Last day, 2019

Funny how baseball works out sometimes. The two wild cards format was supposed to make the final days of the regular season more exciting. But this year it did not quite work out that way.

In the NL, the Cards and Brewers had something on the line right until today, given that one would be Central winner while the other would get sent to the one-game playoff as the second Wild Card. (Today they could have tied for a one-game tiebreaker to determine which was which.) However, if there had been only one Wild Card, it would have been an actual do-or-die to close out the 162-game schedule, as both teams would have been out of the running for the single Wild Card.

In the AL, the A’s and Rays also would have had a nice all-or-nothing for a single Wild Card, but not much was at stake with both of them qualifying. On the positive side, the Indians kept it interesting till the past week. (Sympathies to any Indians fans reading; the team led the Wild Card race much of the year and for a while looked likely to surpass the Twins for the AL Central.)

I’ve said before that this current format is not a good one. (Click the link for “playoffs and world series” for past discussions.) There is no perfect system, of course. And the current format did give us one of the greatest games played in recent decades. Maybe we will have something special in the game on Tuesday or Wednesday.

And it is also the last day of 5779. May we have a good and fruitful 5780!

9 thoughts on “Last day, 2019

  1. As Bob Costas said, “The wild card giveth, and the wild card taketh away.” A second wild card took away the drama from both leagues this year. This is not the first time this has happened. Off the top of my head, I can recall the second wild card ruining the races in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. It is certainly a great idea to distinguish between finishing first and second place. With only one wild card, the race might be more dramatic, but the difference between finishing first and second was basically nothing. The results have shown us that. Teams given home field advantage in a best-of-five win about 52% of those series. When the second wild card was introduced, many said, and still say, it is a gimmick. I agree with them. I would also go on to say one wild card is also a gimmick. It is a gimmick because the number of games the wild cards finished behind never had to be made up. They never had to catch the teams that won the race after 162 games. The only exception is the 2007 Rockies. Fans deserve to see the best team from each league in the World Series, and teams five, six, seven, or more games back of first place can not be the best.
    An appropriate change to the playoff system would be the top wild card needs to win once, but the second wild card needs to defeat the top wild card twice in the wild card round. If the two wild cards finish tied, only one game is played. This creates a significant difference between finishing first in the wild card and finishing second. The other change, and still appropriate, is the wild card winner must defeat the top league winner four times, but the top league winner needs only three victories. I don’t see how anyone could rationally argue against such proposals. They create major distinctions between the two wild cards, finishing with the best record and not finishing with the best record, and there is the potential for more playoff games.

    • I could get behind this, if applied all over.

      The 1st Wild Card hosts both games against the 2nd Wild Card, if necessary.

      The team with the best record plays the team with the worst record, Division Champion or Wild Card. Both LDS and the LCS in each league are 2-2-2, with the Division Champ with the better record hosting Games 1,2, and if necessary 5,6.

      The World Series remains a true best of seven at 2-3-2

      • The team with the best record ALWAYS plays the wild card winner. Otherwise, as has happened during the one wild card era, the wild card could avoid playing the top league winner. Suppose the top league winner won 101 games and the wild card winner won 99 from the SAME division, winning the second most games. I think it only follows these two square off in a DIVISION series. It would essentially be for the division title. 2015 was a great example. That year, St. Louis won 100 games, and their divisional opponents, Pittsburgh and Chicago, won 98 and 97, respectively. If Chicago wins both games, they would pass Pittsburgh. If they go on to defeat St. Louis four games to none or one, they pass them too. Four games to two would put them zero games back. If the series is split, 3-3, St. Louis remains ahead and rightly goes on to the NLCS. I would never have a division champion spot another division champion a game. If two division champions square off in an LCS and their records are different by at least ten games, the team with the better record plays games 1,2,5,6,7 at home.

      • I understand why the Wild Card gets stuck playing the best team. But I think that can be quite unfair to the best team. They should get to play the worst team. In theory the Wild Card could be tied for the best record.

      • How can we determine which team is the worst or best? There have been years when the three division winners have had very close winning percentages. If the team with the best record has at least eight more wins than the division winner with the second best record, I’m convinced they are the best team. A difference of five games or less is too close to call because they play different schedules.
        If the wild card is tied for the best record, then all the more reason to play the team it is tied with. The two, as I have said, would be playing for the division title.

      • I fully agree that comparing records is futile when they play such radically different schedules. I would almost, almost, even support unseeded playoffs for that reason. In certain formats.

        A straight knockout tournament is not one. We know that the Wild Card is worse than the team that won its division Or at least would be in a sane system that had teams within the same division at least playing the same schedule. But it is close enough for scheduling purposes. The team that wins the best record, a definable goal for all teams in April, deserves better than facing a chance that it will be shooting craps in a best of five series against a 100 win team that it beat during the regular season. The division title is settled before the LDS starts.

      • I certainly agree that the team that finishes with the best record deserves more than playing a best-of-five against the team it beat over the 162-game schedule. In fact, it doesn’t need to be the team with the best record. I have taken this stance for over twenty years. If I was told there is a change in the playoff system and the change is three division winners and a wild card, then I would say, as long as the wild card plays the top league winner in the first round AND makes up the number of games it finished out of first with a minimum of four victories. If the wild card finished three games back, it needs to win the series 4-0, 5-1, 6-2, etc. Now there are two wild cards. OK. After they play their gimmicky game, the same rule applies. If one game back, a 4-0, 4-1, or 4-2 result is needed. If six games back, a 7-0, 8-1, 9-2 result is needed. If wild cards are allowed, this is the only way to maintain the integrity of the season.

  2. Checking the final standings, I noticed that if the pre-1969 two division two rounds of playoffs system had been kept, with the same alignments, and the teams somehow produced the same regular season records, the Dodgers with the best record in baseball would have finished the season one game ahead of the Astros with the second best record in baseball in the NL West. That would have been a great pennant race.

    This sort of thing was noted at the time, and it is fairly obvious and can be seen in the other sports leagues the MLB is imitating. Expanding the number of teams in the playoffs weakens and robs interest from the regular season. The more wild card teams in the playoffs that don’t have to win their geographical division and the less fan interest there is in the geographical division races, though the pool of playoff teams will be somewhat stronger in terms of won-loss records.

    • I noticed the edit function is gone, but it actually was the Astros finishing a single game ahead of the Dodgers in the hypothetical old NL West pennant race, not the other way round as the comment had it.

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