Does Baseball’s Playoff System Need to Go?

Photo is courtesy of http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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I don’t know about everyone else out there, but to me, it seems like the playoffs are nearly forgotten in baseball. The Fall Classic seems to slowly be transforming into the Fall Afterthought as football continues to command the nation’s collective attention as the weather cools. That said, is it time for a change – and if a change were made, what would the change look like?

Now before we go any further, I want to fully admit that I did not just pull this idea out of thin air. I came across this topic while listening to sports radio on my commute from work. At any rate, the thought that these gentlemen put in my head was this: What if Major League Baseball scrapped the playoffs and started functioning like the English Premier League?

For those of you that don’t know, the EPL’s championship is completely decided by the regular season. The team with the most points wins the championship. The points system is simple, three points for a win, one point for a draw, zero points for a loss. Ties are settled by things like goal difference and so on. So does this type of system translate well to baseball? I think so.

Baseball does not allow ties, therefore, it makes sense to allow one point for a win and zero points for a loss. This results in the team with the best record at the end of the season winning the championship. As in the EPL, ties can be settled by an obscure statistic…enter Baseball Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), which is simply based on run differential and strength of schedule.

Okay, so we have eliminated the playoffs and figured out a way to crown a champion. Now all that’s left is to play with the system a little bit. That said, I went back ten years to see how much different Major League Baseball would’ve looked if they would’ve ditched the playoff system. Does the playoff system really crown the best team? Let’s find out.

WorldSeries

Rest assured, had MLB abandoned the playoff system, Cleveland fans would’ve been jumping for joy in 2006 and 2007. It’s also interesting to note that the Curse of the Great Bambino would’ve lasted all the way until 2013 if there were no playoffs, almost an entire decade more of Boston sports suffering. Also, I didn’t go back and look at this through the entire history of baseball, but it appears that the Curse of the Billie Goat would still be alive and well in Chicago…of course it would.

Just looking strictly at numbers (which is what baseball does best), the playoffs don’t really have a very good track record of picking the best team. In the model above, the team with the best record in baseball only won the world series twenty percent of the time.

In the end, it comes down to how you truly define the “best” team. Some would say that the best team is the team that wins when it matters and consequently can survive in a playoff type system. But I argue that for a team to finish with the best record in baseball, they need to win when it counts just as much as a playoff team does. With a week left in the season, a team that’s down two games and overtakes the team in front of them is performing under every bit as much pressure as the team winning game seven of the World Series. Shoot, the pressure to win might even be higher!

But what say you out there? Can this sort of system work in Major League Baseball? Would you be in favor of something like this? Why or why not?

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