MLB needs to change its playoff format
Jake Miller | Tuesday, October 3, 2023
One of my favorite aspects about Major League Baseball is the 162-game season. Each game has a very marginal effect on the team’s overall performance, but at the end of the regular season, often, one game is all that separates two teams. Baseball is kind of like the stock market. With such a long season, the market eventually adjusts. The Rays started 13-0, but then they fell back down to earth, eventually losing the division to the Orioles. The reverse can happen to teams that find themselves in a slump.
Unfortunately, the current MLB playoff format takes a complete 180-degree turn on its philosophy. Good teams, like the Rays, that may win 100 games could get bounced from the playoffs because of two bad starts. In the wild-card round, that’s all it takes: two losses. It’s absurd.
I will admit that, for fans, there’s some degree of thrill here. A mediocre team like the 2019 Nationals can get lucky and pile on wins quickly, riding the hot streak. Unfortunately, this devalues the work of the opposing team, especially if they had won their division.
In the current system, in each league, the worst of the three division winners and the best of the three wild card teams host all three games in the wild-card round. A “joke” team like the Twins has the opportunity to upset a quality team. The Blue Jays played in a much better division than the Twins and still outperformed them. The teams in the Jays’ division have way more money and are in huge markets compared to the Twins’ divisional opponents.
I’m from Minnesota. I love the Twins, but let’s be honest. The Twins, by far the worst of the AL division winners, have lost 18 straight postseason games. Their last postseason win came in 2004. The 2019 and 2020 Twins teams were very strong — among the best in the league. This year, the Twins are much worse (closely resembling the 2017 Twins), but they still won an incredibly weak division.
The current setup of the MLB playoffs does not reward quality teams, instead condensing the good work of what teams accomplished during the regular season into a three-game series. The Twins have been on luck’s bad side for the last 19 years; this year, they’re on luck’s good side. We’ll have to see what prevails.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.