Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MLB Playoffs 2.0

I think the baseball playoff system is not the greatest because sometimes worse teams end up in the playoffs. This year and 2006 are the best examples of this. In 2006 three teams in the AL Central had won 90 or more games while only two made the playoffs. Three teams in the AL East had 86 or more wins yet only the division winner made it to the playoffs and two teams in the AL West won 89 or more games but only the division winning Oakland "We can't win in the playoffs anyways" Athletics mad it. While if you look at the NL teams making the playoffs, it was the Mets with 97 wins and then two NL West team with 88 wins and the Cardinals with the least wins(the worst record, the lowest winning percentage, you name it) to ever make it into the playoffs with only 83 wins. As you can see not only did a team with 83 wins make it to the playoffs but what is unfair about it is the fact that the Phillies(I can't believe that I'm about to write this) who had 85 wins didn't make the playoffs. Other problems with these playoffs had the Padres with 88 wins being the second seed in the playoffs and that seven AL team had the same or better records than all of the NL playoff teams except for the Mets who tied with the Yankees for best record in the MLB.

This year there are several excellent playoff races going on in the AL and NL East, the AL and NL Central and the AL and NL Wild Card. Altogether there are 16 teams competing for playoff spots in the MLB while only 10 of those 16 teams are more than just 5 games over .500, that's sad. If the playoffs had a better system these bad teams would already be eliminated but since there are 2 great teams in the NL East and 3 superb teams in the NL Central and only three of them can make it, and even though all five are better than all the teams in the West, two of the East/Central group won't make it while one team from the West automatically earns a playoff berth which I think is just unfair. So I'm suggesting two things: a) The playoff seeding needs amending and b) the competitive balance between the two leagues and the six divisions are very disproportionate.

Instead of the current playoff seeding system I've developed a new one which has all MLB teams split up into two leagues and the four teams with the most wins from each league advance to the playoffs. This way everyone has the same schedule and therefore the real best four best teams from each league make it to the playoffs. The other issue though is the fact that the AL has so many more talented teams that the NL. If you look at the AL, in the East you have the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. In the Central you have the whole division to worry about because the Indians will be back next year, the Twins are always good because of superb player development, the White Sox have terrific personnel for the upcoming season with plenty room on their budget for trades and free agents. The Royals are a team on the rise who I believe will be very good next year and the Tigers who might be the worst team in this superb division even after making in to the World Series just two years ago. The AL West has the Angels who might decline a bit next year because of key players leaving in free agency. There is the Oakland A's who only have Mark Ellis(an impending free agent), Eric Chavez(an impending nothing) and Huston Street left to trade away before they've completed trading away every single player from their 2006 AL West championship season in an effort to rebuild. The Rangers have great hitting and have a good farm system but lack the pitching to win this division and the Mariners are just pathetic.

This makes 10 good teams in the AL competing for 4 spots while the NL has the Mets, Phillies, Cubs and Brewers along with maybe the D-Backs. Only the Cubs and Brewers are doing very well this season so to me it just makes sense to pin all the second place AL teams against the likes of the Mets, Phillies, D-Backs, etc.(the underachieving top NL teams) This is why I think the Rays, the Twins and the Rangers should be moved over to the NL with the Phillies, Astros and the Rockies shifting over to the AL. The Rays-Phillies swap sends the Phillies over to the AL to really see what they're made out of, while also ending a long unsuccessful run in the NL. The Phillies are essentially an AL team because they don't steal many bases and they have a band-box for a stadium along with many power(good) hitters and therefore they play for the three-run homer. The Rays are a new team and can easily be shifted over to the NL. The Twins-Astros swap makes sense because they are both newish teams and the Twins are better than the Astros further leveling the playing field. Lastly you have the Rangers-Rockies swap, they are both new and both play in hitter's parks. I think the Rangers would benefit immensely by getting away from the A's and Angels. The Rockies could use a new league after only making the playoffs once(last year) in their whole existence.

With this shakeup you level the playing field between the AL and NL meaning more exciting World Series' and you also make it easier for good teams to make it to the playoffs while also making the playoffs more exciting. The top four teams from each league no matter where they're from make the playoffs and therefore you're always sending your best teams out in the playoffs which then means that whichever teams win in the playoffs can actually be called the better team and not only lucky(like the '06 Cardinals who snuck into the playoffs and luck led them to a World Series ring).