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10-01

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1

BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 297: NL Wild Card Game Preview/Adam J. Morris on the Rangers
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

10-01

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13

Playoff Prospectus: NL Wild Card Game Preview
by
Ben Lindbergh

09-30

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7

What You Need to Know: A Wild Final Weekend
by
Andrew Koo, Chris Mosch and Satchel Price

09-27

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What You Need to Know: A Bronx Goodbye
by
Daniel Rathman

09-23

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3

What You Need to Know: The Weekend's Playoff Developments
by
Daniel Rathman

09-19

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BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 290: The Rays' Under-the-Radar Move/Hot AL Wild Card Talk
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

09-18

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9

What You Need to Know: Nothing Quiet on the Wild Card Front
by
Daniel Rathman

10-10

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BP Announcements: Wednesday Division Series Roundtable HERE
by
Ben Lindbergh

10-06

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9

Playoff Prospectus: AL Wild Card Game Recap: Orioles 5, Rangers 1
by
Derek Carty

10-05

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BP Announcements: Friday Wild Card Roundtable HERE
by
Ben Lindbergh

10-05

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7

Overthinking It: Baltimore's Best Bet to Beat Texas
by
Ben Lindbergh

10-01

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8

BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 53: Is the Second Wild Card Working?/Explaining Mainstream Screeds Against Advanced Stats
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

09-21

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18

Baseball Therapy: Wild-Card Game Theory
by
Russell A. Carleton

09-21

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The BP Wayback Machine: Backing into the Playoffs
by
Jay Jaffe

09-19

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BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 45: What the Wild Card Games Could Look Like/Miguel Cabrera and the Triple Crown
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

08-20

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BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 24: The Rays Are Rolling/Assessing the Angels' Strange Season
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

08-13

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BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 19: Scraping Ice
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

08-01

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4

Sobsequy: What We Learned About the Deadline
by
Adam Sobsey

03-05

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7

Bizball: Baseball Cashes in with Expanded Playoffs
by
Maury Brown

10-06

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4

The BP Wayback Machine: Is the Best of Five the Worst of Series?
by
Mike Carminati

09-19

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5

Prospectus Hit and Run: Backing into the Playoffs
by
Jay Jaffe

09-01

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2

Manufactured Runs: Raising the Stakes
by
Colin Wyers

04-27

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18

Ahead in the Count: Expanded Playoffs, Expanded Salaries
by
Matt Swartz

03-01

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The BP Wayback Machine: Wild Card: A Fairy Tale
by
Nate Silver

02-22

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26

The Payoff Pitch: Two, Three, Many Wild Cards!
by
Neil deMause

11-09

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Predictatron Recap
by
Ben Murphy

11-02

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Is the Best of Five the Worst of Series?
by
Mike Carminati

09-12

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Prospectus Hit List: Week of September 10
by
Jay Jaffe

07-11

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Predictatron Pontification
by
Ben Murphy

09-21

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Prospectus Today: The Wild Card
by
Joe Sheehan

09-10

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Prospectus Matchups: Wilding
by
Jim Baker

08-17

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Prospectus Today: Not Wild About It
by
Joe Sheehan

09-17

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Lies, Damned Lies: Wild Card: A Fairy Tale
by
Nate Silver

09-10

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Playoff Tiebreakers but Were Afraid to Ask
by
Christian Ruzich

07-10

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Prospectus Triple Play: Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies
by
Baseball Prospectus

01-28

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Prospectus Feature: Expanding the Playoffs: Drawing Guidance from the NBA
by
Jeff Bower

08-08

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Prospectus Feature: Breaking Balls: Unbalanced
by
Derek Zumsteg

03-31

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American League Predictions
by
Baseball Prospectus

04-12

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Projected 1999 American League Standings
by
Baseball Prospectus

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Could Bud Selig's plan to cram in more playoff teams have a silver lining?

Somewhere among the piles of spiral-bound notebooks stacked in my closet lies a short-lived diary titled "The Last Pennant Race." It recounts the day-by-day events of the last two months of the 1993 Yankees season, of which pretty much all I can remember is, first, that the Yankees managed to tie the eventual champion Blue Jays for first place roughly three dozen times, but never managed to take the lead on their own, and second, that in one late-season game, Don Mattingly, presaging the Jeffrey Maier incident by three years, got credit for a key home run despite it being caught by a fan leaning so far into the field of play that he could have shaken hands with the second baseman.

I chose the diary's title not because I was pessimistic about the Yankees' future—after ten years of Andy Hawkins and Torey Lovullo, I could see as well as anyone that players like Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill were headed for bigger things—but because I knew that the term "pennant race" would never again have the same meaning. That's because it had already been announced that 1993 was the final season under the old four-division system; henceforth, the leagues were to be split in six, and wild cards would be born. (Thanks to the player strike that would wipe out the 1994 postseason, they were not actually baptized until the following season.)

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November 9, 2006 12:00 am

Predictatron Recap

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Ben Murphy

BP's newest contest is taken down by a Twins fan.

Just as I did last year, I'm here to follow up the HACKING MASS Wrap with a look at this year's Predictatron results. This is the second year we've done the Predictatron contest, and it continues to be popular, for obvious reasons--trying to predict the order of finish and teams' eventual records is one of the oldest hobbies of baseball fans.

For those that haven't had the pleasure to compete, Predictatron is the annual contest at Baseball Prospectus where entrants can win $500 by predicting the total wins for each of the 30 major league teams, and the results of the playoffs. Basic scoring is set up so that everyone starts with 1000 points, and you lose points for every win you are off for each team; you can win points back with the playoffs. There are also a few wrinkles, like the Mortal Lock, so I'd encourage everyone to read the full rules.

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November 2, 2006 12:00 am

Is the Best of Five the Worst of Series?

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Mike Carminati

Major changes to the MLB playoff format should carry weight with the commissioner. Here's why.

Even though they comprise just a quarter of the playoff teams each year, we have not had a World Series without a wild card since 2001. Since the wild-card experiment began in 1994 there have been seven World Series out of 12 with at least one wild card, and one with two (2002, San Francisco and Anaheim). Wild-card teams have won four of the 12 World Series.

The odds that a given wild card would win a Series are one out of four. The odds that at least one World Series team got in via the wild card are seven out of sixteen and that both were wild cards is one out of sixteen. All of these numbers have been exceeded, and when you consider that the wild card cannot have the home-field advantage in either of the first two rounds, the results are even more improbable.

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The surging Indians turn it on when it doesn't count in the strongest division in baseball, while former Red Sox prospects turn it on across the country in this week's Hit List.

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With the season at the halfway point, Ben Murphy has a look at how people made their Predictatron picks.

Before delving deeper, some of you might find it helpful to read up on these statistical terms (thanks to Wikipedia):

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You either love the wild card or you hate it. But has anyone ever really looked at it?

The thing is, neither side has any idea what it's talking about. While I can point to specific examples of the wild card killing divisional races, MLB can point to, say, this year's National League wild-card race as an example of the concept creating interest where there would otherwise be none. Those are just examples, offered up in support of an argument, as the saying goes, rather than illumination. It's a visceral argument, not a rational one.

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September 10, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Matchups: Wilding

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Jim Baker

Despite the perception that they're coming in through the back door, wild-card teams have both been comparable to their division-winning counterparts and had comparable success in the postseason in the ten years since they were created.

There are five teams scrambling for the National League wild-card spot. This match-up features two of them. The first time the Marlins prevailed in the playoffs (1997) there were a lot of cries of aesthetic foul because they were the first wild-card team to go all the way, which seemed pretty cheap at the time. What was rarely mentioned is that they had the second-best record in the league that year, 92-70.

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August 17, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Not Wild About It

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Joe Sheehan

The wild-card races have reached a boiling point, but there's something being lost in the steam. Joe Sheehan points out the missing elements in today's column.

I appreciate that the wild-card races look like they're going to be interesting, what with three teams in each league bunched like baby chicks huddled under their mother's wing. (At the close of play Sunday, there were actually three-team ties for first in each race.) I just don't think we realize what we're missing.

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September 17, 2003 12:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies: Wild Card: A Fairy Tale

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Nate Silver

Once upon a time, a long time ago, September was a cruel month for baseball. The weather dampened, the children went back to school, the nation's attention turned to the Second-Best Sport, and many teams soldiered on with only pride and the next season's paycheck to play for. Year after year, attendance slumped badly, with nothing to bridge the gap between the long, baseball-and-B-B-Q evenings of summer, and the crackling drama of the post-season. It was, like the moment just after intimacy, a time of unspeakable melancholy. Then, one day, the Commissioner made the Wild Card. The Commissioner was a wise man, and he knew that the self-styled defenders of tradition would not like his creation. But they had complained about westward expansion and night baseball and the Designated Hitter and too many other things to count, and every time they had come back, first to queue in line when the gates opened in spring. Tradition wasn't marketable anyway, not in the way that a tense battle for fourth place between the Marlins and the Phillies was. The Wild Card, in fact, was a remarkable success. The Commissioner, never known for his fondness for crowds, became omnipresent in those Septembers, maintaining a furious itinerary, shaking hands with awestruck fans at every ballpark from Yawkey Way to Elysian Fields. The Commissioner took no credit for the Wild Card; he had created it, after all, in the Best Interest of Baseball, and what reward did a man deserve for the mere execution of his duty? It was, he said, remarkable only that it had not been thought of earlier, but that was the hallmark of all great inventions, like post-it notes and garage door openers. And they lived happily ever after.

Then, one day, the Commissioner made the Wild Card. The Commissioner was a wise man, and he knew that the self-styled defenders of tradition would not like his creation. But they had complained about westward expansion and night baseball and the Designated Hitter and too many other things to count, and every time they had come back, first to queue in line when the gates opened in spring. Tradition wasn't marketable anyway, not in the way that a tense battle for fourth place between the Marlins and the Phillies was.

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With three weeks left in the season, its the most wide-open playoff race in years. Half of the franchises in Major League Baseball are within three games of a playoff spot, and fans in places as unlikely as Kansas City, Miami, and the north side of Chicago are starting sentences with "If the postseason started today." Of course, having so many teams in contention leads to lots of questions. What if the Yankees and Red Sox end up tied for the AL East lead? What if they have the same record as the Mariners? What if the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros end up tied for the NL Central lead? What if five teams tie for the Wild Card? Inquiring minds want to know. Many of these questions can be answered by reading through the playoff tie-breaker scenarios that Major League Baseball used to have on its Web site, but those rules have a couple of serious flaws: 1. Understanding them is about as easy as filling out a 1040 long form. 2. Major League Baseball has changed them, but hasn't told anyone yet. Using the most current information from MLB, here are the possibilities. Additional reporting was conducted to fill in some of the gaps MLB left out.

Of course, having so many teams in contention leads to lots of questions. What if the Yankees and Red Sox end up tied for the AL East lead? What if they have the same record as the Mariners? What if the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros end up tied for the NL Central lead? What if five teams tie for the Wild Card? Inquiring minds want to know.

Many of these questions can be answered by reading through the playoff tie-breaker scenarios that Major League Baseball used to have on its Web site, but those rules have a couple of serious flaws:

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The Diamondbacks lead the wild card chase--how do their chances at an NL West crown look? The Royals have opened up a 4.5-game lead in the AL Central, despite multiple setbacks. Larry Bowa, Greg Gross or both may be to blame for some of the Phillies' offensive deficiencies. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today's Prospectus Triple Play.

  • Micro Study: Arizona has overtaken Philadelphia for the National League's wild card lead. They're one game ahead in that race, with last-place San Diego in town for a two-game series (Arizona won game one 8-3 last night). The Diamondbacks close out the first half with a weekend set against the Giants, who lead the Snakes by four games in the West. They have an opportunity to hit the break on a roll.
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    Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

    Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

    One of the issues the new task force will supposedly investigate is whether or not to expand the playoffs. It's not a particularly new idea - Selig himself quietly broached the subject last October. Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

    If approved, the accelerated pace at which MLB is adding playoff teams will continue. For 66 seasons (1903 through 1968), both leagues were division-less and the pennant winners advanced directly to the World Series. In 1969, professional baseball celebrated its 100th birthday by adding four expansion franchises. Each league was split into two divisions, with the four divisional winners playing into October. A quarter century later - perhaps encouraged by his Brewers' participation in MLB's unplanned eight-team bash in 1981 - Selig further subdivided the leagues into three divisions and presented baseball fans with the Wild Card. Just nine seasons after expanding the playoffs to include eight teams, and less than a year after deferring industry contraction, he is now considering a 12-team post-season format.

    Those who want to include more teams in the post-season share a widespread belief that fans stop turning out at the ballpark when their local heroes aren't involved in a playoff race. Many organizations favor the notion of letting more teams into the playoffs for that reason alone. However, is their perception accurate?

    Studying the effects of a single action on attendance is challenging simply because so many factors can influence a team's attendance: marketing, position in the community, performance, the comings and goings of players, popularity of the sport, and new playing facilities, to name a few. Furthermore, using previous MLB attendance data doesn't seem appropriate in this case, since by expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, baseball would be entering new territory for the sport. Though a significant number of fans despise the Wild Card, since its inception Wild Card teams have a 94-68 regular season record on average. Were the playoffs to expand further though, some of the beneficiaries would be little more than .500 ball clubs. The attendance effects of such mediocre teams consistently reaching the post-season won't show up in baseball's existing historical record.

    To try and analyze the issue, I decided to see what happened to attendance in the National Basketball Association when it expanded its playoffs by four teams (from 12 to 16) prior to the 1983-84 season. In addition to adding the same number of playoff teams as baseball might, NBA attendance figures from that time have the added benefit of not being tainted by work stoppages or brief surges caused by a wave of newly extorted arenas. As a result, those effects don't have to be accounted for in the analysis. Though consumer choices and behavior have changed substantially in the past 20 years, we should still get some indication as to what MLB can expect from its fans if and when it chooses to allow more teams into its post-season dance.

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