There has been a lot of backlash against the proposed new MLB playoffs format. However, could there be some benefits for the St. Louis Cardinals?
This week, MLB unveiled a potential change to the postseason formatting that could be introduced as soon as 2022. Most reactions to the proposed changes from the St. Louis Cardinals fans that I saw were not exactly glowing reviews of the proposed system, not that I blame them.
The new format that was proposed would increase the number of playoff teams up from five to seven, allowing the best team in each league to get a first-round bye. In the Wild Card round, the series would be a best of three, with the higher seed getting all three games at home. As far as who plays who, the second-best team (the first non-bye team) would get to pick who they wanted to host in the Wild Card round.
From there, the last division winner would pick their opponent, and then the last two Wild Cards would play each other. It sounds confusing, but it makes some sense.
Applying that to the 2019 season, the 106-win Dodgers would’ve gotten the first-round bye, then the Braves would’ve chosen between Washington, Milwaukee, the Mets, and the Diamondbacks for who they wanted to host. The Cardinals would’ve had the next pick from the two teams the Braves didn’t choose, and then the final two teams remaining would play in their own best of three series.
The excitement would be there in terms of who picks who, but there are certainly things to dislike about this new system in terms of what exactly it is incentivizing. Our thoughts on the negatives of this system will be included in another article, but for now, let’s try and glean some positives from what the new system would bring.
Each year, MLB fans yearn for their teams to make it to the postseason and each year, the postseason does extremely well in terms of viewers. With this new proposed playoff structure, the postseason would last longer and fans would get more of that coveted postseason. This is a double-edged sword though as the higher volume of postseason could have the adverse effect of making the postseason less special.
I do believe the benefit outweighs the negative side strictly in terms of this aspect, but more changes may be needed to make sure that it stays interesting. The three-game series and the extreme home-field advantage should keep things fun, but there is a fear of watering down the product.
Better chances for the Cardinals to win the World Series
This is another silver lining that will have just as much of a double edge as well. Think back to 2006, think back to 2011, even look at 2019. The team that won the World Series in those years (the Cardinals obviously twice and the Nats this year) either squeaked into the playoffs or entered the playoffs outside of the strongest positions.
In a playoff environment where four teams who do not lead their divisions, there would be a lot of underdogs entering the playoffs. In some instances, teams that just squeak into the playoffs are fighting for their lives and catch fire then ride that wave until they win the World Series.
The MLB playoff is so chaotic and random that adding more teams to that mix could make it a lot more fun. I’m not sure that I agree with the notion that more playoff teams will incentivize teams to spend more as the Cardinals (after spending the least amount of money this offseason) could be in line for a playoff spot under this forecasted new system. In essence, the more spots that are out there, the easier they are to get.
BUT, the benefit of the playoff spots being easier to get would be that more teams have the chance to play Cinderella: that means the Cardinals would have a much better chance to win a World Series, even if they were the 6th best team in the NL. Again, I’m not sure that this part of the system is incentivizing the right things, but you can’t deny that it’d give more teams the chance to be a Cinderella team.
More strategy in choosing opponents
This is probably the most entertaining change to the new playoff format and the one that I would be most excited for/completely back. I think that the better teams picking who they want to play in the first round of the playoffs is a fantastic idea. It doesn’t really work now with just five teams in each league, but with seven, this has the potential to be a lot of fun.
The potential for a “Selection Sunday” show on the night after the final day of the regular season where either an appointed captain from each team or some other team official selects who their team wants to play in the playoffs would be so exciting.
There is a huge ground available there for theatrics or discussion as far as how certain teams match up against others, and in the end, it adds another big strategy component to how the postseason would work.
Unlike any other professional sports playoff system, choosing your opponent would be completely novel and unique to baseball. It would be no small decision either. Picking the wrong opponent could lead to the ultimate second-guessing match down the line where losing to the opponent you picked would hurt so much more. This is easily the best part of the proposed system.
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These new changes may not be put into play in 2022, they may look different, it may be all the same. We have no clue and won’t for a while as all of this needs to be agreed on by many different entities before it can be put into effect. I side against this specific in general but it’s going to be great to potentially make the best part of baseball more exciting.