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MLB Expansion

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Jayson Stark wrote a nice article on the Athletic highlighting some key points about MLB Expansion. The issues are things like:

-Resolution of Tampa Bay and Oakland stadium issues

-What two cities would get the MLB team?

-Realignment that might eliminate the AL and NL

-League wide adoption of the DH

-Reduced regular season (154 games), added playoff round

These are all topics and talking points that we can have in this thread, please feel free to discuss any of them. I will be discussing the idea of added playoff rounds in my post.

Personally, I've been a proponent of reducing the regular season in favor of more playoffs for quite some time. The added wild card game is a step in the right direction, and it makes for an exciting game indeed, but teams that do well enough to earn a Wild Card spot deserve far better than to have the fate of a 162 game season decided on one game alone.

Expanding to a 16 team playoff format ala the NHL is not a terrible idea, in my mind, especially if the league expands to 32 teams. This is a double edged sword however, as there would quite possibly be years in which teams with records under .500 would make the playoffs. This isn't going to be the best example because in a 16 team format leagues,  divisions would be realigned, which would no doubt change where these teams do end up. But, in an arbitrary playoff format Top 1-8 in the league, the following AL teams would have qualified for the playoffs in 2017:

Indians 102-60
Astros 101-61
Red Sox 93-69
Yankees 91-71
Twins 85-77
Rays 80-82
Royals 80-82
Angels 80-82

Do the Rays, Royals and Angels really deserve to participate in the postseason if they lost more games than they won? This alone is a compelling argument against a 16 team playoff format. 

On the other hand, if you look at the top 8 teams in the AL in 2016 you get this:

Rangers 95-67
Indians 94-67
Red Sox 93-69
Orioles 89-73
Blue Jays 89-73
Tigers 86-75
Mariners 86-76
Yankees/Astros 84-78

One could make arguments that the bottom 4 of the top 8 might deserve a playoff spot, for they did indeed win more games than they lost. The disparity in the league wasn't as great in 2016, and other teams had decent years. 

For some, the records of the Tigers and Mariners in 2016 won't be considered 'enough' for them to deserve postseason berths. That is completely fair. For others, they might view the fact that those teams were able to get through the long season winning 10-11 more games than they lost, and a postseason berth should be available for them to get a chance to take down a team with a better record. Expanded postseason may have an advantage especially in seasons where the disparity between the top teams and the second tier teams is less significant. But in seasons like 2017 where there are 4 cream of the crop teams and the next tier is meh, could make for a less interesting postseason, or at the very least a highly predictable first round. 

The other option is an NFL style playoff format, with 1 or 3 game wild card rounds. This may be a better fit for the MLB. With 3 game wild card rounds, the top teams would get a chance to rest up, and set their rotation. But again, this is a double edged sword as the top teams may also not be interested in having a 4-5 day break between their last game of the season and their first of the playoffs. Is that enough time for rust to settle in on a team? Again, I would argue that a team that does well enough to make the postseason deserves better than 1 game to decide their fate, so for me the 3 game wildcard round is more enticing. 

There really doesn't seem to be any clear or right answer. Whatever the case is, Manfred will most certainly push to get an expansion/realignment and adjusted playoff format completed in his time as commissioner. Stark believes it is not a matter of if, but when. MLB will have some interesting decisions to make. At the end of the day, I am excited for the potential expansion of MLB playoffs, however they decide to go about it. I think it will be good for the game and ultimately more teams will "go for it" instead of rebuild, and some of those teams could end up being great stories like the 2005 White Sox. With such a constricted playoff format as is, teams are forced to try and become 95+ game winners to ensure that they make the playoffs. This is incredibly hard to do unless you amass a serious amount of young talent like the Cubs, Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians... well you get the idea. As such, you end up with situations like the White Sox and Tigers have had to face. These teams could have theoretically put together 85-90 game winners if they continued with the status quo, but both of these teams had to take a long look in the mirror and face the fact that it is harder to put together a MLB playoff team year to year than ever before. The rebuilding strategy has produced teams that dominate the league, and are marginally better than teams that take a year to year approach, thus occupying most of the few available playoff positions. Look at the AL standings this year and you already know this, 4 of the 5 spots will be Boston, New York, Houston and Cleveland. Seattle and LA are the compelling teams that take a year to year approach that seem like they will vie for the 5th spot, but even then, may be relegated to 1 game to decide their fate. 

With that in mind, it is clear that taking a year to year approach is incredibly risky, as you need to have an overachieving kind of year in order to potentially play only 1 playoff game. Rebuilding to become the next top team indeed becomes a better long term strategy. Assuming Houston wins the division this year but Seattle only falls slightly short of them in the standings, Seattle would deserve a far better fate than 1 game. Expanding the playoffs, eliminating 1 game wild card would go a long ways towards stopping teams from intentionally being bad in order to be good in the future. It would empower more teams to go for it, and not blow up their cores. 

I guess us White Sox fans can be happy that an expanded playoff format is down the road, when we are supposed to be sustaining success, rather than having already happened and emboldening our front office to continue to try and win with the old core and year to year approach we took for so long. 

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Honestly, why is it such a terrible thing that not many teams make the playoffs in baseball?  I think it makes for a better playoff, and it sure doesn't make it drag out for way too long.

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I don't think it's necessarily a terrible thing with the way things currently are. I think it could be improved beyond the addition of the 1 game wild card, though. As I said in my original post, teams that have really good 162 game seasons deserve better than 1 game to decide their fate. Some teams have really good seasons and don't even make the playoffs. 

Also, playoff baseball is interesting. Every team raises their level of play, focus. More of that is not necessarily a bad thing. You may feel like it drags on, that is perfectly fine to hold that opinion. I would argue that the addition of an NFL style playoff would not add too much playoff to where it would drag on and on, but also give you many interesting games and gives deserving teams a shot at a 3 game series to see who gets to play against the best in their respective leagues. 

As it stands now:

162 game season
1 game wild card
5 game divisional series
7 game championship series
7 game World Series

With NFL style playoff:

154 game season
3 game wild card
5 game divisional series
7 game championship series
7 game World Series

If anything, this style not only gives you many more interesting playoff baseball games to watch, but is balanced by elimination of 8 regular season games, which to me, seem like far more of a drag than playoff baseball games. 

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I don't like expanding the playoffs because baseball is a game where there's a lot of statistical noise on the way to determining who the best teams are. It means the playoff series, even with 7 games, aren't very good at sorting out who the best team is. The 162 games, on the other hand, do a good job of ensuring the best teams get in (even if there are going to be some spots on the fringe decided by luck). Expanding the field of playoff teams while shortening the series subtracts signal and adds noise.

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Some fantastic discussion so far.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of playoffs, but I am leaning towards no additions being made, or the only addition being a 3-game wild card playoff instead of the 1 game. 

 

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I'm completely against expanded playoffs. One of the things I enjoy about baseball is the fact that the regular season still means a lot - unlike the other sports. The format now is really good. If MLB does expand, I hope they do four 8-team divisions instead of eight 4-team divisions.

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17 hours ago, Dick Allen said:

One thing expanding the playoffs that much would do is curtail tanking. 

A draft lottery would help curtail some tanking.

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Eight divisions of four teams each across two leagues.  

Unversal DH.

Division winners get in.  

5 game Division series

7 game League Championship series

7 game World Series.  

I am really against expanding the playoffs.  Wild Card era was fun but the dual Wild Card game ruined it for me.  

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No thanks to being in same division as Cardinals and Cubs, as they have a better chance than Indians IMO of being good the next 5 years than the Indians.

Edited by fathom

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Just now, SouthWallace said:

Eight divisions of four teams each across two leagues.  

Unversal DH.

Division winners get in.  

5 game Division series

7 game League Championship series

7 game World Series.  

I am really against expanding the playoffs.  Wild Card era was fun but the dual Wild Card game ruined it for me.  

Four team divisions wouldn’t work in baseball. There would be under.500 teams making the playoffs. That can’t happen. 

If they do it, 16-team leagues, close to a balanced schedule, 1 and 2 seeds get a bye, 3 hosts 6 and 4 hosts 5 in a best of 3. If the 6-seed is under .500, they don’t make the playoffs...3-seed gets a bye too. 

Then best of 5’s until the World Series.

Only the World Series is best of 7.

 

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On 6/15/2018 at 9:11 PM, SouthWallace said:

Eight divisions of four teams each across two leagues.  

Unversal DH.

Division winners get in.  

5 game Division series

7 game League Championship series

7 game World Series.  

I am really against expanding the playoffs.  Wild Card era was fun but the dual Wild Card game ruined it for me.  

I'm with you on everything but the elimination of the Wild Card, and everyone would be on that bandwagon the moment an 84 win team got in while a 95 win team sat at home. The NFL has the best playoff format, here's how it could be adopted to MLB:

8 divisions, 4 teams per division in 2 leagues with universal DH.

Each division winner and 2 Wild Cards get into postseason from each league, for 12 total playoff teams. 

3 Game Wild Card Series (Top 2 teams in each league advance to next round automatically)

5 Game Division Series

7 Game Championship Series

7 Game World Series

To me, the reason the Wild Card expansion hasn't resulted in a reduction of tanking is that the 1 Game Wild Card round doesn't give enough incentive for fringe teams to get in. Most GMs don't want to mortgage a chunk of the future of their team for what amounts to a coin flip to see if they get into the real playoffs. At least at 3 games you have a series and a Wild Card team will get to see at least 2 games, with at least 1 home game. I think this would increase the interest in being a Wild Card team and thus reduce the number of teams who are outright telling their fans they aren't competing in any given year, which I think would ultimately be best for avoiding concentrations of talent accumulation and "Superteams" and increasing parity throughout the league.

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On 6/15/2018 at 9:19 PM, fathom said:

No thanks to being in same division as Cardinals and Cubs, as they have a better chance than Indians IMO of being good the next 5 years than the Indians.

That's a really bad reason to say no thanks to it. In 5-10 years those teams might be cellar dwellers. 

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I think the 1 game bonanzee is awesome but the only thing I would change is giving 3-4 days or so of rest before it starts so each team can put its best team out there that night.  

Then maybe the next day the winner has to fly to the divisional champ to play, thus not getting to use their premier pitching that they gassed on the wild card game.  Divisional champs still get the advantage and also 4-5 days to rest. 

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7 hours ago, Jerksticks said:

I think the 1 game bonanzee is awesome but the only thing I would change is giving 3-4 days or so of rest before it starts so each team can put its best team out there that night.  

Then maybe the next day the winner has to fly to the divisional champ to play, thus not getting to use their premier pitching that they gassed on the wild card game.  Divisional champs still get the advantage and also 4-5 days to rest. 

It's great for ratings and TV drama, but if you want GMs to actually value a Wild Card spot, it's not the way to go. No GM in their right mind would value getting into that game enough to give up anything of value in pursuit of it. If you want the second wild card to matter, it has to come with a minimum guaranteed home playoff game.

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