Yesterday, I mentioned that Bud Selig wants to add 2 teams to each league’s playoffs as soon as 2012. Assuming this comes before any crazy divisional realignment happens, how would it work?
There are three different concerns that weigh against each other, as far as I can tell. They are:
- How do you select the teams who move on to the playoffs?
- Who gets the bye?
- How do you fit another series into the schedule without going too long?
A 6-team playoff has a lot more issues than an 8 team playoff does. At least two teams will have to sit inactive while the other teams play out. Furthermore, with three divisions, its not clear how you select whom those 3 teams are. Here are my two proposals for 6-team playoff systems.
The Round Robin – You have three division winners. Each of these teams move on to the Divisional Series. However, before that divisional series, each of the 2nd place teams plays each other once in a round robin. The winner of the round robin is now the wild card team. They play the 1st place team, regardless of which division they come from. It looks like this:
Round Robins can get messy. If one team wins both its games, then it moves on. However, if each team wins 1 out 3 games, then you have to do the whole thing again, or determine the winner through a series of tie breakers. Imagine if a round robin went 9 days? I could see it being configured for a maximum of 4 games – if all three teams win 1 game, then the top-2 teams are determined by a tiebreaker, and then they have a one-game playoff for the wild card spot. Travel in between the one-game matches could get pretty nasty pretty quickly. You’d either designate 1 home ballpark (or, I guess, a neutral site) or two home ballparks, while the third place team doesn’t get a home game.
If you use tiebreakers for a 4-game maximum, this actually wouldn’t hold back the playoffs all that much. If the Round Robin starts the day after the regular season ends and doesn’t include off days, and you started the 2nd/3rd place division champions on the day after the Round Robin is complete (giving the winner a day off), you could start the season without much delay, and at the same time fit the whole thing into MLB’s existing TBS schedule.
Two Teams Get A Bye – The only alternative I can think of is the scenario where the top-two division winners get byes. It looks like:
There are a lot of decisions to be made here. Would the series by a 5-game series, or a 3-game series, or even a one-game playoff? Would you give teams the standard playoff off days? Are the Wild Card teams just each division’s 2nd place team, or the top-3 teams overall who are not division winners?
At the very least, you’d be looking at a 5-7 day hiatus for the two bye teams. That’s a very long time in baseball. In many ways, it’ll be a disadvantage. At the same time, you’re really hurting the 3rd best division winner, who now has to play in another crazy, random, luck-based short series. With an unbalanced schedule during the regular season, this can get unfair real quick.
Personally, I’m 100% on board with the Round Robin. But what do you guys think? Are there any other formats that are possible? And if you’re in favor of the Bye system, how long would you make the first round of the playoffs?
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