That’s right Bud, according to a joint announcement from Major League Baseball and its players association, effective for this coming season, the number of playoff teams per league has increased from four to five, with three division winners and two wild card teams gaining entry to the post season.

When such an exciting possibility was first announced as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, it wasn’t known how quickly the policy shift would be introduced. In fact, the only definitive part of the original announcement was that something would be decided by March 1st.

In order to make the new playoff structure a reality for the 2012 season, the division winners with the best records will be visitors for the first two games of the division series, and then have home field advantage for the final three. To alleviate the scheduling jam, this will give two guaranteed home playoff games for the Wild Card team and the weakest of the division winners, and only one guaranteed home game for the strongest division winners.

After this season, MLB will go back to a 2-2-1 format. As well, division winners and Wild Card winners from the same division will now be allowed to meet in the division series.

Essentially, the new format would give playoff berths to not only the three division winners, but also the winner of a one game playoff between the two next best teams.

As I’ve written before, what I don’t like about this system, aside from this year’s wonky scheduling, is that it places the teams with the two best records after the division winners on equal footing. If we’re talking in terms of ensuring that the best teams make it to the playoffs under a three division format, then one Wild Card makes perfect sense.

If we look at the final standings of past seasons, more often than not the Wild Card winner finished with a better record than at least one of the division winners. The next best team rarely does this. When the Wild Card winner comes from a division like the AL East, it means that despite a tougher schedule they likely managed to play better than one of the other two division winners throughout the season. A second Wild Card winner, didn’t do this.

What I do like about the new system is that it does give an extra day or two of rest to the teams that won their divisions and puts an added importance to doing so. I like that the regular season gets more respect under this system, but at the same time, the potential existed to do away with the strange three division set up and compete under a more fair and balanced schedule. If that were the case, I could fully embrace giving division winners an advantage.

For the record, the regular season is scheduled to conclude on October 3rd this year, with both of the one game playoffs set for October 5th.

Comments (15)

  1. without a balanced schedule, the jays don’t realistically have a much better chance now than they did two days ago.

  2. I’d say that they do. Instead of finishing first or second in their division to have shot at the playoffs, they can finish third, and get a one game shot at making it to the next round. I’d say that’s significantly better, just not best, which a balanced schedule would be.

    • I like divisional rivalries. Jays should’ve done more during the offseason to put themselves in a position to take advantage of the new rules. Rogers is cheap.

      • Dude, the “new rules” are going to be around for more than 1 year. Tossing bucket loads of cash at bad contracts, (Fielder, Pujols) so that they have a slightly larger chance at a wildcard berth is flat out dumb. What happens 3-4 years from now when those contracts are holding the Jays back from contracts they actually need to sign? What they are doing now is the right way to go about it. Smart drafts, smart signings and smart trades.

      • Have you not seen the team? They are building from within the organization , they were 81-81 with a below par pitching staff. With quality set up men and closers now they have a much better chance of going over 500 for the season. Not saying they will make the playoffs but I think they did plenty in the offseason. It’s not always about whats on paper

      • Rivalries are overrated. People will show up to see good baseball and to see teams they like. Two 15 team Divisions is all we need.

    • They still need to at least be better than one of the Rangers/Angels and one of the BoSox/Yanks/Rays…don’t get me wrong, this is a nice looking team, and even if they finish 4th again this year in the BEast, it will still be good baseball; but, their ability to make the playoffs still depends more on other teams tanking than on their players playing up to their abilities.

      • I like rivalries, like I said. Sure people will still show up but I liked hating the Tigers back in the day and will always hate the redsox and yankees. I dont think I care about Texas, Cleveland or Chicago all that much.
        Prince hit a bp pitch 600+ feet yesterday, that’s not on paper; that’s what Im thinking. I don’t like Kool-Aid, I think I’ll just let you guys keep it all thanks.

      • I’m a Red sox fan, but I have to admit, if the Blue jays played in a different division, they could be a second place team.

  3. This will be relly good for the Al East. The Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox all deserve to make th playoffs. Halfway through the 2010 season, those three teams were the top three teams in the standing throughout the entire MLB. Lats year. Those teams were three of the top five teams in the AL at the end of the regular season. This year the Blue Jays could be in playoff contention also. The Orioles are improving. This new playoff format is great for the Al East.

  4. This new playoff format will make for an exciting race in the final twenty game between two of the following three teams: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays (excluding the division winner) and the team that doesn’t not win the Al West which will proably be the Rangers or angels for the two wild card spots.

  5. In baseball, I dont see the fact that *division winners* start a playoff on the road. Its more than an adv to get final 3 games at home. Superior teams dont care about starting on the road. If a team is really better than the other, this schedule shouldnt matter at all, but benefict to them

  6. The new format makes it that more important to win the division. If you get a WC berth, it becomes a one game crapshoot, even if your team wins 96 games. And if you are heading into game 162 and still have a shot to win a berth, it becomes that more important to have a deep starting rotation.

    Not to mention that the division races will be more compressed (2 away games and 3 home games). I think this will reward the better balanced teams and will minimizes the ace pitcher factor in a short series.

    Sure, it might be easier for the Jays to make it to the post-season, but only marginally. The general consensus is that the Blue Jays are are the 7th or 8th best team in the AL right now. They will need some alot of help to get over the hump. Which is why AA is trying to build a team that can win the division. But he’s not there yet.

    One positiive. If the Blue Jays play lights out baseball and if they are in the race well into September, one can see an attendance rise and more buzz for the team.

    More attendance = more payroll? Go Jays! .

  7. I thnik it should be a five game series. Maybe the MLB should have the same format as the NFL only with series.. Six teams make the playoffs in each league, and the top two teams get a bye.

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