Friday, August 11, 2017

American League Wild Card Race Tightens

The Angels won a dramatic 9th-inning victory last night in Seattle, after a terrible blown save by Bud Norris.

Here's the story, at LAT, "Mike Trout's three-run double in ninth inning gives Angels win after blowing three-run lead."

And with that, the AL wildcard race tightened even further. I wrote about it here, "The American League Wild Card Race is Getting Insane."

Earlier this week the Angels were catching up to Kansas City, but the Cards swept the Royals in St. Louis this week. (See, "Fowler makes more rally magic for suddenly 'dynamic' Cards.") Now both the Angels and Royals are one game behind Tampa Bay and Seattle (both tied at a .509 winning percentage, behind the Yankees for the first wildcard spot).

I love it!

Here's a piece debating the utility of MLB's wildcard playoff system, "Is Major League Baseball’s double-wild-card format working? MLB's six-year-old playoff set-up has its pros and cons." And a killer few paragraphs for me:
Matt Clapp: I still can’t decide how much I like the two Wild Cards. I’m a big believer in the better team being rewarded. Say the WC1 wins 96 games, and the WC2 wins 88 games. And then the WC2 beats the WC1 in the one-game playoff. That’s very unfair to the WC1, as they have absolutely been the better team over 162 games, and baseball should in no way be judged by one game.

Then again, 2015 was an example of the two Wild Cards being a good thing. The NL Central featured three teams with at least 97 wins; the Pirates were the WC1 with 98 wins and the Cubs were the WC2 with 97 wins. Those were the three best records in baseball! One of them being completely left out would’ve been quite lame. Of course, the Pirates would argue that it was even more lame that they won 98 games and had to face a historically red-hot pitcher in Jake Arrieta.

Again, one game deciding anything in baseball flat-out sucks. I’d prefer they find a way to make it a three-game play-in, but that’s of course difficult with scheduling. And because of the scheduling issues, Theo Epstein said in 2015 that he proposed the idea of a three-game playoff which included a doubleheader for two of the three games to make things easier. This would also be a very weird way to decide the Wild Card winner, but in my opinion it still beats just one game in deciding the more Division Series representative.

Whatever the case, what we think doesn’t matter. What matters is how it’s working out for MLB, and it’s working tremendously. Look at the AL Wild Card race right now. There are NINE teams (including the two currently leading the race) within four games for two spots. Several teams have a legitimate playoff shot because of the second Wild Card, and this means much more fan interest. Fans of the teams in the race will go out to the ballpark into deep September. Baseball fans that generally don’t even care about those teams will be following these games just because pennant races are compelling. Then the one-game playoff is fantastic drama, must-see TV for people that aren’t even big baseball fans. In general, it’s all more eyes on the game, more discussion on social media/TV/radio, and more money. This all makes it a success for MLB, regardless of whether or not we think it’s the best way to be handled...