Thursday, October 8, 2015

One and done

The Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games. The Chicago Cubs won 97. These are the second- and third-best win totals in baseball this year, but they were in the same division as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 100, so they wound up in the wild card game.

Jake Arrieta pitched Wednesday night as he has for a few months now, which is to say about as well as anybody possibly can, so the Cubs won and move on to face ... the Cardinals.

You don't have to look very hard to find people who think the one-and-done format is unfair to the wild card entries. I'm not in that camp. If the Pirates and Cubs wanted to avoid that game (and they did), they needed to win their division. The Pirates had losing records against both the Reds and the Brewers. Turn that around, and it would have been the Cardinals playing the Cubs.

The Pirates may well a better team than either the Dodgers or Mets, but their better won-loss record in and of itself doesn't necessarily prove that. The fact is, with unbalanced schedules and variations on interleague play, teams in the same league aren't playing anything close to the same schedule. And treating the Pirates as equal to the division winners is emphatically unfair to the division winners, who -- you know -- finished first.

This format isn't as good at rewarding quality as the pre-division practice of "best record goes to the World Series," but that era isn't returning. I'm old, and my fandom doesn't extend to the days before divisions. This format does give more weight to the regular season than did the previous one-wild card system.

Most years in most leagues, this format is going to wind up with something closer to the American League wild card entries -- two teams that aren't exactly medicore but flawed. The 2015 National League is atypical. There was only one genuine divisional race and five teams well ahead of the other 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment