Earlier today, Major League Baseball announced that it would restructure its playoff format from involving three division winners and a wild card team to three division winners and two wild card teams that play one game to determine who wins the super-duper crazy wild card and gain entrance into a division series against the strongest of the division winners that’s from a division other than the super-duper crazy wild card winner’s. The news is so exciting, it’s enough to write a run-on sentence about.

But what does such news actually mean to teams on the cusp of competing this coming season? Should they amp up their efforts to acquire players in response to the restructuring? Or, hold course?

As usual, DJF’s Andrew Stoeten does an excellent job of listing the pros and cons¬†of MLB’s new playoff policy, stating that while it’s technically become easier for his beloved Blue Jays to make the playoffs, it’s be will be harder to advance as anything other than the division winner.

It’s great that an extra team will get a chance to join the party– and that may ultimately benefit the Jays sooner, and more often than Alex’s team-building will– but being a Wild Card team also just got quite a bit lot less valuable, thanks to the play-in game.

Exactly. The play-in game is key. I find it hard to fathom any general manager, even one built from spare pig parts jerry-rigged together with the assembled organs of Ned Colletti, Jim Hendry and Ed Wade, would do anything differently in an off season based on the possibility of participating in a one game playoff that would use up your best starter ahead of facing the best team in your league in an extended series for which their roster is well rested. And that’s a best case scenario that assumes you win.

We’ve seen several examples of a team with less talent beating superior opposition in a seven game series. We’ve seen even more examples of it happening in a five game series. There’s just so much randomness and luck involved in the game of baseball that the better team doesn’t necessarily have the ability to exercise their superiority in a single game. That’s why 162 games are necessary in the lead up to the playoffs.

Gambling on short term success from trades or contracts to reach a single game is the baseball equivalent of buying scratch lottery tickets with the hope of winning money that can let you afford a trip to the casino. The goal for every team, whether they play in the American League East or the National League West should remain to be building an organization that finds sustainable success.

Comments (21)

  1. The fact that the playoffs have become even more of a random luckfest than they already are should actually give teams like the Jays more incentive to spend and to win. It means they don’t have to be better than NYY or BOS anymore to make the playoffs, win a pennant, or win a title.

    90 wins are well within this team’s reach if they choose to make the proper improvements this offseason.

  2. Its good. Jays finally have a chance

  3. No team’s goal shoul ever be to be 4th or 5th best. Division winner should ALWAYS be the goal.

    That being said, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play the game. If you’re in a position to shoot for 5th, and it doesn’t RADICALLY alter your long term plans, not trying to get that spot does a disservice to the players aand fans, IMO.

    If it keeps a couple teams in it longer and creates more fan interest, then the extra spot has done its job.

  4. So the Brewers decision to trade away their future assets in favour of a short term playoff run was a poor decision?

    Or what about Mozeliak trading away Rasmus to shore up the bullpen?

    Gambling on a 1 game play-in may seem a bad idea to you, but for a franchise that hasn’t played meaningful baseball in a couple of decades, it may be the best route.

  5. making teams play a 162 games and then a 1 game playoff is like deciding the winner of a 25k marathon by having the top 2 guys run 100 mile sprint

    some teams arent made for a 1 game playoff, especially if they rely more on a balance of starters rather than a dominant ace.

  6. It might not alter their off-season approach, but it’ll sure drive up the cost of mid-season reinforcements. More teams that think they have a shot = fewer teams throwing in the towel = fewer players available for contenders = higher prices for those players.

    For example, the Rasmus deal doesn’t even get made under these circumstances. The White Sox would still have been chasing the 2nd WC spot, and because LOOGYs and bench guys see their values skyrocket, AA probably deals those spare parts for high-ceiling prospects, and nothing more.

    Not saying it’s good or bad, but it certainly affects the way teams trade with each other during the season… whether it should alter their approach or not is irrelevant, because by altering the mid-season market, it’ll force teams to alter their approach accordingly.

  7. Making the wild-card spot so much less valuable is brilliant. Had this season not ended with Boston’s historically unprecedented collapse, there would have been a number of meaningless games for the Yankees and Red Sox, both of whom would have been going to the playoffs. If the difference between division winner and wild card team is even close, no more resting your best players for the playoffs.

    More meaningful baseball games for both the Jays and division leaders sounds good to me.

  8. Agreed.

    It will definitely change the trade market during the season. And like it or not.. it will alter most teams plans.

    Trading a regular starter from your team at the deadline for prospects is going to be much harder to explain to the fanbase when you’re a couple games out of 5th. Even if you’re a mile out of 4th or the division lead.

    In a sport where one swing can drastically alter the game, and the best teams in the league lose 40% of the time, anything can happen in a 1 game playoff or a 7 game series. Obviously each transaction would have to be looked at individually to check it’s merits, but there is no doubt in my mind that adding another team to the randomness of the MLB playoffs will definitely alter the approach of every team that’s not consistently winning the division.

    We’ve seen the last two years what can happen if you just get a shot in the playoffs.

  9. What’s the problem with a one game playoff? I don’t get these small sample size complaining babies.

    What the heck is decided by a 162 game season anyway? It’s a completely arbitrary number. If the season were 161 games this year you would’ve had the Braves and Red Sox in the playoffs, and the red hot Cards wouldn’t have had the chance to “prove” their superiority in a seven game series over the brew crew and the rangers. You’re never going to be able to award the ‘true’ best team , because that’s always changing. Thats not even taking into account the unbalanced schedule and the different rules between leagues.

    • A seven game series is just about as random and luck-filled as a one-game playoff anyway. If you weren’t worried about the playoff format prior to this, you shouldn’t be worried about it now.

    • I would be thrilled if the Jays lost in a one game playoff next year.

  10. Keep in mind also that the Jays would never have to play NY, Boston or Tampa in the ALDS, so being the wildcard winner is arguably more valuable for them.

  11. It bears noting that our hallowed best-of-seven series is really little better than a crapshoot anyway, so the one game playoff isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. I’m still not a big fan of the whole thing, but it’s hard to get too worked up over the whole situation.

  12. What ever happened to that floating realignment idea? I always thought it was an incredibly stupid idea so I hope it’s been trashed.

    • I hope that idea is gone. I want to witness the Jays to climb over the Rays Sox and Yankees in glorious fashion!

  13. I think the MLB will have to have a 3 game series, instead of a 1 game playoff.

    If it is a 1 game playoff, who gets the home game if both teams have the same number of wins.?

    The best news is that the Jays will no longer be able to say that they can’t compete with Bos or NYY., since both those teams could qualify & leave a spot open for the Jays.

    The trade deadline deals will be very important in 2012.

    Do the Jays dare open a season with a Jo Jo Reyes or Corey Patterson type player in the lineup, when every game counts?

    • Why will MLB ‘have’ to go to a 3 game series??
      If a team doesnt want to play a 162 game season only to go home on a one-and-done…. then its simple, win your division!!!!
      The difference between winning your division and settling for the wildcard has finally become tangible. Personally, I love that it rewards division winners.

      • Even 83 win division winners? There’s no perfect system. One of these years we’re gonna see a 100+ win wild card “winner” go one and done, while a low 80s division winner gets to go on. Scrap the divisions, balance the schedule, scrap interleague and don’t take too many more teams to the playoffs lest you completely devalue the 162 game regular season schedule. I’ll laugh if it’s the Yankees or Red Sox that get bounced in that scenario, but I have a feeling there will be great wailing and gnashing of death, particularly from FOX.

      • That’s gnashing of teeth, not death. D’oh!

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