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For all the excitement of this postseason’s individual games, there is a fairly common sentiment out there that something sucks about a system so random that sub-par teams get to fluke their way to the World Series, thus stripping the season of its power to make sure the best teams are rewarded. Why play a long season and then reduce the championship to coin flips? Why continually expand postseason until every champ resembles Chris Moneymaker? Zachary Levine foretold this postseason in his epitaph for Bud Selig, written in August:

There was divisional play before Bud Selig showed up, but we never saw the meaning of the championship altered like we have in the last two-plus decades. If you look back on Selig's main innovations that concerned the season, each decision weighed the notion that the best team (or at least a great team) would be crowned champion against financial or other concerns. And each time, the meaningful champion lost.

Selig's tenure saw the expansion to six divisions, which can lead to subpar division winners, the addition of a wild card, the reintroduction of the five-game series, the unbalancing of the schedule and the invention of interleague play with different opponents. These all serve to create randomness and decrease the chances of better teams advancing. (The second wild card has effects in both directions on this.)

I’m not invested in convincing you of anything, so take everything I say here in good faith, not in the sort of argumentative “gotcha” style of writing that you hate and ignore. I’m also not going to dispute matters of taste. If you want a baseball season to end with the best team jumping up and down, and you put a higher priority on that than in having an extra couple weeks of playoff baseball and playoff commercials, your wishes are valid. I’m not going to bother with the argument that tournaments are fun; wanting there to be a point to all this baseball season stuff is a very legitimate desire. Watching bad teams win over good teams can be stupid and lousy. I won’t try to convince you that watching the Royals win instead of the superior Angels is somehow morally better. It’s not. There are no wrong positions here—except, in the spirit of humility, perhaps mine.

But what I will propose is this: The unfair system isn’t nearly as unfair as we think it is, and Bud Selig’s record of screwing over good teams isn’t so clear as we think it is.

An important thing to take into account is that these series are not coin flips, at all. This year it has looked like they are, because the worst team has won almost every series (and, indeed, almost every game). But that’s the anomaly. That’s a freak show that we’ll probably never see again. Over the course of even one game, significant talent differences emerge: PECOTA thought that the Angels were more than 70 percent likely to beat the Royals in a couple of the scheduled ALDS games, and over the course of five games those emergences multiply: The Angels were 78 percent likely to win that series.

In one sense, the fact that the Royals knocked out the Angels is Bud Selig’s fault—he put the Royals into the postseason; if he hadn’t, they’d have had a 0 percent chance of knocking out these Angels. But in another sense, the fact that the Royals knocked out the Angels is due to a very unlikely roll of the dice. The fact that the Royals were playing the Orioles, a team they were evenly matched up against, instead of the Tigers, a team that would have been strongly favored over them—I’d estimate a 75- to 80-percent favorite over the Royals in a seven-game series—was also due to a very unlikely roll of the dice: The Tigers were 70/30 to win the ALDS.

So, let’s accept that the Royals are probably the worst of the AL playoff teams, as judged by their performance over the entire season. Obviously, they’ve looked amazing this October, as teams that are winning do, but if we had done a survey on the final day of the season based on the season, we would have probably agreed that the Royals were the worst of their five. We might consider it an abomination that the worst of the five would make the World Series to represent the league. But how likely is this?

If we treat each series like a coin flip, dictated by the screw-logic limits of small samples, then their odds would go like this:

  • .5*.5*.5 = 12.5 percent.

But if we’re a bit more sophisticated in our math than that, and acknowledge that these series weren’t coin flips at all, but (imperfect) measures of team strength, it’s more like this:

  • P(WC win)*P(ALDS win)*(P(ALCS win over BAL)+P(ALCS win over DET)) or
  • .46*.22*((.3*.5)+(.7*.25)) = 3.3 percent

The playoff system, then—excluding the World Series—is an effective enough judge of talent to shave the Royals’ chances by nearly three-quarters. This is not bad! A 3 percent chance of the fifth-best team winning the league’s pennant doesn’t seem like such an abomination.

Meanwhile, if you’re fairminded and want to see the Angels represent the league because you think they’re the league’s best team, the odds are something like:

  • .78*(.7*.60+.3*.80) = 51 percent.

Note that I just used estimated odds for the Angels over the Orioles or Tigers, but point holds: The Angels were not just as likely to represent the AL as the Royals were, or even twice as likely (because they didn’t have to play in the Wild Card game), but 15 times as likely. This is a system that makes it 15 times more likely that the great team will advance over the merely good team. Also not bad!

Put one more way: The chances of getting the four worst teams in the LCS—or, at least, the two worst division winners and two Wild Cards—was about 1 in 140, according to PECOTA. Selig made it possible, sure, but we’re responding to an incredibly unlikely sequence that reflects nothing like the typical season.

So: Perfect? Not if your only goal is to get the Angels to represent the AL because you think they’re the best team. If that’s your only goal, then you might just have the best record in each league go to the World Series, like in the old days. That would double the Angels chances, and make it impossible for the Royals to get there. If that’s your goal, that’s cool with me.

But is that your goal? If you want the best team to make the World Series for each league, then what happens to the A’s, who had the best third-order winning percentage in the league—who, by our most sophisticated measure of team performance, were the best team in the league this year? They miss the playoffs entirely.

So here’s the fairness-based argument for the current playoff system, or for any playoff system that grants multiple division winners, and maybe a wild card, entry: It gives great teams a back door into the postseason, which (the odds suggest) does a pretty good job of sorting the great teams from the merely okay teams.

This back door turns out to be pretty important. It didn’t used to be, back in the 1950s, when there were only eight teams per league. Back then, even the system of choosing one team per league (based on record) did a good job assuring that the best team per league (based on third-order) would get to play for the World Series. But with each expansion the likelihood that the third-order “champ” would also have one of the best records in the league has shrunk. Here’s how often the best third-order team has had the best record in its league, or one of the two best records in the league, in each of the various expansion eras:

Era

#Teams

in MLB

Best Record Best or Second
1950-1960 16 86% 95%
1961-1976 18-24 63% 88%
1977-1997 26-28 53% 76%
1998-2014 30 53% 62%

In a system where only two teams make the postseason, nearly half of the “best” teams would be left out. If we double the number of playoff teams to four, as in the system of the 1970s and 1980s, then more than a third of the best teams would be denied a chance to play for the crown. If you want the best teams in the World Series, well, don’t you want the best teams? Or, in other words: Pity the Cubs, who had the NL’s best third-order record in 1969 and might have finally won a title, but for the overly restrictive playoff entrypoints of the day.

Now, my submission of third-order winning percentages to decide who is the most deserving team might not be your jam. You might figure that the point is to win games, so just use wins over a huge sample to decide who to reward—either in a pre-1969 system or a pre-1994 system. Again, I’ll agree that it is a fine position. But I find it unsatisfying. For one thing, regular-season wins remains a somewhat arbitrary means of translating “good play” into rankings, just as the multi-stage playoffs are. “The point is to win games” in a 162-game season is no more absolute than “the point is to win in October.” Why 162 games? Why nine innings? Why four bases to produce a run, and why three outs? All these are decisions that somebody once made about the structure of the sport, which we accept partly because they’ve stood the test of time and partly because we’ve grown up with them, but there’s nothing God-ordained or immutable about them. Somebody made an arbitrary choice, wrote down the rules, the participants go along with them, the teams build their strategies around them, and we accept them. All those words apply also to a tournament-style championship process, with personal exemptions for the last clause.

But that’s a bit heavy. A more grounded argument is this: Even the “best record” way of deciding who is most deserving involves elements of randomness. Schedules aren’t balanced. Even if they were perfectly balanced (which seems neither possible nor optimal in an era of 30 teams), there would still be randomness: Maybe every team plays the Dodgers nine times, but what about the team that plays them during the month when Kershaw is injured? Or the team that plays the Red Sox after they’ve held a trade-deadline firesale? Or the team that plays the A’s before Jim Johnson has been replaced as the closer? Or the team that plays the Astros before the Super Two deadline? Or the team that plays the Nationals immediately after back-to-back doubleheaders? Or the team that plays the Angels when they’re just resting their regulars, having already clinched? Balance is always going to be an illusion at best, and randomness will always keep us from saying with any certainty that a 97-win team played better than a 96-win team.

So, given the fact that we’ll never get it right, we’re stuck with a system that gives us the wild card Royals and the wild card Giants. This goes to the classic criminal justice conundrum: Is it more unjust for an innocent man to be imprisoned, or for a guilty man to go free? Is it more unjust if a team that doesn’t “deserve” to go to the World Series does, or if a team that does is denied even the chance to win in October? For the more serious analogue—the innocent/guilty question—we normally say it’s more unjust for the innocent man to be imprisoned. For the less serious one—baseball—I’d argue the same principle applies. The fact that occasionally—very occasionally—we see a Giants/Royals World Series isn’t a feature (as opposed to a bug) of the system, but it is an inevitable result of a feature of the system. I’m perfectly content with the possibility, and I’m even content when it leads to the actuality.

Huge thanks to Rob McQuown for research assistance.

Thank you for reading

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comish4lif
10/19
Easy fix. You want the teams with the 2 best records in the WS, go back to 1986 rules. No divisions. Win your League, go to the World Series.
rawagman
10/19
Nothing is broken.
Michael
10/19
Presumably you meant 1968 post-season rules. Of course, even then one never had a ratio of 1 post-season opening per 15 teams.
comish4lif
10/19
I did mean 1968. And I think the post season is fine, I was just making the point that the alternative, if you want the WS to be the teams with the 2 best records, is how it was in 1968.
TeamPineTar
10/21
...and about every third year, the underdog team would win. And about every other time that happened, there would be one or two more teams in the OTHER league that had better records than the WS underdog. So a refrain along the lines of, "But the Bulldogs weren't even among the top three teams in baseball" would forever echo through the valleys anyway.
Maturin
10/19
Stats, third order winning percentage and all the rest are all well and good. This is and always has been a real life game, not a sim. If you want to see the "best" team based on the numbers win the world series, just run the monte carlo on April 1st and give the team that wins their rings. Stats, advanced analysis and all the rest are interesting because it gives us a sophisticated way to talk about what has happened and what might happen. Arguing that the actual outcome is somehow "wrong" or "unfair" based on what "should" have happened turns the whole thing on its head. This has been one of the most amazing and thrilling postseasons in recent memory. I am willing to bet that the World Series will continue that trend. What could possibly be wrong with that?
bishopscreed
10/20
Precisely. I would add that the teams have a lot of proprietary knowledge at this point and if a team exceeds expectations and outside analysis, it doesn't necessarily mean they just got lucky. It might mean the analysis is imperfect. Maybe PECOTA is wrong about the Royals in some subtle way. Maybe the Giants are on to something not everyone knows about--this is their third World Series in five years, after all. It's possible that the best teams are playing in WS, after all, and we still have more to learn about analyzing performance.
rsjanabasis
10/19
No one is interested in the "best" teams, they are interested in champions. The concept of a best team is useful to the degree that it helps predict who will be the champion. It is useful for managers and scouts and other personnel to help make moves to maximize the probability that their organization will be the champion. What makes a playoff exciting, just as what used to make a pennant race -- now a playoff race -- exciting, is not knowing the outcome. David sometimes defeats Goliath, and the favored team is put in jeopardy on the field of play. If this did not happen, then no one would watch, because the vast majority of fans don't come to see a batter swing for the sake of admiring the beauty of the swing, they watch the swing because 1) they don't know the outcome, and 2) they are emotionally invested in the outcome. Baseball games used to be re-enacted on radios with the announcers striking sticks together to simulate the sound of the bat hitting the ball. Millions would listen in rapt attention. That's how insignificant the batter's swing is when divorced from the realized outcome. Seeing as how the whole purpose of the exercise is to provide the best on-field entertainment to the fans, it was a no-brainer to expand the playoffs. They could be expanded even more. Meanwhile, anyone is free to have their own conference after the regular season in which the top experts can debate which team was the best team that year using sophisticated analysis. At the end, they can crown "the best team" and even make a Best Team trophy to hand out. Across the street on-field play determines the division, league, and world series champions. I know which tickets I'm going to buy.
brownsugar
10/20
I'm waiting for MLB to adopt something similar to the Climax Series from Japan's NPB (as an aside: Best. Name. Ever.) For about the last 8-10 years, they have used a system where each league has a 3-team playoff. The team with the best record has a first round bye while the next two teams play a best-of-three. The winner of the first stage goes on to face the league's pennant winner in a best-of-seven. Except it is really a best-of-six because the pennant winner is spotted a one-win advantage. So the 2nd/3rd place team needs to win 4 of 6 to advance to the Japan Series. If you assume that the team with the better record is a 60% favorite to win each game, the favorite would have an 82% chance of winning the series. Even if you assume the two teams were evenly matched with a 50/50 chance of winning each game, the team spotted the one-win advantage would be about a 65% favorite to win the series. The team with better record gets rewarded, but the wild card still has a legitimate shot. I'm not sure exactly how this would look translated to MLB, but I like it in theory. And I'll even offer the first marketing slogan: "Play 162 to Earn 1".
bhalpern
10/20
That sounds like something to discuss. It would need to be expanded to account for a 30 team league. But you could do all of that and still have the Royals in the World Series given that they've won eight in a row, seven of those against the two teams with the best records in the AL. In the end a lot of people are going to be unhappy no matter what system is used.
tbwhite
10/20
The Angels that had a 78% chance of beating the Royals never played in this year's playoffs. That team had Garrett Richards as it's ace and a healthy Josh Hamilton. I accept the premise that if both teams were perfectly healthy the Angels should have been solid favorites, but that just wasn't the case, I don't think the Angels regular season record was that informative in this instance.
matrueblood
10/20
PECOTA knew about Richards's injury.
shmage
10/20
It is a striking logical fallacy to say "the classic criminal justice conundrum: Is it more unjust for an innocent man to be imprisoned, or for a guilty man to go free?" It necessarily follows from the imprisonment of an innocent person that the guilty one has gone free, but there is no implication at all that the guilty one going free involves the imprisonment or execution of an innocent. Thus the imprisonment of an innocent, involving a double injustice, is always more unjust than merely failing to apprehend or convict the guilty.
newsense
10/20
There's a similar issue with the college football BCS. If only two teams are selected, there's a pretty good chance that the 3rd or 4th ranked team that misses out is in reality more deserving than either of the two teams selected. If you go to an 8-team playoff, there's little chance that the 9th or 10th ranked team is more deserving than all of the 8 that were selected
touchstoneQu
10/20
It's rare to see so many comments criticizing analytics on this site! I get it, of course. Most of us have thoroughly enjoyed the drama of the playoffs, we balk at the cruel observation that the better teams have lost. Still, I don't at all find analytics and short series upsets to be incompatible. For one, it's thrilling when the long odds are bucked! If baseball, as some wise philosopher once observed, is merely a distraction from death, then the long-odds upset in its flouting of inevitability (and regression to the mean) is akin to a win over death itself. Until next season, anyway. But those upsets also raise a lot of interesting questions. Maybe the Royals are the best team in baseball...so why wasn't that evident in the regular season? Or could they have improved, suddenly? Does unexpected team success in the playoffs translate to future success? Or maybe, as Sam says, theso teams are constructed in a way to succeed in the playoffs.
timber
10/20
The Royals finished with a better record than the A's and were, by the article's premise that the better team is the one that won more games, not the worst AL team in the postseason.
timber
10/20
Well, maybe I'm wrong to say it's the premise of the article..."worst team based on performance"...but what constitutes "performance?"
Dodger300
10/20
One really cannot go by a teams' records to determine which is "best," since for some time now there have been unbalanced schedules and interleague play, so they don't face the same teams at all. The Royals had the best record of any AL team in interleague play. That certainly does not make them the best team in the AL. However, it is an indicator that straight-up-and-down records over 162 games against different opponents might not tell the whole story. Which is why they play post-season games on the field to determine the champion, right?
evergreen
10/20
I must say that it completely fails the smell test for a playoff team to be favored 70 to 80 percent over another playoff team in a short series. The Angles won 60 percent of their games in the regular season, against the whole league, and the Royals are a better than average team that won about 55 percent of their games. Ignoring injuries, matchups, and playoff-specific roster construction and utiltization (all of which would tend to favor the Royals), the best you could say is the Angels are about 55% to win each game on average, which translates to about 60% for the series.
lyricalkiller
10/20
System considers third-order winning percentage more predictive than record, thus considers Royals worse than average team. Home field advantage also a factor.
evergreen
10/20
Suggest that this is a flaw with the system. Royals now have 332 games over 2 seasons with a fairly stable core roster that shows them as an above-average team by both record and run differential. And since you state that the Royals are evenly matched with the the Orioles - that's another team that has been above-average by record and RD for 2 years running.
lyricalkiller
10/20
Could be! It's a blunt measure, to be sure. The Orioles were dinged pretty badly for not having three of their four or five best players (by PECOTA's measure), though. Don't think they would have been evenly matched against a healthy Baltimore team, so that's less a third-order vs record issue. But sure, nothing's perfect.
therealn0d
10/20
You know, if you tightened that up it would make a nifty haiku.
bhalpern
10/21
Third order better Royals worse than average Home field a factor
earlweaver
10/20
Number 1: It is simply ridiculous to play a 162-game season, and then invite second-place teams into a "tournament" to decide the champion. Nothing else has to be added. Number 2: The 2001 Seattle Mariners went 116-46, then won a playoff series, and still didn't even get to play in the World Series. Further, no-one ever discusses them as having had one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport. Number 3: Unlike, say, prior to 1995, for a fan of a team, winning a division title holds no special fondness going forward for that fan. None. This system simply doesn't work for true baseball fan. The wonderful 162-game race over 6 months is gone. It sucks. This whole stupid tournament has sucked for 20 years now. This season, what do we have to remember? Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and the gang farting out flares into short left field, the Giants scoring 12 runs on errors...I
rawagman
10/20
You don't sound like a true baseball fan. Baseball has two versions. The marathon version of the 162 game slog from the beginning of April through the end of September and the marathon tournament version played during October. True baseball fans can appreciate both. Same as true fans from all of the other North American pro sports.
drawbb
10/22
You're being way too harsh on earlweaver's comments. He recognizes that there are two different competitions. That isn't in dispute. What he's pointing out is that the lengthier, six-month competition is the more just one and it essentially got tossed into the trash to make room for a postseason that now looks like every other North American pro sport. If anything, he's more of a "true fan" for having the guts to stand up and lament a significant aspect of the game's lost purity. He's right about another thing: Capturing a division title in MLB DID use to mean something. I had all the years and champions memorized up until the wild-card era started. Now, a division title is nearly as meaningless as those in the other sports.
earlweaver
10/20
As an example, just think of how the mid-to-late 1960s might be remembered had Bud Selig got to change things 8 years before he bought the Seattle Pilots. o The 1964 Phillies don't actually collapse, because Cookie Rojas hit a couple of bloop singles to knock out the Reds while the Cards fell to the Giants. Then Dennis Bennett scores on a bases-loaded walk to advance them to the WS. Gene Mauch -- well why even think about it?.. o The 1962 LA Angels become everyone's darling winning the World Series behind Dean Chance and Daddy Wags... o The 1964-71 Giants make the playoffs 8 years in a row, and win 4 World Series (1966, 1968, 1969, 1970). David Halberstam writes a book called "October 1965" featuring Jim Ray Hart, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal. o The Chicago White Sox win 4 World Series in 5 years because of that great pitching staff (Horlen, Peters) of theirs (1963, 1964, 1965, 1967) -- Tom McCraw's neatly placed 7 broken-bat doubles over this period are fondly remembered and his number is retired by the White Sox... This is fun to think about!
BlazingFastba11
10/20
To me the joy of winning a championship is the satisfaction of proving you are the best. Any change to the system that introduces a degree of randomness reduces the value of the championship by the same degree. Baseball used to be the one American sport that did everything possible to determine which team was actually the best. Playing 154 games, later 162 games, to weed out the best from the worst does a great job of insuring that the best team can overcome the lucky bounces, bad calls, flukes and streaks that often determine the champions in the NFL, NHL, NBA and college sports. Baseball set itself apart from the lesser sports by having a single-minded quest to crown the best team as champion. It wasn't about generating excitement, it was about being the best and proving it. In recent years that distinguishing feature has been sold to the highest bidder. MLB no longer cares about identifying and crowning the best team. Now they don't even try to disguise the fact that money is the ONLY thing that matters. They added playoff teams for two reasons. The first reason (and by far the biggest reason) is to make more MONEY. More playoff teams equals more playoff games. More playoff games equals a much more lucrative TV contract and more tickets sold at playoff prices. The second reason is to avoid having to address competitive balance. Adding randomness to the playoffs means the best teams rarely win. In this way you can have a system where the high-payroll teams with the largest fanbases can essentially buy their way into the playoffs almost every year but you will still always have a couple low-payroll teams in the playoffs each year. Since all playoff teams have the same chance of winning the World Series no matter how good their teams are you get a lot of different champions. It helps create a false sense of league-wide parity. The end result is that a World Series title is not as prestigious today compared to the days when you actually had to be a great team to win one. You used to have to be the best team in your league to earn the right to represent your league in the World Series. Nowadays we have teams with no claim whatsoever to being the best team winning the World Series. We have 2nd place teams who couldn't even win their own 5 team division crowned as champions. We have 83-win teams with barely a .500 record winning the World Series. We have championship teams that would have finished 25 games out of 1st place under the old system. This year we have the first World Series EVER where neither team could win even 90 games. Its pathetic and embarrassing. Watering down the championship does not make the sport better. It cheapens the accomplishment of the historically great teams of yesteryear to see their achievements equaled by the mediocre "champions" of this new system. You can look back in history at World Series champions in prior decades and be absolutely confident they were truly elite teams. You can look at champions of recent years and see run-of-the-mill, forgettable teams that have no business being mentioned in the same breath as the real championship caliber teams of the old system. If a "championship" doesn't indicate you were the best team what value does it really have?
Clemente
10/20
Hmmm, I swear I watched all the Giant and Royals games, and they won almost every game played, without any unfairness from bad calls or natural disasters. Seemed like the best teams to me. With the unbalanced schedule, I don't think you should make all too much out of a few games better or worse W-L record. And even 162 games has SSS issues, which is why as pointed out in the article letting a few more teams in lessens the chance the 'best' teams are not in the playoffs. And it is just as much an article of faith for baseball that you have to win them on the field as it is that the champion should be the best team. Teams today would demolish the teams of yesteryore. The expansion of the rosters to international players has greatly improved the average talent level. Almost every team has starters and closers that would have been the best pitcher anyone had seen for five years in the 50s or 60s. This is the 'golden age'--King Felix, Kershaw, Fernandez, Cabrera, Trout, Harper, Cano, Wainwright, Cueto, McCutheon, Stanton, Ortiz, Chapman, Darvish, et al.--enjoy, it has never been better! Really looking forward to the Royals-Giants--I hope both keep their mojo goin' and it is a classic.
BlazingFastba11
10/21
I think every baseball fan knows that a handful of games is insufficient to determine which team is better. That point isn't even worth debating. If we went back to the old system there would no longer be an unbalanced schedule, that is an unfortunate side effect of the expanded divisional structure. Yes the teams of today are obviously much better than the teams of the 20th century, largely because of improved athletic training. But the teams that won the championships of those years were the best teams in the league at that time, today's "champions" often are not -- usually are not. Today's playoffs are fun and exciting. They just don't crown the best team very often. It is very possible for a mediocre team to win the World Series, in fact that happens most seasons. In the past that was impossible.
rawagman
10/21
The baseball of yore did not limit playoff entrants out of some idealized version of truth/greatness. They limited it because no one had thought of expanding it. Because the owners of days gone by were just as money hungry - if not moreso - than today's breed. If you must insist on adding some morality play to past generations of owners, remember, too, that they were the ones who prevented men of color from joining in the fun until 1947. Fr that reason alone, I would take any champion from the current "watered-down" era - even the 83 win St. Louis Cardinals - over any of the golden oldies. When you are finished romanticizing the past, I hope you will find a way to enjoy another thrilling World Series. It starts tomorrow.
BlazingFastba11
10/21
No one had thought of expanding the playoffs? Even though other sports leagues had expanded playoff fields? No, they were aware of that option and declined it. It has nothing to do with morality. The champions of the pre-1947 seasons were the best teams in the league at that time. Possibly a Negro League team was better, we'll never know. But that is irrelevant to the issue at hand, the playoff structure. Just because most people think the old playoff structure was a better way to crown a champion doesn't mean those people want baseball to prohibit non-whites from playing. That is a ridiculous assertion. Any team of today is better than any team from 75 years ago. But that is due to changes in diet, physical fitness, size and population. It doesn't have anything to do with the playoff structure. Add more teams to the playoffs didn't make today's generation of players better than previous generations. If the goal is to crown the best team you shouldn't allow teams into the playoffs if they have already proven over the course of 162 games that they are not as good as other teams. It cheapens the value of the championship.
earlweaver
10/21
BlazingFastba11's comment is the most concise spot-on description of the reality of the last 20 years that I've ever read...It took Bob Costas a book to say what he said in 4 or so paragraphs...This should be etched into the masthead of every basesball section of every sports page of every newpaper in the country -- so that every day everyone would be reminded of the reality of the situation.
earlweaver
10/21
In response to Clemente and Wagman, in no particular order. 1. "Hmmm, I swear I watched all the Giant and Royals games, and they won almost every game played, without any unfairness from bad calls or natural disasters. Seemed like the best teams to me." Yes...They are the best teams for October 2014. The 1987 Orioles stunk, but they won 11 games in a row that summer and seemed like the best team to me for that 2-week stretch. Also, the Padres swept the Giants in a three-game series the second to last weekend of thih season -- for that weekend the Padres seemed like the best team to me... On top of that, the bad calls point is incorrect: Ryan Zimmerman retired 20 batters in a row and was facing the immortal Joe Panik when the umpire decided there was no way in hell that Panik wasn't going to reach first base...Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun had more credibility -- and at least he was trying to prevent (as it turned out) Reggie Jackson from killing Queen Elizabeth. 2. "And it is just as much an article of faith for baseball that you have to win them on the field as it is that the champion should be the best team." THAT'S WHAT THE FIRST 162 GAMES WERE FOR -- to win them on the field...They were on the field winning them for 6 months... 3. Everything else in both posts contained enough strawmen to scare every crow in Iowa..The teams of today could destroy the teams of yester-yore -- Yes, so that means the ridiculous 10-team tournament (including two- single elimination game -- "but by golly they won that one game on the field") is justified?...How?... Owner's benevolence wasn't the reason: I truly believe that the owners didn't feel that the baseball fan-base would be (quite honestly) dumb enough to buy into such a corrupt, unseemly 8-to-10-team pig-pile...Then they watched the 1987 football season, the fact that David Stern flat-out called the NBA regular season nothing but an exhibition to come out and enjoy (message games!), and the fact that the NFL extracted 15 plays from the average game (changiing the out-of-bounds rule , etc) and fill them with commercials...At that point, why not?
mantle1988
10/21
You can have both. You can have an "amazing and thrilling" postseason filled with randomness, while at the same time not allowing 88-win teams into the playoffs. If you just took the top two teams in each league and gave them a 9-game series, you would not significantly shorten the playoffs, and you would limit your pool of potential champions from 88+ win teams to 94-win teams and above. You'd have a random and potentially exciting playoff series between 96-win Baltimore and 98-win Los Angeles, which they earned. 88-win SF and 88-win Pittsburgh? Not as much Most every baseball fan is okay with a 162 game regular season followed by a relatively short October tournament. The issue is how many teams we let in, given that once they're in they have a pretty equal shot at the title. Many of us feel that 10, or even 8, teams is too many to give that shot.
andrews
10/21
I would agree, it's a question of balance. I've never liked the concept of the wildcard. It's always galling when a team that finishes 2nd in it's division is crowned the champion. This year the WS is between 2 teams who were not even the best team in their divison over 162 games. Would any of the proponents of the status quo prefer the following: Expand to 32 teams No regular season. 32 team knockout tournament. 7 game series 9or maybe 9 or 11
andrews
10/21
If you want an expanded playoffs wouldn't 16 teams in each league, 4 4 team divisions be a better system that having a wildcard?
Dodger300
10/22
I find it bizarre how so many of you are bursting your blood vessels over something that is never ever going to change. Impossible. You are just tilting at windmills. So I suggest an alternative for you: Tune out. Drop out. Chill out. Since you dislike the post-season so much, why not completely ignore it? Just celebrate your regular season champions and laugh at the rest of us who believe we are still watching baseball games that matter. Go ahead and move on with your life. After all, you know the post-season is a meaningless farce, so why get sucked in again?. What's more, you will have two regular league champions to celebrate, taking you back to those traditional days before those greedy owners conspired to concoct a so-called "World Series," in order to lengthen the season and make more money selling tickets and advertising to the great unwashed. Remember, every time you get your nose bent out of shape over these unnecessary play-off games or heathen wild card teams, the terrorists win.
andrews
10/22
Unfortunately we are denied the opportunity of the best teams from the NL and AL playing each other. No one has mentioned wanting to do away with the World Series. Worse that that we are seeing a World Series between 2 clubs who lost penant races. I'll still enjoy the series but i'd rather it were different. I'm happy with an expanded playoffs between division winners, it's the whole concept of wild card teams that is a step too far.
rawagman
10/22
Unless you plan on contracting at least 10 teams, the Wild Card has to remain. There is no way a league with over 20 teams can play a schedule that is anywhere near balanced anyway. Sam made that point quite nicely in the article. Without balanced schedules what makes you so sure that any one team is better than another? And how do you account for injuries making the concept of "best" transitory at most? Finally, the term "pennant race" is antiquated. The Royals and the Giants both clearly won the pennant races in their respective leagues. What you should be saying is divisional races.
andrews
10/22
AL and NL 16 teams each comprising of 4 divisions of 4 teams. A given team plays the other 3 teams in your division 14 times and the other 12 teams in your league 10 times equals 162 games. No inter-league games. That's balanced enough. Ok, the term pennant race now is now a divisional race ys, but the term has always been used to refer to 2 (or i suppose more) teams battling it out down to the wire over the 162 game schedule. The point remains that both teams were in these races over the final portion of the season and both came up short. I would say winning a head to head race over the final few months of the season is a better indicator of the abilities of the team that a 5 or 7 game series.
rawagman
10/22
"I would say winning a head to head race over the final few months of the season is a better indicator of the abilities of the team that a 5 or 7 game series." Again, the schedules over that time frame are not balanced. Also, in this day and age, whether we like it or not, teams are not necessarily competing for a division crown but for a spot at the postseason table.
andrews
10/22
Yes but since the advent of 2 wild card teams, winning the division is clearly better than getting the wildcard (100% chance of being in the ALDS as opposed to circa 50%).
earlweaver
10/22
Why stop at 2 wild card teams?...I think it would be much more exciting to have 8 wild card teams --- what excitement! A 3-day single-elimination tournament for the fourth play-off spot. The 2nd and 3rd place teams and the two best fourth-place teams go. If that is unfair to the 5th place team that had a better record than one of the 4th place WCs, then we can always go to 12 WCs with the 2nd place teams and the best third place team getting byes in the first of the four rounds that determine that last entrant....I'm also willing to go with just 6 WCs, and have kind of a "king-of-the-hill" type of arrangement like they have on the pro bowlers tour where the 5 plays 6 and the winner plays 4 and then the winner plays 3 then the winner plays 2 then the winner plays 1....All of this is all so very exciting!...Maybe we can plant(re-plant?) a large oak tree in short left field behind short -- that would be exciting!...How about 4 outs in the 6th inning?...We could do that for awhile until we got sick of it...How about, if you hit a home run, the next time up you get an extra strike...How about this? We start the playoffs in April! We play a 162-game round-robin tournament...
andrews
10/22
Earlweaver, I'm English and I have to say, that is the most amusing post I have ever read on baseball prospectus. Who said satire is dead. This comment will probably be voted inappropriate by the membership mafia but you've actually beautifully lampooned the arguments of the playoffs are fun brigade. Well done!