: with 8 teams in each division there’s no worries about uneven division numbers and weird scheduling issues.

    Comment by Mac — February 2, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

  31. Whoops, forgot to add, and this is where my plan gets crazy, but baseball would need two more teams.

    Comment by Mac — February 2, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  32. Shorten the season, start thr postseason a week or two early, and have all 8 teams in the postseason face each other in WBC style round robin fashion.

    Comment by ChrisFromBothell — February 2, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

  33. Absolutely agree. I was against this at first, but what it does in essence is make winning the division more meaningful: something the wildcard has eliminated. The Wild Card (as witnessed as recently as this last season) basically allows teams to get on a hot streak at the end of the season and ride that pony all the way to the World Series Title. This negates this somewhat and realigns the rewards to the team that deserves it most: the team that won the most games over the 162 game stretch. A wild card team not only needs to scrap through that 163rd game but then is disadvantaged by conceivably not being able to align its rotation as optimally as it would like, while being forced to do this against the team with the best record (I believe they will also scrap this nonsense that the wild card team can’t play its next round in-division). That seems about right to me. It’s time to realize that home field advantage just isn’t the advantage it’s cracked out to be and that Wild Cards are being disproportionately rewarded despite not even winning their division. If the argument that this further cheapens the World Series, I don’t see it. What you’re advocating is a return to a World Series represented without a league championship and more intrigue through a format where interleague play is eliminated and league superiority is more questionable based on almost no interleague movement of players. In other words, not happening.

    Comment by Adam — February 2, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

  34. Mac,
    Agreed with a lot of what you said but I would put the NFL in the same category as the MLB as far as being division-dependent. In 2008, The Patriots went 11-5 and missed the playoffs while the AFC West-winning Chargers got in at 8-8. In 2010, the NY Giants went 10-6 and missed but Seattle got in at 7-9 for winning the NFC West.

    So I would put the NFL/MLB in the same category and view the NBA/NHL in a different light.

    Comment by bstar — February 2, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

  35. The AL central is different almost every year. Remember when the AL west was always won by the angels? Well now the rangers are actually competition.

    As for the NL the only team that has been consistently in the playoffs is Philadelphia. So how can you PICK the teams that are in the playoffs. Aside from the yankees and phillies?

    Comment by adohaj — February 2, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

  36. Why is this issue always tied to the unbalanced schedule? If you can’t have fairness in revenue sharing then why have fairness in the schedule? The argument that is always given for the balanced schedule is the Jays. Poor Toronto, if they just weren’t in the AL East it would be so easy for them to make the playoffs. The biggest reason not to do balance the schedule is Tampa Bay. They play in a smaller market, with a worse fan base, in a bad stadium and make the playoffs the last two years. Why should a large market like Toronto get a better deal. It is not the fault of the smaller market teams that Toronto can’t maximize their advantages in market size, fan base and stadium.

    Besides, the second wild card is just a plan to guarantee either NY or Boston will get into the playoffs every year, if not both of them every year. Thus increasing the probability of one of them going deep into the playoffs and increasing the ratings.

    The reason the end of 2011 and the 2009 AL Central playoff were so wonderful was because that type of scenario does not happen every year. Once something happens annually, it’s not so special and won’t be watched so much. However if they want to fit it in the schedule better, just cut out the All-Star break and you can end the season three days earlier.

    Comment by Mike P — February 2, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  37. “We’ll never again have a season like 2008 with the Dodgers (T-14th best record) get in and the Mets (T-7th best record) are left out”

    As a Mets fan I can assure you that they did nothing to deserve the playoffs down the stretch that year whatsoever. If a mediocre team gets in they will likely lose their one game playoff or waste their best pitcher winning it to likely be slaughtered by a perfectly set-up division winner.

    I love the new format. A rare win for greedy owners, baseball fans, and old-school baseball of reinforcing the importance of winning the division.

    Comment by Jon — February 2, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

  38. I think the round robin CWS style idea is fairer than playoff series setup. You win a pennant for the most regular season wins in your league. Why have divisions at all? The travel can be managed not much differently than it used to be in the balanced schedule days. After the season, you have two-week AL/NL tournaments to decide who plays in the traditional world series,and enough postseason games to sate TBS and FOX. Done before the end of October every time.

    Comment by mockcarr — February 2, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

  39. I don’t understand the objection.

    First off, the added WC increases the importance of winning the division. It makes the regular season more important.

    Second, all it does is provide a playoff game between 2 WC teams. In the end, only 1 WC proceeds to the DS, the same as today.

    The only team it hurts is the Red Sox who have for years made winning the WC their hobby and being treated like a division winner. How many times have we seen the Red Sox concede the division so they could align their rotation. Now they have to try and win it.

    Comment by pft — February 2, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  40. Or, you could have an outcome like last year, where by mid September, the Braves are out of the East race, but have at least one of the wild card spots wrapped up, despite their historic slide, so there’s almost zero drama over the last week because the Giants just can’t catch them. That actually makes this more boring, and it gives the Braves one last chance to knock the Cardinals, the eventual world-series winners, out of the playoffs in one game.

    I doubt teams are going to decide, suddenly, to “try harder” to win their division just because the format has changed. It’s not like teams are actively strategizing how to win 92 games and no more. I’m pretty sure every team is honestly trying to win every game, up until the trade deadline where some of them need to try and build for the next season.

    Comment by Bronnt — February 2, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  41. Well written. This is the best argument I’ve heard so far against the 2 WC system. I think given this, the scales still tip to the side of the 2 WC system over the 1 WC system. All it would do though in your scenario is have the Phillies go 3-1-2-4-3 in the NLDS instead of 1-2-3-4-1. One start from Halladay replaced with a start from Hamels. Not exactly a big deal in the overall scheme of things.

    Comment by Xeifrank — February 2, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

  42. Remember the game 162s in 2011? Yankees-Rays, Red Sox-Orioles, Braves-Phillies and Cardinals-Astros? 4 games, all with huge playoff implications?

    Baseball at its best.

    Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — February 2, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

  43. @Xeifrank

    Game 162 this season was so great because it was so unlikely. Game 163s are awesome because they don’t happen every year, they come down to the wire. To cheapen that by forcing a 97 win team to face a \n 85 win team is my big problem with it.

    Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — February 2, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  44. Adding one more wild card team actually makes the regular season mean MORE. Now when you win your division (with 2 wild cards) it actually gives you an advantage. You don’t have the wild card playoff. Plus the regular season means more to a few more teams. This won’t create a “slippery slope” and end up with like 16 teams like some fear mongering maniacs are saying because that actually would create too many games.

    With a wild card round, which I think will be expanded to 3 games, there is a incentive to win your division, the regular season means more to more teams, and it can easily be fit into the schedule.

    People who oppose the additional wild card usually seem to me like people who are simply afraid of change and/or nostalgic fans who often call for “it to go back to the old days, 2 teams from each league”. I have yet to hear a single intelligent argument to even come close to changing my mind. By that I don’t mean the writer of this article isn’t intelligent, just that there isn’t an argument based on anything meaningful.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  45. using last season as an example of what would have happened is pretty dumb. that’s ONE season. Awesome dude, one time. What about in 2010 when both the Rays and the Yanks had it pretty much wrapped up, they didn’t seem to care who won the division because it didn’t matter. Also, YES, I do think teams will try harder to win the division because they won’t have to play the wildcard round.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

  46. No, not having more equal revenue sharing, not having a cap and minimun, etc is what guarantees the yankees and Sox are in every year. This doesn’t guarantee that they’re in, in fact, it makes it harder for whichever wins the wild card to win the world series and also gives other teams more of a shot. I’m usually the first to point out that baseball bends over backwards for the Yanks and Sox, but this isn’t one of those times.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

  47. exactly Jon, people who dislike this are either pushing for some unrelated conspiracy (saying it’s all so the Yanks and Sox will always get in….which they pretty much already do), or they push some idea that there will be a “slippery slope” which is basically just fear driven. There literally is NOT a single good argument against this. It makes winning the division more important, gives more teams who deserve a chance, a chance, and the league makes more money, the fans get a better race. What’s not to like?

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  48. Here’s how to reinforce the importance of winning the division without cheapening the regular season:

    Eliminate the Wild Card
    Add 2 teams (New Orleans and LV, Indy or Charlotte maybe)
    4 Divisions: North, South, East, West
    Seeding by best regular season record

    I’d add a 7 game DS but I don’t want to push my luck.

    Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — February 2, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

  49. What if you’re in a really tough division and you have less wins because of it? For example, this year, Atlanta will have to play the Nats, Phillies, and Marlins who could all realistically win the NL Central, plus they have the Yankees twice, Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Baltimore in interleague. The Cardinals will play probably the two worst teams in baseball in the Astros and Chubs, the greatly reduced Brewers, the slightly better Reds, the mediocre Pirates, and then in interleague the Tigers, White Sox, Indians, and Royals (twice). If you were to do a strength of schedule rating, at least as of 2/2/2012 on paper, this looks like St. Louis should have a better record based on how easy their schedule is alone. So, if atlanta wins the divison with like a 90 win season (so say they all beat up on each other) and then STL misses out on the wild card with 91 wins (by beating up on all their awful in division and interleague opponents), you’d say that Atlanta didn’t deserve getting in. When realistically, they would.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

  50. The whole “such and such won more games, thus they’re a better team” is REALLY a subjective term. Think about these 3 points.

    1) The difference in win % of a 100 win team and a 90 win team is the equivalent of a 10 win and a 9 win NFL team, it’s the difference of 1.67 wins per MONTH. In other words, it’s not really that much at all. 1.67 wins per month could mean that you played a team that was hot and lost a 3 game set when your competion played them when they were cold and swept them. Could mean your star player was out for a month. Could mean you lucked out and rarely faced another teams ace, could mean you lucked out and the teams you face had more injuries, etc. 100 wins vs 90 wins really isn’t significant. Basically what I’m saying with this point is that “such and such was the best regular season team” is a moot point because all playoff teams are relatively equal.

    2) The schedules aren’t equal. The Cardinals play in a weak division and have a weak interleague schedule, the NL East teams play in a strong division against the AL East. So if you win 90 games in the NL Central, that could be the equivalent of like 80 wins in the NL East.

    3) The trades basically mean that teams aren’t always the same. Some teams make a trade and then have the best record in August and September, but may not have the best overall record. So say you are a 91 win team and had the best record in August and september because of trades, you beat a 101 win team. People will say “well the better team lost” but that’s not really true.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

  51. “Best team” is pretty subjective, read my 3 points just below. Yea it sucks (as a braves fan also) that the braves could win 98 games and then still have to play the wild card, but that’s a LOT better than basically having all 4 playoff spots locked up and whoever wins the east doesn’t really matter.

    Think of your hypothetical, and think of it with 1 wild card spot. There is NO reason to care. It’s why last year, when it looked like Boston had it locked up, a Yankees/Sox game in early Sept (or maybe late August) had lower ratings than jersey shore in new york. No one cared because it was (at the time) a foregone conclusion that they would both be in the playoffs.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 2, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

  52. Not really, because this will boost everyone’s revenue down the stretch. If baseball adds more equal revenue sharing, and a hard cap and minimum, they’ll be the most balanced and competitive league.

    Something with competitive balance, it’s not always about actual balance, but also PERCEIVED balance. People think the NFL is balanced, but really their small sample size and bogus scheduling (bad teams play bad teams) means it’s a false competitive balance. It doesn’t matter though, because there is shared rev and a cap and minimum, when the patriots go to the playoffs every year and win 3 titles, it’s seen as “they’re a top class organization” when the Yankees go every year and win 2 titles, it’s seen as “well the Yankees bought another title”.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:04 am

  53. again with the “96 wins vs 89 wins” stuff. REALLY think about that. 7 wins over a 162 game season, full of injuries, flukes, different schedules, trades, etc. That’s really not a difference. someone should run a study and see what amount of wins is actually “statistically significant”. It seems to me that saying “this team is better because they won 96 games and the other only won 90 games” would be like saying “this car gets 25 miles per gallon on average and this other car is worse because it gets 23.44 miles per gallon on average”. They’re probably basically the same when you look at the variance and other factors.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:08 am

  54. The “one stud pitcher” thing probably is overrated. If their true ERA is say 2.50, and he’s against other “mediocre ace” who’s true ERA is 3.25, that’s a 0.75 AVERAGE. In other words, one home run, throws it off and it’s a tie game. The difference between most pitchers in 1 game isn’t much. Roy Halladay was definately a better pitcher than Chris Carpenter last year. However in a 1 game situation, they’re basically equals. It’s not that Carp has some magical clutch ability, it’s just that statistically there isn’t much of a difference over a 6-8 inning stretch.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  55. It actually doesn’t even cheapen winning the wild card. If you are the top wild card spot, I’m assuming you get home field advantage, so there is even incentive there. If it expands to 3 games, I say the top seed hosts all three games (to cut out a dumb travel day too).

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:14 am

  56. They might as well just flip a coin for the winner of the game… Less exciting but it might be just as robust in determining a winner.

    I can’t wait… the first time a 2nd place team has to face their 3rd place division rival only days after finishing the 162 game regular season like 3 games ahead of them in the standings… When that third place team wins and skips over that 3 game deficit?

    I can’t wait to hear Bud Selig try to explain how that’s good for baseball.

    Comment by baty — February 3, 2012 @ 12:15 am

  57. and yea Remington, I just read your winter classic article you posted, that was horrible. I’m sorry, I respect all the writers on here, but I’d do everything in my power to eliminate that one if I were you.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:18 am

  58. Not really. Unless you disallow trades. Let’s say in August and September after the trades, you have by far the best record in the game, you are, at that point in time, the best team. However, some other team got real hot during the first 4 month and ends up with a better overall record. They get in, you don’t.

    Plus 100 wins, 95 wins, 90 wins, might not even be statistically significant. 100 wins vs 90 wins is 1.67 wins per month. As I’ve said a million times, that’s not much. Win%-wise, it’s like a 10 and a 9 win NFL team. So again, when you think of injuries, trades, hot streaks, unabalanced schedules, etc, it’s not fair at all to say “you won 97 games in a bad division, you get in, you won 93 games in a tough division, suffered multiple injuries but you’re healthy now and made good trades and have been kicking ass ever since, sorry, you’re out”. It’s just dumb.

    For a group that’s supposed to be statistically-minded, I’m really surprised no one points out that there really isn’t much statistical difference between 100 wins and 90 wins. One team wins 61.7% of the time, another wins 55.5% of the time. With the unbalanced schedule, injuries, hot streaks (as in, you play a team that’s hot while later in the season your opponents play them when they’re cold and injury riddled), trades, etc, 55.5% vs 61.7% isn’t something where I say “wow, this team is clearly better”.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 3, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  59. The 2010 AL was the scenario I described in length earlier. The Rays and Yanks finish with the best records and have to fight it out til the last game while the second wild card(Boston), the AL Central champ(Minnesota), and the AL West champ(Texas) all get a chance to rest and set up their rotation. That’s not right.

    Comment by bstar — February 3, 2012 @ 12:36 am

  60. The internet is forever. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. I’d rather own up to it.

    Comment by Alex Remington — February 3, 2012 @ 2:41 am

  61. The difference between a 100 win team and a 90 win team (or, as you argue further down a 98 win and 89 win team) does have a great deal of significance. Yes, that only comes down to 1.67 wins a month, but you’re missing the point. Most playoff teams win 90 games. Just to be a good team you have to win at least 85. To win 100, however, requires the best season in the league. The Yankees and Red Sox and Phillies and Rangers will win 90 games next year barring major catastrophes. If one of these teams wins 100 I will be comfortable saying that it clearly had a better season (however much trades, injuries and flukes affected it) that the others.

    Comment by Jacob — February 3, 2012 @ 3:40 am

  62. Is there any way to ban a commenter? This Antonio Bananas character has proven throughout these comments to have a remedial knowledge of mathematics and statistics blended with a very matter-of-fact, “I’m right” tone that should be an offense to all readers of fangraphs.

    He says the difference between a 90 win team and 100 win is “not much at all”. His lack of statistical proficiency is grossly betrayed with this one

    He has stated that having two pitchers facing off with a difference in ERA of 0.75 ERA is not a big deal and one home run could make it a tie game(these are, shockingly, his words) so the difference is pitching isn’t really relevant. In the same graphs paragraph he called Carpenter and Halladay “basically equals”

    Hit thumbs up if you would like to relegate this guy back to the Yahoo fan boards or wherever he came from

    Comment by Josh — February 3, 2012 @ 6:46 am

  63. Hello Antonio Bananas,

    Seeing you use the words “I have yet to hear a single intelligent argument” strikes me in a funny way


    Comment by Josh — February 3, 2012 @ 6:50 am

  64. Agreed Yanksfan, and the new playoff proposal would have rendered those games meaningless.

    Comment by The Real Neal — February 3, 2012 @ 7:10 am

  65. Antonio,

    I think you are under-valuing the accomplishment of winning 100 games relative to winning 90 games in MLB and comparing the difference to 10 vs. 9 wins in the NFL is like comparing apples to oranges. In MLB, every team wins at least 54 (1/3 of their) and at most 108 (2/3 of their) games. Therefore, in a sense, baseball is really only a battle of what each team does in the other 54 games. In this light, 100-win teams win 46/54 while 90-win teams win 36/54 of that last 1/3 of the schedule. Contrarily, the NFL with its 16 game schedule and with games generally separated by a week allows for many teams to win 1/3 of their games. Put another way, if the difference between 100 and 90 in MLB and 10 and 9 in the NFL are comparable, how come there are so many 10 win teams in the NFL each year as compared to 100 win teams in MLB?

    Comment by hk — February 3, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  66. math / logic fail. looking at the raw numbers doesn’t add insight. look at the mean (i’m really hoping this number is 81 – slightly influenced by rain outs and tie breakers) and standard deviation of wins per team per season. then you’ll see how a quantified measurement how much better 100 wins is than 90 wins.

    Comment by Jacob - the other Jacob — February 3, 2012 @ 9:07 am

  67. 0.75 expected runs per game is actually a gigantic advantage. It works out to .650 Expected Win% or something. It’s only that the .650 doesn’t look like such a huge advantage in a one game sample once you have an observed outcome that goes the other way.

    Comment by Phils_Goodman — February 3, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  68. I’m not sure why you keep harping on the statistical significace of a certain number of wins. What are you really getting at? I imagine, without having done any research, that if we could play the season 1000 times the team our “96 win” team would finish with the better record than the “89 win” team a significant percentage of the time. Wouldn’t that make it significant?

    Comment by Brent — February 3, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  69. This is the best objection so far, but to me this scenario isn’t much worse than the objections people have every year with the current system when out-of-the-hunt teams play non-competitively with huge rosters against teams who still have something at stake. Maybe your scenario magnifies things a bit, but I’d trade those problems for more integral division races.

    Comment by Phils_Goodman — February 3, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  70. With the divisions set up the way they are now, you are going to basically run into this scenario no matter what you do. If there were no wild card at all then an 86 win Tigers team may get into the playoffs while a 95 win Red Sox team does not. With 1 wild card, the same 86 win Tigers get in but a 89 win Rays team does not.

    Comment by Danny — February 3, 2012 @ 10:17 am

  71. I never see anyone say there should be a qualifier for getting a Wildcard. Everyone assumes that there should be a guaranteed slot, why not have a requirement that if you get 90 wins you are going to the playoffs, if not sorry that is the way it is!

    Sure it is not deterministic, but it does put a value on team performance. It also keeps people from taking it easy route of coasting on assuming that they should get that 5th slot.

    Comment by Steve K — February 3, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  72. Alex, other than that godforsaken Winter Classic article, I really like your work.

    As you often tend to write about broader issues than stats and baseball, it seems you attract criticism from the same type of folks who yell at Jemele Hill on ESPN (what? you’re discussing social issues on a sports site @$%@#$%#$%!!!!!).

    Don’t let the angry folks out there on the internet get you down!

    Comment by Adrock — February 3, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  73. 100 vs. 90 wins is way more significant than 3 to 2 in a 5-game series…

    Comment by jrogers — February 3, 2012 @ 10:52 am

  74. That was really my point. The new system doesn’t actually address fairness, it just shifts the unfairness a bit to the wild card teams.

    Comment by Brent — February 3, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  75. Adding playoff spots logically concludes in every team being in a post season elimination tournament, while removing them logically concludes in eliminating the World Series and merging the AL and NL into one “Major League”, and crowning the team that won the most games as the champion. Any argument that suggests either method should stop at a point before its extreme conclusion is simply arguing for their pet playoff system. This is about striking a balance between the regular season and the post-season.

    The unfairness in hypothetical extremes where one team is forced into a one game playoff to advance are far more the result of the divisions than the wild card, so maybe we should be arguing against the divisional set up instead?

    Comment by David — February 3, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  76. Oh, I definitely think we should be arguing against the current divisional setup.

    Comment by Alex Remington — February 3, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

  77. no, it isnt a WC ROUND, its a WC GAME. Sudden Death, Bring what you got, winner take all to enter the real playoffs.. Think of it as a March Madness qualifier game. That is where the real advantage to the regular season div winner lies. They don’t have to go thru that “what if” game where the wheels can fall off. They CAN have the wheels fall of in one game, but they have the luxury of having more games. The WC should stay a SINGLE game for that reason. Plus, given that the wc winner may have a depleted roster due to wc round usage, the div winner will have the advantage, which it should. As it is right now, there is no advantage to the div winner, save for a home game. Win the div, relax while two others fight it out and weaken the bullpens in doing so. Then win your playoff round. Ultimately it should end up having the best teams in the World Series.

    Comment by Cidron — February 4, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  78. Personally, I don’t get why people keep arguing that Wild Card teams just coast into the playoffs.

    As recently as 2010, the Yankees won the Wild Card on the strength of a 95-win season. That was the second-best record in the whole AL, just one game behind the Rays, despite playing in a very tough division. Should those Yankees really have had to play a single elimination game against the Red Sox, who finished six games behind them?

    The NL Wild Card team that year was no slouch, either. The Braves had a 91-71 record, identical to the NL Central champion Reds and just one win behind the eventual WS champion Giants.

    More often than not, it’s the wild card team that has to struggle to win games in a tough division, and it’s the wild card race that comes down to the wire. If anyone’s coasting into the playoffs and being unfairly rewarded, it’s weak division leaders like the 2010 Rangers, 2009 Twins, 2008 Dodgers, 2007 Cubs and of course the infamous 2006 Cardinals.

    Comment by Ian R. — February 4, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  79. Sure, that hypothetical would lead to a boring stretch run. And why shouldn’t it? In a scenario where the four best teams in the league have clearly separated themselves from the pack, why should we arbitrarily introduce a fifth team just to make things interesting?

    If there was going to be a one-game playoff in that scenario, I’d say it should be between the Marlins (worse wild card) and the Diamondbacks (worst division winner). That way, the D-backs, Reds and Marlins would all have something to play for (the best record of the three wouldn’t have to play the one-game playoff) while the Phillies and the Braves, as the best teams in the league, could take a deserved rest and be ready for the postseason.

    Comment by Ian R. — February 4, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  80. I think the wild card play in game is interesting, I would prefer a 3 game set, but I agree that playoffs in novemember is a bad thing.

    MLB could do both (add a playoff round & keep playoffs out of November) by pushing back on fox and not spreading out playoff series. The playoff rounds used to start shortly after both winners from the precious round were determined. Now the rounds are all prescheduled. So there are way more built in off days. That is why we have baseball in November not because we had a division round.

    To me you either add a 3 game wildcard round that’s starts the day after the regular season ends and doesnt last for more then 4 days. Meanwhile you can still start the division series for two teams since they don’t need to wait for the wildcard winner to be determined. Once the best of 3 is over you start that division series next day. This gives a big advantage to the team with the best record. And tremendous incentive to win the Division but doesn’t force a potential 95 win team to face a 85 win team in a one and done. Also the you can give the 95 win team 2 or even all 3 games at home.

    If it has to be a one game playoff then I think you should qualify it that the 2nd wildcard has to be no worse then 5 games behind the 1st I. Order to force a one game playoff. Or something along those lines.

    Comment by JB — February 5, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  81. So, 90 vs 100 wins, that’s basically the “best” vs the “worst” playoff team. Again, when you account for injuries and TRADES (Cards this year for example), it’s not that much of a difference. Look at the record of teams after the trade deadline. The St. Louis Cardinals in September 2011 was not the same team as in April 2011. It’s why they aren’t as much of a cinderella as people think.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 6, 2012 @ 3:01 am

  82. Adjust the expected runs allowed for the offense they’re playing, the bullpen, etc. If you pitch 7 innings, on average 1 run better than the other guy, but his offense is on average, 1 run better than yours, and his pen is much better than yours, it’s no that big of a deal. I’m not saying having an ace isn’t a great thing to have, just saying that people put a LOT into it.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 6, 2012 @ 3:03 am

  83. My point with the NFL analogy is that win% in baseball are, in general, very close. Over ANY stretch of 5 games or 7 games, a 90 win team and a 100 win team will win about the same amount of games. So that’s why it’s not a big deal or a surprise when a 90 win team “upsets” a 100 win team.

    Josh, you disagree with me. That’s fine. I don’t try to have a “I’m right” tone. I try to have an objective tone. I’m sorry that it offends you.

    Graph the bell curve of wins, use a standard deviation. 90 wins vs 100 wins. That’s typically the range of playoff teams. Considering different schedules, injuries, and again TRADES, that difference really isn’t all that much. It’s not only trades and injuries to your team, but other teams as well.

    My point is that if a 90 win team wins the world series, it’s not “O MAN THEY DIDN’T DESERVE IT”. Look at the Cardinals, look at their record after their trades. They were a better team at the end of the year than they were at the beginning. So, despite the win total difference between them and the Phillies, it’s not an insane argument to say that the two teams were close in ability.

    Second, my comment about pitchers is because that is only ONE element of a team. Like I stated above, if you have a plus 0.75 run advantage with your starter, but they have a 1 run advantage with their offense, and a better bullpen, it’s negated. People just seem to put a ton of stock into that as if that’s what you should be making your picks off of. It’s not a crazy idea.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 6, 2012 @ 3:12 am

  84. because I have a different opinion and think outside the box? Because when I see a 90 win team win the world series I think “they made the right trades and overcame injuries and were a worthy champion” instead of “man they didn’t deserve that”? Because I don’t put as much salt into an ace in one game as others because I realize that if your offense doesn’t score and your bullpen sucks and if they have a great offense it pretty much negates that advantage? That they don’t even have to have ALL of those, but even one can negate that advantage? That if, on average you allow 3 runs in 7 innings with a standard deviation of say .5 runs, and another guy averages 4 with a standard deviation of .5 runs, that it’s not insane to think that the game could be tied when they leave? Averages are obviously, just averages. In a 1 game situation, you can’t bank on everything panning out exactly according to the average.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 6, 2012 @ 3:19 am

  85. Cardinals had a .611 win percentage in August and September (after trade deadline). It’s not unrealistic to believe they would have won more than 90 games if their August and September roster was their roster for a full season. Many times, that’s what these 90 win teams look like, they’re fringy teams and so they make a few moves and get better. When you look at 90 wins vs 100 wins, you have to think a little deeper to look at the ability of the teams.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 6, 2012 @ 3:28 am

  86. The notion that you can just look at win% to determine the relevance of win differences is pretty silly too. Is a pitcher that goes 1/3 as good of a hitter as one who goes 200/600 and wins the batting title? I’d claim that the latter hitter is most likely a better hitter than the former. The number of tests actually matters. What if a team won 1000/1620 games and another won 900/1620 games? The win% is no different than 100/162 versus 90/162.

    Comment by ausmax — February 6, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  87. if all that matters is which team is the best team in August and September than why bother to play games from May-July? Why not just start the season in August with Spring Training from April-July?

    Comment by ausmax — February 6, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

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