If the MLB Postseason remains expanded beyond 2020, then end the divisional era.
Recent reports have indicated that “an overwhelming majority” of owners are committed to an expanded MLB Postseason beyond 2020. If that is to be the case, then I think it’s time baseball also consider ending the divisional era.
Several weeks ago, I began tracking the playoff picture in baseball and have been troubled by a consistent pattern. Each week, a qualified team presents itself with a sub-.500 record. What’s worse, that team often ranks higher than teams with better records.
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The reason why this is possible is because of the cockamamie method by which baseball has decided to seed teams in this playoff format.
Seeds 1-3 are given to the teams with the best record in their division, where seeds 4-6 is awarded to the second-best team in each division. The final two teams, the 7-8 seeds are awarded to the two best teams remaining.
Because of this, for example, in the NL today the St. Louis Cardinals (21-22) are currently ranked higher than the Philadelphia Phillies (24-23), even though their record is worse. In the AL, the Houston Astros (24-24) are ranked higher than the Toronto Blue Jays (26-21) and Cleveland Indians (26-22).
Determining bracket seeding in this fashion is flawed for this reason. If the postseason were to begin today, using the AL as an example, the 1-seed Chicago White Sox would be facing a superior Cleveland Indians (26-22) team in the first round, a best-of-3 Wild Card round.
Additionally, the 3-seed Oakland Athletics (30-19) would face the team with the worst record in the Astros, again who despite their worse record, are ranked higher than two teams ranked below them.
In this situation, the White Sox have no incentive to remain the 1-seed.
So, what is the solution to the current MLB Postseason ranking dilemma?
The answer to this question is super simple, and at this point, I’m just being repetitive: end the divisional era. Feel free to keep teams within regional divisions for scheduling purposes if you’d like, but don’t base postseason ranking on how a team performs within its division.
Instead, adopt a system more like the NBA uses only instead of East and West, there’s American League and National League. Then, you simply take the top eight teams in each league.
Utilizing this format incentivizes teams to clamor and fight for the top seeds instead of settling for a lesser spot in order to face off against a lesser opponent. In this format, the White Sox would face off against the Houston Astros, the way it should be.
It’s really a no-brainer, and let’s face it, it’s fair.