Sunday, November 20, 2011

What if every MLB team that won 90 games made the playoffs?

Last week Major League Baseball announced that the Houston Astros will be moving to the American League West (giving each division 5 teams), and that another Wild Card playoff team will be added to each league.  Back in April when rumors of this first came about, I wrote that I didn't like it because of the small sample size of the playoffs.  St. Louis has managed to win the World Series twice in the last five years despite being the worst team in the playoffs both times.  One of my favorite quotes from the book Moneyball is "the average difference in baseball due to skill is about one run a game, while the average difference due to luck is about four runs a game."  And now it looks like the new Wild Card round may be just one single game.  Here's my hypothetical nightmare: an 84 win Seattle team knocking off a 97 win Red Sox team behind one great start from Felix Hernandez.

So what if every team that won 90 games made the playoffs?  There would always be dramatic finishes to the regular season.  No team would be out of it until they lost their 73rd game.  Not only would all the teams trying to get to 90 wins play hard until the end, but so would the teams who'd already clinched, because the seeding would become extremely important.  The playoff format would be different every year, and there would be no way to know for sure what it would be until the very end of the season.

For example, last year the Cardinals won the last game of the year for their 90th win, while the Braves lost theirs and finished with only 89.  So under this format, going into the last day of the season, there would have been the possibility of only 3 playoff teams in the NL, or as many as 5.  The top seeded Phillies might have had a bye while the 2 and 3 seeds played each other, or while the 2 played 5 and 3 played 4.  Or they might have had to play in the first round vs the 4 seed while the 2 and 3 played each other.  Some years maybe only 2 or 3 teams might make the playoffs in one league, while other years it might be as many as 6 or 7.  Obviously this will never happen.  But imagine how exciting it would be?  Chaos is fun.

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