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With two wild card games in the book it's now division series time. There are two games on Saturday, four on Sunday and two on Monday to accompany your turkey eating.

The first wild card game was wild, in particular the Braves players after the game.

"Bleepety-bleep," screamed one Brave, as Torre was explaining why he'd denied the Braves' protest. "Ohhhhh bleep, Joe," grumbled another, after listening to Torre say that it sure looked like an infield fly to him. "I'm outta here. That's weak," muttered another Brave, after Holbrook said he'd seen the replay and concluded it was "absolutely" the right call.



The infield/outfield fly rule call is one that could have gone either way. The Braves upset, and their fans upset, was likely due in part to their poor play. Three errors led to runs for the Cardinals. The Braves are done and the Cardinals can still repeat.

The call on the fly ball was magnified by the one and out nature of the game. It was the equivalent of a game seven. If this had been a game one the reaction post-game might have been more muted, as in we just have to get them tomorrow.

Meanwhile the Orioles improbable season continues. Joe bleeping Saunders kept the Rangers at bay into the sixth inning but the Rangers did look like a shadow of their former selves. Did Josh Hamilton cost himself some money over the last week?

Today, can the A's continue their run, just like the Orioles did? They face Justin Verlander today and throw Jarrod Parker, a rookie, against the Tigers.

In the late game Matt Cain faces Johnny Cueto.

Remember, streaks often die in the playoffs. Kris Medlen has been unbeatable....gone. The Orioles don't blow saves... well they almost did last night. Don't be surprised if they blow one before the playoffs are done.

Division Series Thread | 83 comments | Create New Account
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greenfrog - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 01:01 PM EDT (#264349) #
I agree that the Braves' errors were the critical difference (Chipper's especially), but most commentators seemed to think that the infield fly call was a mistake by the umpire. There were apparently two issues with the call. First, whether the SS could in fact have caught the ball with "ordinary effort" (arguably not). Second, the lateness of the ump's signal (the infield fly rule is supposed to protect the team at bat, but this goal was undermined by the ump's waiting until the last second to make the call).

The Braves might well have lost anyway, but we'll never know. There is a big difference between bases loaded, one out, and two on, two out.
Thomas - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 02:59 PM EDT (#264352) #
Second, the lateness of the ump's signal (the infield fly rule is supposed to protect the team at bat, but this goal was undermined by the ump's waiting until the last second to make the call).

I don't agree with this argument. The lateness of the call made it look more controversial and probably even more upset with Holbrook's call. However, I don't think it undermined the protection of the team at bat at all. The runners on the Braves, thinking that the ball was a live ball, were about 1/3rd of the way off the bags. That was the main reason why they were both able to advance safely when the ball dropped to the ground. If the infield fly had been called when the ball was at the peak of its height, the runners, knowing that they had to advance at their own risk after the ball hit the ground, would probably have retreated closer to or all the way to their base, as it looked like Kozma (or Holliday) was going to catch the ball.

I think Holbrook was fine in waiting until it became apparent to him that Kozma would have caught the ball with ordinary effort and I don't think that delay undermined the protection that the rule affords to the batting team in any way. I'm not sure the runners would have advanced safely had the infield fly been called several seconds earlier.

92-93 - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 03:49 PM EDT (#264354) #
"Second, the lateness of the ump's signal"

The ump waited for it to be apparent that the play could be made with ordinary effort, which is exactly what he's supposed to do.
greenfrog - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 03:54 PM EDT (#264355) #
I don't know. I agree with you about the lateness of the call not hindering the baserunners from advancing - I think this is a valid point. However, the infield fly rule (2.00 Definition of Terms) states that "When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners."

What got Atlanta steamed was not whether the baserunners were given sufficient notice in order to make an informed decision about how to position themselves in order to possibly advance. It was the loss of an out and an additional baserunner in a critical situation in which they were down three runs. Which brings us back to "ordinary effort." The commentators stated that:

- They had never seen a fly ball that deep called under the IFR

- It was unusual for an ump to make the call so late

- During the regular season, umpires are positioned closer to the infield; in last night's wild card game, the positioning of the extra umps may have caused confusion in this ump (i.e., because he was attempting to judge the play from his atypical outfield position rather than his usual infield position)

- In their experience, the effort exerted by the fielder was more than "ordinary effort"

Yes, it's a judgment call, and I'm not saying the ump's call was right or wrong (there is no precise formula for determining when a ball should be call an infield fly). But in the overall context of the play, I can see how the lateness of the call could be viewed as one factor raising concern about the ump's judgment.
greenfrog - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 04:09 PM EDT (#264356) #
Also, there is the odd circumstance of the ump finally calling "Infield Fly" after the infielder, having completed his peregrination well out into left field, appeared to have completely lost the ball, which then landed well behind him an instant later.
Thomas - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 04:43 PM EDT (#264361) #
I don't disagree with the fact that the ump's positioning may have played a role in his decision to make the call and that the fact the umpire was in LF should be considered.

However, I find it hard to see how Kozma's effort could not be considered ordinary effort when he never turned his back on the ball. He was backpedalling the entire time. This wasn't a case of Jack Wilson or someone of his ilk ranging into left field on a sprint and catching the ball over his shoulder. Kozma never turned his back on the ball.

Also, I think the fact that Kozma's loss of the ball coincided with the time that the ump made the ball is coincidental, in the sense that it was at this point that it became apparent to the umpire that the ball could have been caught with Kozma's ordinary effort. Prior to that, I think Holbrook was waiting to see if the ball would drift further out to a point where Holliday would have called Kozma off and caught it himself.
vw_fan17 - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 05:37 PM EDT (#264363) #
I guess I was cheering a bit for the Braves so I was a bit partial, but IMHO, that was a blown call by the umpire. 100%.

I'm no expert on the rules, but I've been watching baseball quite a bit for 30+ years now. Plus playing softball for 25+ years. Can't recall ever having IFR called on a ball that deep. It seemed to be halfway between the infield dirt and the warning track. Sure, it might have been "ordinary" effort - but that's just because it was hit that high. If it had 30-40% more hangtime, Kozma could have caught the ball at the warning track with "ordinary" effort. Wouldn't make it IFR. There's that "I" part that stands for "infield". IMHO, that ball was NOT in the infield.

IMHO, it's among the 10 worst calls in sports this year. Not as bad as the Green Bay/Seattle touchdown by the replacement umps, but right up there. Of course, that's just me.
Magpie - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 07:41 PM EDT (#264365) #
I'm a little troubled by pop flies to the outfield being covered by the infield fly rule. That wasn't my idea of an infield fly. It's an easy catch for Holliday if the shortstop hadn't called him off, and it would have been fun to see that bit of scoring: FlyOut LF, (infield fly rule.)

I guess they need to change the name of the rule.
Magpie - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 07:45 PM EDT (#264366) #
Remember, the purpose of the rule is to prevent infielders letting balls drop on purpose so they can get a cheap double play. Not really a factor on balls hit to the outfield.
greenfrog - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 08:05 PM EDT (#264367) #
Actually, the comment to Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) covers the possibility of an outfielder making the catch:

Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/definition_terms_2.jsp
92-93 - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 10:07 PM EDT (#264368) #
"Remember, the purpose of the rule is to prevent infielders letting balls drop on purpose so they can get a cheap double play. Not really a factor on balls hit to the outfield."

And yet the words "double play" do not appear in the Infield Fly rule. Whether or not a double play can be turned is irrelevant as to whether or not the ball is an infield fly.

"Also, there is the odd circumstance of the ump finally calling "Infield Fly" after the infielder, having completed his peregrination well out into left field, appeared to have completely lost the ball, which then landed well behind him an instant later."

This is clearly not what happened. Something made Kozma back off that ball, and he only did so AFTER the ump raised his arm in an out signal (and presumably called "INFIELD FLY" out loud).

Harold Reynolds did a good job breaking down the play. http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/harold-reynolds-had-good-explanation-why-infield-fly-154426000--mlb.html
Magpie - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 11:14 PM EDT (#264370) #
And yet the words "double play" do not appear in the Infield Fly rule.

Nevertheless - that's why the rule exists.
greenfrog - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 11:15 PM EDT (#264371) #
This is clearly not what happened. Something made Kozma back off that ball, and he only did so AFTER the ump raised his arm in an out signal (and presumably called "INFIELD FLY" out loud).

Yes. I agree (I just watched the video again). E-greenfrog. However, your clarification just begs the question of why the IFR was called at all. If Kozma was so shaken by the ump's calling "INFIELD FLY" that he decisively backed off (he actually moved forward, not back), it suggests that he had zero expectation that this was an IFR situation - unsurprisingly, since he was positioned way out in left field.
Magpie - Saturday, October 06 2012 @ 11:53 PM EDT (#264372) #
The infield fly rule was introduced in 1895 to make infielders stop their practise of letting pop flies drop so they could try to get two outs on the play instead of one. That's what the rule is for; that's why the circumstances when it may be invoked are so carefully restricted (at least two men on base, less than two outs.) It doesn't apply with two outs - it's not a mulligan for infielders. It doesn't apply with one man on - een if he misses the catch, he can still get one out. That the Cardinals couldn't get even one out from their uncaught "infield fly" is, I think, rather relevant.

I've simply never seen the infield fly rule invoked on a ball that travelled that far into the outfield. Has anyone else? And that's a problem. A rule that is not normally invoked is no rule at all. So even if the ruling was technically correct, I think it was correct in exactly the same way Tim McClelland was correct to wave off George Brett's home run and rule him out for having too much pine tar on his bat. The way some umpire will be correct on the day when he suddenly remembers that the modern practise of blocking the plate by catchers is actually against the rules, and decides to be the first guy in memory to enforce that rule.
baagcur - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 01:45 AM EDT (#264374) #
You would think for a MLB professional in a do-or-die game ordinary and extraordinary effort would be synonymous
Richard S.S. - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 03:20 AM EDT (#264376) #
Verlander wins as he should, giving Detroit the edge in their series. Reds wins, but maybe lose Cueto for the rest of the year. This makes Cincy's chance's slimmer.
92-93 - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 03:43 AM EDT (#264377) #
I'm guessing the reason you don't see infield flies that travel that deep is because typically that would mean an umpire himself has to head out to make the call, and it's tougher for him to assert "ordinary effort" while he's huffing and puffing to get out there from 2nd or 3rd. In the playoffs there's outfield umpires who need to walk only a few steps to be in line with the destination of the ball, and as can be seen in the replay the ump was in perfect position to make the call once the infielder squared himself up to the infield.

Look, the rule is poorly written, and there should obviously need to be a reasonable opportunity for the infielder to turn two for it to be applied. But that isn't the case, and umpires are taught to follow the rules, of which there are many and the rule changes that happen come as a result of things that occur during the game. Maybe now they'll amend the infield fly rule but as it was written the umpire made the correct call, and I don't know what more people want from the umpires - if they started making judgement calls on the rules that would also leave many people unhappy. I wonder why Kozma didn't get an error - the runners advanced as a result of him dropping an ordinary effort ball.

And really, Atlanta lost by 3 runs on the back of a crucial throwing error by Chipper. They also still had a chance to score runs that inning even though the infield fly rule was called. Braves fans are going to remember this call forever and feel screwed but they could've won the division or played better in the wild card game and one umpire's call wouldn't have been able to derail their season.
Chuck - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 07:46 AM EDT (#264379) #
Harold Reynolds discusses the play in question.
jerjapan - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#264381) #

Reynolds explanation is compelling, but this play still reminds me of a certain controversial call from Olympic soccer this summer.  The rules may support the umpire (although there are plenty of commentators that don't agree with Reynolds) but it still feels like the wrong call to me. 

ogator - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 11:21 AM EDT (#264382) #
I think "wrong" is the wrong word. It was a call that was not absolutely clear one way or the other. I think Reynolds does an excellent job of defending the umpire but there are many people who would question his call. That's why there are umpires. Someone has to make judgement calls. We don't have to agree with their judgements but in this case it was a very reasonable judgement call. One could argue that one doesn't agree with this call but it isn't possible to argue that this call was wrong.
greenfrog - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#264383) #
Does anyone else feel like the new wild card system is a bit of a scam? The team that really gets burned is the one that would have qualified under the old system (i.e., the non-division winner with the best record in the league). In the NL this was Atlanta, which won 94 games in 2012. But instead of earning the right to play in the short-series NLDS, they had a one-and-out wild card game, which they lost.

Yes, it gives one more team a shot at the postseason, but the "game 163" format is basically a coin toss. It seems gimmicky. Joe Torre argued that it's legit, saying that it's the equivalent of the deciding seventh game in a proper series. Well, if it's such a great system, why not reduce all playoff series to a single deciding game?
eudaimon - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 12:39 PM EDT (#264384) #
I've been thinking about that as well greenfrog. It kind of sucks (in a game like baseball) to reduce an entire season to one game. In something like football it obviously makes more sense, but baseball's a different game.

On the other hand, I think that in a practical sense it's pretty similar to how a tie-breaker works when there's a divisional tie, so it kind of makes sense in that regard.

I guess I still like it in the end. If you're not winning the division, then you have to compete in a tiebreaker for the true wildcard spot.
92-93 - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#264385) #
The only reason you think it's a scam is because you're now used to a wild card team playing a 5 game series to advance to the LCS, which is a scam in it of itself. Win your division and you have nothing to complain about. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, and should strongly reward the teams that are best over 162 games. This system does that better than the one that's been in place since 1995.
greenfrog - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#264387) #
How does this system work better than the system in place last year? One of the WC teams is still going to advance to the ALDS to play a division winner on equal terms. It's just getting there by a different (arguably less merit-based) route. Why should St. Louis (an 88-game winner) have the chance to beat out Atlanta (a 94-game winner - incidentally the same # of wins as SF, a division winner) based on the outcome of a single game playoff, which is about as crapshooty as you can get?

Are you arguing that based on the one-game playoff, St. Louis has now established itself as more deserving to be a full participant in the NLDS than Atlanta has? Please do tell.
sweat - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 03:51 PM EDT (#264389) #
The reason it is more fair, is that the wildcard teams can no longer set up their best pitcher to pitch game 1 and game 5, like the division winners can. The wildcard teams will have to go with their best pitcher for the wildcard game. This gives the top team in that league an advantage over the wild card team they didn't have last year.
eudaimon - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 04:02 PM EDT (#264390) #
Wins aren't a perfect indicator of team quality. There's schedule differences, divisional differences, etc. Not to mention pure luck.

If you don't win the division, then the two teams with the next best record get to duke it out in a tie-breaker.
John Northey - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 06:48 PM EDT (#264391) #
Since it switched in 1969 to 4 divisions the playoffs have become just pure entertainment, not a measure of 'best vs best'. In truth, it is more fun this way as it gets more teams involved but we did miss out on a few amazing races.

2012: Yankees vs Washington: Washington wins NL by 1 game over Cincinnati, Yankees 1 game over Oakland with Texas collapsing vs Oakland to miss out. That would've been a heck of a race.

2011: Phillies vs Yankees: Phillies by 6 over Milwaukee, Yankees 1 over Texas (boy would it suck to be in Texas right now).

2010: Phillies vs Rays: Phillies by 5 over Giants, Rays by 1 over Yankees 2 over Twins.

2009: Yankees vs Dodgers: Yanks by 6 over Angels, Dodgers by 2 over Phillies

2008: Angels vs Cubs: Angels by 3 over Tampa, Cubs by 5 over Phillies - the curse of the goat would've ended

...

1993: Atlanta vs Toronto: Atlanta by 1 over the Giants (they were in the same division so that is what happened), Jays by 1 over the White Sox

1992: Atlanta vs Jays or A's: Atlanta by 2 over Pittsburgh, Jays and A's a one game playoff to decide who faces Atlanta. Now _that_ would've been tense.

1991: Pittsburgh vs Twins: No Jays this year (4 games back)

1989: A's vs Cubs: Jays in 4th rather than in playoffs

1985: Jays vs Cardinals: Royals 8 back rather than WS champs

...

So the Jays lose 2 of their playoffs appearances, but get an extra World Series appearance depending how that 1 game playoff went in 92 (A's won the first game of playoff in real life, so odds are the Jays would've been out of WS although I'd hope Cito wouldn't have left Morris in for all 9 if it was a 1 and done situation).
greenfrog - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 06:56 PM EDT (#264392) #
I understand the rationale; I just don't agree with it. Yes, I would be happy if the Jays made it to the WC game and advanced. But I would be equally annoyed (or close to equally annoyed) if they finished second in the division with 94 wins and then lost the one-game playoff in some idiotic way.

To me, the problem is the discrepancy between the 162-game / six-month season and the flukiness of a one-game playoff.
scottt - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 09:05 PM EDT (#264394) #
Like it or not, the format reward the teams who win their division, not the teams with the most wins.

With this format, you are unlikely to make it to the league final with just one ace pitcher, unless you won your division, hence the other starters can't be that bad anyway.

How many games was won is not that relevant. What matters is what players are healthy and performing well at the end of those 162 games.



BlueJayWay - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 09:08 PM EDT (#264395) #
One game in baseball is flukey, but not much less flukey than two out of three or three out of five.  So whatever.

It's true, baseball has become like the NHL, just get hot at the right time.

John Northey - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 09:31 PM EDT (#264396) #
The odds are in a 5 game set you are still in coin flip territory. Remember, we are talking about teams that both won over 1/2 their games but none who won 70% (or even 60% most of the time).

Suppose you had an extreme - a 600 team (97 wins) vs a 500 team (81). Doing a fun little bit in Excel (just for kicks) I ran 100,000 simulations for this case.
Better team wins...
Best of 1: 59.1%
Best of 3: 64.1%
Best of 5: 68.2%
Best of 7: 67.9%
Best of 9: 67.9%

Interesting that using a basic random number generator for 10,000 simulations you still don't get the 60% odds of winning to match up perfectly. Also interesting that best of 1 to best of 3, then best of 3 to best of 5 made a big difference but after that it is stable.

So, is it worth it to do best of 3/5/7? Well, baseball isn't quite random as the depth of a starting rotation makes a big difference. If you are Philly you have aces for every game. If you are Detroit you don't. The odds difference is minimal (especially since the teams in question will be more like a .530 team vs a .560 team) so a best of 1 will give the added drama and reward a team with a true ace. The longer series reduces the drama (until later games) and rewards the team with more depth.

Guess this also hits the old HOF arguments about career vs peak value. The shorter the series the more teams like Detroit, with a clear #1 pitcher, are rewarded. The longer the series the more a team like the Yankees is rewarded (3 guys over 120 for ERA+) but extremely long series (say a best of 9) could reward a team like Oakland with 6 starters over 100 for ERA+ but no one over 123.

The current format (1/5/7/7) provides a big plus for depth, as you could play 20 games in the playoffs. I think Cincinnati has the best plus with a clear ace (Cueto at 152 ERA+), and very good #2-4 guys in Latos/Bailey/Arroyo plus a deep pen (the 8 who pitched the most out of the pen have ERA+'s over 120 each) Just 2 pitchers on their staff had ERA+'s sub-100 totaling 12 innings between them. Dang, never noticed just how good that team's pitching is.
Richard S.S. - Sunday, October 07 2012 @ 11:44 PM EDT (#264398) #
Detroit takes a commanding lead in their series, reducing Oakland to elimination/must win baseball. It's early yet but it looks like Cincinnati will take both games in SF. And nothing so far in either series is of note?
Richard S.S. - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 12:35 AM EDT (#264399) #
After going through 8 complete innings tied at 2, Baltimore's postseason ends in their 9th inning collapse. I don't think they are good enough to stay with NY, let alone beat them.
BlueJayWay - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#264401) #
I still think Baltimore could win this series.  Must in Game 2 though.
vw_fan17 - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 03:22 PM EDT (#264403) #
PERHAPS, this one was called by the letter of the law, but certainly NOT the way it's been in practice. I don't really buy Harold Reynolds' explanation either - he works for MLB. Enough said.

I'm sure people wouldn't be very happy if one umpire decided to call the high strike, out of nowhere, in a playoff game, without notifying both teams first, in the middle of a tense inning, from one batter to the next.

Bottom line for me: total blown call by the official. No room for debate in my mind - look at the reddit image linked in the Harold Reynolds' article - the ball dropped almost exactly halfway between the baseline and the fence. That is NOT the infield. They MIGHT have turned a double play on that ball, if it had been Bengie and Jose Molina on base - but not average MLB runners. No way.

Paul D - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 08:53 PM EDT (#264406) #
Whether it's in the infield or not is not relevant to the rule.  Strange as that seems.
Thomas - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#264407) #
Nor was it out of nowhere. Harold Reynolds shows clearly that a very similar call was made in a Cubs game earlier in the regular season. It may be unusual, but it wasn't unprecedented.
JB21 - Monday, October 08 2012 @ 10:18 PM EDT (#264408) #
Bluejay, the MLB is nothing like the NHL. The NHL allows bad teams the opportunity to get hot. 16 teams vs. 10 teams is quite a difference.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 12:07 AM EDT (#264409) #
Yeah, 16 means the Rays, White Sox and Angels make it in the AL and Jays are just 12 out of a playoff slot rather than 20 out. For the 5 years prior...
2011: Jays in with 16, out with 10
2010: Jays in with 16, out with 10
2009: Jays out either way
2008: Jays in with 16, out with 10
2007: Jays in with 16, out with 10

IE: 16 teams means the Jays are regularly in the playoffs, 10 means they are not.
BlueJayWay - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 09:39 AM EDT (#264411) #
Yeah that is a difference, but I mean it's the same in that it's all about getting hot at the right time.  Just get in.  Anyone can win in a short series.
greenfrog - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 09:59 AM EDT (#264412) #
Issues of merit aside, one problem with the WC one-game playoff might be fan reaction over time. Imagine if over the next ten years the Jays fail to win the division but garner a wild card spot three times, only to lose the game each time (or, say, two out of three times). Sure, it's luck of the draw, but the current arrangement doesn't offer a lot of postseason reward for fans after those (presumably) exciting pennant races. "Better luck next year!" might start to leave some fans cold.
ayjackson - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#264413) #
We shouldn't be attaching so much merit to the first wild card team, such that it would feel jilted if it were to lose a one-game playoff with the second wild-card team. Three teams win their division, the next two best teams play a one game contest to determine who gets added to the playoff matchups. I see not issues of merit here.
greenfrog - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 10:41 AM EDT (#264414) #
ayj, that sounds fine in theory. But let's look at the facts on the ground:

- In 2011, your theory holds up nicely - the first WC team in each league had a worse record than that of each of the division winners

- In 2010, the AL WC team (Yankees) won 95 games - more than both the AL Central division winner (Minnesota / 94 wins) and the AL West winner (Texas / 90 wins). The NL WC team (Atlanta) won 91 games - the same as the NL Central team (Cincinnati).

- In 2009, the AL WC team (Boston) won 95 games, much more than the AL Central team (Minnesota / 87 games). The NL wild card team (Colorado) won 92, more than the NL Central winner (St. Louis / 91 wins).

- The 2010/2009 pattern holds for 2008, 2007 and 2006 (this is as far back as I checked).

In summary, it looks as though the first WC team has typically been very good - very often, if not usually, better than at least one division winner. To my mind, this puts the lie to the argument that the first WC team "just wasn't good enough" and doesn't deserve more than a one-game playoff. You can argue that MLB needs an arbitrary system for practical reasons, but I don't think the "merit" argument cuts it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Frank Wren agrees:

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-braves-blog/2012/10/08/wren-discusses-braves-future-offseason-to-do-list/
John Northey - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 12:19 PM EDT (#264415) #
Well, we could go back to the 2 division days. Like 1987 when Minnesota would've been 5th in the AL East but instead won the World Series. Or 1985 when the Royals won it all with the 3rd best record. And so on.

Or back to just the World Series between the best in each league. Washington vs Yankees this year, Phillies Yankees last year, Phillies Rays the year before.

Myself, I say go to the NBA/NHL model and just put everyone in. Regular season shows how good a team is, playoffs are just for fun as it is a crap shoot.
greenfrog - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#264416) #
I actually think last year's system was OK - on the whole, you get the best four teams in each league playing five-game series in the first round DS. Not perfect (and it has made life difficult for the Jays), but it is a reasonable approximation of a merit-based system.

In contrast, under the current system, the roughly fifth-best team in each league (i.e., the second WC team) gets about a 50-50 shot at making the DS in the WC playoff. Meanwhile, the first WC team, who will often be better than one or more division winners, has a 50-50 shot at getting ousted after only one game.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#264418) #
I wouldn't say 50-50 but close to it. How often is the 2nd wildcard really weak though? Here is the AL for recent history.

2011: Rays (91 wins) vs Red Sox (90)
2010: Yankees (95 wins) vs Red Sox (89)
2009: Red Sox (95) vs Rangers (87)
2008: Red Sox (95) vs Yankees (89)
2007: Yankees (94) vs Tigers/Seattle (88 each)
2006: Tigers (95) vs White Sox (90)
2005: Red Sox/Yankees (95 each) vs Cleveland (93)

Boy, 2005 would've been fun - a one game playoff to decide division vs wild card, then loser plays Cleveland. Lots of Yankee/Red Sox one game for all the marbles which TV networks would love (3 since 2005 potentially).

Still, the point is made as in all but 2011 and 2005 the 2nd wildcard was a good distance behind the 'real' one.
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#264419) #

How fair is the One Game Wilds Card Playoff?

Were you good enough to win your division? YES or NO?  That's what's matters, nothing else does, or should.  Division winners get the bye into the next round.

Did you get hot to get into the WC berth?  Did you fade into the WC berth?   Be thankful you still have a chance for Postseason play.  Anything more than one game is unfair to the Division Winners.  Off Day for game 163 if neccessary, WC Game makes 2 days of not playing, which is enough time to have Division Winners sitting idle. 

greenfrog - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 02:15 PM EDT (#264420) #
Richard: while I disagree with your first assertion (i.e., that 95-game-winning WC teams like the 2010 Yankees and 2009 Red Sox should thank their lucky stars for a one-game playoff while 87-game-winning teams like Minnesota should puff up with pride at being a division winner and their "deserved" reward of a full series), I think your second assertion is a fair point. It wouldn't be fair for the division winners to sit around idle for more than a day or two.

The first issue is a more intrinsic point about merit. In my view, the 2011 system rewarded merit more than does the 2012 system, which has sort of a "Hunger Games" quality to it.

The second is more of a practical issue of "how do we make this thing work?" It's a legitimate problem. But it's secondary to the first issue.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 04:29 PM EDT (#264421) #
I'd go with "how do you make it more entertaining and maximize revenue for MLB".

If you just want the best vs the best, no division just the pre-1969 method of an AL and an NL champ facing off in the World Series. The longer the series the better - best of 9, best of 11, whatever in order to maximize the odds of the better team winning.

However, for MLB, I see this one game wild card thing as an experiment. If it goes well they'll keep it, if not watch out because the next move is to 16 in the playoffs as I don't see a practical alternative. They won't reduce, I doubt they'll go to 4 division per league (2 expansion teams needed, then 4 teams per division with heavy emphasis on games in your division to try to avoid sub-500 teams winning a division) or something like that. Thus 10 teams as today or 16 with a best of 5 for rounds 1 and 2, best of 7 for rounds 3 and 4 to start and eventually best of 7 all around (more $).
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 07:00 PM EDT (#264422) #

The NHL with 16 teams in the playoffs plays best of 7 series, until it`s won - day off, Game, day off, Game, day off - lasting for 3 months.

Baseball needs to start the Season on a Monday, Thursday or Friday, no later than April 1st, but no earlier than March 30th.  Baseball needs to finish playoffs no later than 1 November.

Two teams, one year, won over 100 games - in the same division - no Wild Card - one Team Advanced, one went home.  And someone wants to discuss the merits of 2011.

 

BlueJayWay - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 07:24 PM EDT (#264423) #
I really hope baseball doesn't go to a 16 team format.  It's already pushing late in the year.  It's hard to start earlier.  Unless they're willing to axe at least a week/week and a half from the regular season, I don't know where you fit those games in there.

Then, you have the issue of letting so many teams in that the regular seaon becomes the same "who the fuck cares" that it is in NHL/NBA.  I want to keep the playoffs teams definitely under 50% of the league.  Ideally to me you take somewhere between 30%-40% of  your teams to some kind of postseason; even if there's a tiered system (eg play in game/round with byes). 

TJ Caino - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 08:48 PM EDT (#264427) #
"even if there's a tiered system (eg play in game/round with byes)"

I would propose a tiered system similar to the nfl. Top two division winners get a bye, and the rest play a quick round.

Problem being that too much off time from baseball could be considered a disadvantage.
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, October 09 2012 @ 09:04 PM EDT (#264428) #

MLB seems to allow TV to set Playoff Games, I could be wrong. 

The old series were scheduled: Two Games (at best record), travel/off day, Three Games (at lesser record), travel/off day, Two Games (at best record), travel/off day (on to next series).   If you won your series in four games, while your oppenents went 7, you would have 4 extra days off (not an advantage). 

Teams (other than All Star Break) average 3-4 games off per month for six months.  Having more than 2 days in a row off is a strain/disadvantage.

hypobole - Wednesday, October 10 2012 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#264433) #
The Orioles, who didn't have a walkoff loss all year, were just walked off in the 12th by Raul Ibanez, who had also homered in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game.

It's funny that a year ago, after his ugly final season in Philly, he was being lovingly referred to as "The Corpse of Raul Ibanez".
BlueJayWay - Wednesday, October 10 2012 @ 11:50 PM EDT (#264434) #
Ibanez is a corpse.  He sucks.  Or at least he would on any other team, but as we all know the usual rules of aging players don't apply to Yankees. 
bpoz - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#264437) #
IMO an offense with 9 good hitters in the line up can wear down the opposing pitcher, because there are no real easy outs. But if there was 1 easy out then the pitcher should feel comfortable facing that batter. He would not want to walk his only relatively easy out, so he may just give him something easier to hit. That could make the weak hitter better. A hacker can possibly just kill you.

Then again the opposite may be true. If EE is the only guy the pitcher fears then pitch him cautiously, but try to avoid the walk so that a pinch hitter will not be summoned.
Chuck - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#264442) #
There are a lot of things Ibanez can't do: hit for average, draw walks, hit lefties (not named Matusz) and play defense. But he can hit a homerun, especially in Yankee Stadium, where he hit 14 of his 19 this season (his HR/AB ratio this season was the third highest of his career).

A 104 OPS+ suggests that he isn't quite a corpse just yet.
Oceanbound - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 12:23 PM EDT (#264444) #
BlueJayWay: The usual rules of aging players have never applied to Raul Ibanez. He didn't hit until his age 29 season, then simply put up season after season of solid hitting into his age 38 season. From a recent story on Ibanez,  he ranks 28th all time in baseball for plate appearances after turning 35.
Magpie - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 10:59 PM EDT (#264453) #
The usual rules of aging players have never applied to Raul Ibanez.

No kidding. What a strange career.
Gerry - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 11:00 PM EDT (#264454) #
Even though I am not a Yankee fan you have to admire how players get a second life when they join the Yankees. Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Ichiro, Ibanez and even Jayson Nix looked like they were at the end of their careers but have played well, mostly, for the Yankees.

Is it good scouting?

Is it good coaching?

Or is it that the hitters can relax knowing there are 24 other good players on the roster?


The answer is likely a combination but the Yankees appear to find contributing parts each year.
Magpie - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#264455) #
It's because a guy just looks bitchin' in pinstripes.
Chuck - Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 11:15 PM EDT (#264456) #

Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Ichiro, Ibanez and even Jayson Nix looked like they were at the end of their careers but have played well, mostly, for the Yankees.

I'm not sure that Granderson and Martin belong on that list. After a career season in 2011, Granderson has returned to pretty much the same guy he was in Detroit. And Martin is only a little better than he was in his final two years in LA.

scottt - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 05:58 AM EDT (#264458) #
I remember one guy going from the Yankees to the Expos complaining about called strikes that would have been called balls with the Yankees.
John Northey - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#264463) #
Gotta love that the Division series are all going the full 5 games. Shame that Oakland is out though, plus I was lightly cheering on Cincinnati. Sigh. Can live with Detroit and San Fran though. Hopefully the Orioles win today. Hard with the Washington/St Louis game though as I boo Washington due to their stealing the team from Montreal but don't care for St Louis either (hangover from the Tony LaRussa days).
BlueJayWay - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#264464) #
Yep, after today that'll be six do-or-die games already this playoffs, with the wildcard games and all first round series going the distance.
BlueJayWay - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 10:34 AM EDT (#264465) #
Oh, and I wanted Baltimore, Oakland, Washington, Cinci to advance.  So far I'm 0/2 and the other two have their backs to the wall.  Hopefully at least one will make it.
mathesond - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#264466) #
I think everyone playing today has their backs to the wall :)
Gerry - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 12:11 PM EDT (#264469) #
And they will be giving 110%
vw_fan17 - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 01:26 PM EDT (#264470) #
(hangover from the Tony LaRussa days).

Yeah, I kinda get that. Mr. LaRussa was autographing his latest book at our local Costco last week, but I got there early (before 10:00) and he wasn't due to show up until after 11:00. I had lots to do, so I didn't stick around. I don't buy many baseball books anyway (Bullpen gospels is the only baseball book I own). Maybe someday I'll regret it :-)  If it had been Bobby Cox, I probably would have stuck around..
Magpie - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#264472) #
I've seen this before! On 9 October 1977, Billy Martin benched his struggling high paid superstar for the deciding game 5 against Kansas City. Billy couldn't stand Reggie Jackson anyway. Jackson came off the bench to deliver an RBI pinch hit in the 8th to cut the KC lead to 3-2. The Yankees scored 3 more in the ninth to win the game and the series and go on to meet the Dodgers in the World Series. Where Jackson went berserk on the Dodgers pitchers and rewrote the World Series record book.
James W - Friday, October 12 2012 @ 02:27 PM EDT (#264473) #
So it's safe to pencil in Magpie's guess as: Alex Rodriguez, 2012 World Series MVP.

(I'm holding out hope for Buster Posey.)
Magpie - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 12:20 AM EDT (#264475) #
I dunno. Reggie lived for that sort of thing. Don't quite get the same sense from Rodriguez.
BlueJayWay - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:01 AM EDT (#264476) #
Well.  That was some division round, wasn't it?
Alex Obal - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:07 AM EDT (#264477) #
No kidding. With a pair of worthy finales today. The early game turned on a straight steal of second by Mark Teixeira. And the late game was very satisfying.
Oceanbound - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:17 AM EDT (#264478) #
Are you kidding me? Tigers, Yankees, Cardinals, Giants? Is there some technicality we can use to cancel the World Series?
BlueJayWay - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:18 AM EDT (#264479) #
The games were amazing.  The results, not so much. 
Alex Obal - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:29 AM EDT (#264480) #
My rooting interest, for various mostly irrational reasons, was "anybody but the Nationals." ABN had a spectacularly awesome day.

It would be nice if the 1990 WS rematch were still a possibility, but I'll take what I can get. We might get a Verlander/Sabathia elimination game.
Gerry - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#264482) #
The Championship series will be between the last three world series winners and the losers of last years ALCS.

2011 WS - St Louis
2010 WS - San Francisco
2009 WS - New York

Detroit last won the WS in 2004.
BlueJayWay - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 09:40 AM EDT (#264483) #
You mean Detroit last won the WS in 1984.
Thomas - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 10:18 AM EDT (#264484) #
It's not the most popular choice, but I'm rooting for the Cardinals. I like the franchise and many of the players on the team. Although not a small market team, they're indefatigable in a much more charming way than the Yankees. I know a couple of real life Cards fans who are very pleasant people.
Gerry - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 11:08 AM EDT (#264486) #
Yikes, must have had the 2000's on my mind.
Mike Green - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 11:36 AM EDT (#264488) #
Normally, I would root for whoever is facing the Yankees.  Not this year. I can't root for them because of the payroll, but it would be nice for Ichiro to get a ring.


CeeBee - Saturday, October 13 2012 @ 01:20 PM EDT (#264489) #
With one of my sons and both stepdaughters living in St.Louis do I have a choice? Go Detroit in the A.L. and then I'll make a choice.
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