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Wouldn't This Be Fun?

I've been afraid to look at the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds since last September, when I had to watch them melt from the 90s in September down to zero after the last day of the regular season. After Dan Uggla's big game last night, I finally got the nerve up to take a peek. The Braves sit right now with an 82.2% chance of making the post-season. The projection is that the Braves will finish 92-70, four games behind the Nats, which is exactly where the Braves sit this morning.

What's interesting is what the playoff scenario would be if this projection came true...

BP has the Pirates and Cardinals tying at 89-73. OK, technically, the Pirates' estimate would round up to 90 wins, but just play along with me. The overall point is that the Pirates lead the Cardinals by 3.5 games right now, but the Cardinals excellent run differential indicates that they are a better team than their record. If the Pirates and Cardinals finished tied, then they would play a one-game playoff with the winner to then travel to Atlanta. (If you really want to have a good time, read what happens if there is a three-way tie.) Thus, the Braves would not just have home field in the wild card game, but they would also get to face a team that had just had to play on the previous day. Fun fun fun.

I'm not normally a fan of expansive playoffs, but I have to admit that the MLB Wild Card change has me excited. As someone who likes to see regular season teams rewarded, the fact that wild card teams are now going to have to play against one another (and presumably use their best pitcher) will give them a little disadvantage against division winners. The baseball playoffs still suffer from the problem that the reward for being the best team in the regular season is too small, but this reform remedies that issue a smidge.

For the record, if I were sports emperor, MLB would have 40 teams with a 20-team first division and 20-team second division. The first and second divisions would be divided into AL and NL. The teams with the best records in the first division AL and NL would play in the World Series, just like they did up until 1968. (This reform would be a return to baseball's roots; Bob Costas should love it.) The bottom two teams in the first division AL and NL would be relegated; the top two teams in the second division AL and NL would be promoted. I still need to figure out what rewards to offer teams for finishing high, but not winning their leagues, a la the races for the Champions League spots in major European soccer leagues.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.