This year's playoff format promises plenty of drama

Baseball's regular season ended with a bang -- both the New York Yankees (and Boston) won their final at-bats to secure playoff spots.

This year's playoff format promises plenty of drama

It looked for a time like there might be more excitement.

Four teams were still in contention for the American League's wild cards. The top two baseball teams were fighting for the NL West title. The current format, despite all the talk of postseason expansion, held up quite well this year. If the goal is to create compelling, close races towards the end, it did.

Imagine what this year's standings could have looked like if there had been a 14-team postseason and four wild cards per league. Seventh-place Seattle finished four more games than eighth-place Oakland in the AL. There was no race for the No. Tampa Bay would have been the comfortable choice if they had received the No. 1 seed and a bye in the first round.

The NL saw the Giants and Dodgers battle it out for the top seed. This was the same as what happened for the division title. The seventh-place Philadelphia team finished three games ahead a San Diego team that was sub-.500.

The problem with the postseason expansion conversation is that there's no consensus about the goals of the playoff format. Are the playoffs meant to reward the top teams? Are there other reasons for it? Are you trying to make the regular season exciting for neutral fans?

The 106-win Dodgers finished a game behind San Francisco, finishing in the NL West. Now, they will face St. Louis in a single elimination situation. Atlanta, which is 88 wins ahead of Los Angeles, will now be playing in the Division Series. Although it may seem unfair, the current playoff format made sure that the NL West race was important and required both the Dodgers (and Giants) to continue playing important games until the end.

These are the tradeoffs to consider.


Tuesday's AL wild-card game will see the Yankees host the Red Sox. This will be the first matchup between these rivals in Boston since the tiebreaker for 1978's AL East title. Bucky Dent is known for hitting a home run for New York. However, there were two other homers in that matchup, both by Hall of Famers. They were hit by who?


In Tampa Bay's 12-2 victory over the Yankees, Brandon Lowe scored three runs. This was the Rays' 100th win of the year, their first such victory.


On Friday night, Colorado allowed seven runs against Arizona in the third inning. The Rockies scored six runs to make it 7-0 in sixth. They scored three runs in ninth to win 9-7. According to Baseball Savant, Colorado had a 0.9% chance of winning at one point.

This was Arizona's 110th loss of the season, tied with Baltimore for the worst record among the majors.


In their 1-0 win over Tampa Bay, every out was important for the Yankees. This result secured their playoff spot. After a sixth-inning run, shortstop Gio Urshela was caught by foul ball at full speed. His momentum caused him to fall down the steps into Rays' dugout. He held on to the ball for the out, and continued the game for a while before being replaced.


Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson

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