Friday, October 12, 2012


Is there any better feeling than waking up and knowing that – if you wanted to – you could watch playoff baseball for something like 12 glorious, uninterrupted hours? It’s like the early days of the NCAA Tournament where you get to devour a sport you love for the better part of a week. Who cares if you can’t tell Savannah State from Gonzaga without the commentators’ help, it’s basketball dammit!  Same thing here. I don’t care that I am perpetually surprised to learn that Scott Rolen hasn’t retired or that my mind races to the former still-playing (!?) catcher Henry every time Gregor Blanco gets his name called. It’s baseball! 

So with the buzz of two game fives* lingering and the anticipation of two more to come tomorrow I bring you three random thoughts on the 2012 MLB playoffs:

*And maybe two three beers.

1.  Stats: don’t reset them
When the regular seasons ends, a regular starter who hasn’t missed any serious time to injury has had about 700 at bats. All those at bats give us a fairly good statistical sample from which to draw conclusion about a hitters tendencies, skills, etc (the same logic applies to pitchers). Then one magical night in October he goes to bed and wakes up with a clean slate. Why do MLB and its broadcasting partners reset players’ statistics when the post season starts? Stats aren’t just window dressing; they should be used to enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the game. So how on earth is staring at a playoff batting average of “.000” for Player A or “0.666” for Player B give me a better idea of their talent level than an entire year’s worth of data compiled just before the game I’m watching?!? It doesn’t. Fix it.

2.  Umpires: leave them alone
Like every year before it, there have been some umpiring blunders this year and with the steady march of technology comes a call from fans and media alike for the MLB to institute a more comprehensive replay system. To them I say “meh.” I don’t really care one way or another. I like the human element of the umpires (yes, even when they’re wrong) and worry about what effect instant replay will have on the length of games – especially in the playoffs when every call is critical. Moreover, a common argument is that bad umpiring often results in “the lesser team winning.” Which is totally true, unfortunately however, the same can be said of playoff baseball – just ask the Cardinals.

3.  Home field advantage: expand it
Because of the addition of a play-in wildcard game this year, the playoff schedule had to be compacted. In order to accommodate this, MLB decided to switch to a 2-3 format for the League Championship Series to cut down on travel days*. This year, the “road” team opened the series at home, with the “home” team only getting a full home field advantage if the series went to five games. In addition to being weird, some fans claimed this gave the “road” team an unfair advantage. I think that point is valid, but a more interesting aspect of this new format is how much fun the reduction in travel days is. It quickens the pace of each series and tests the depth of the teams involved.

*Have not seen anything regarding next year’s playoff schedule (heck they just released the regular season schedule a few weeks ago), but I have to assume MLB plans on returning to the 2-2-1 format of old.

Rather than going back to old ways, the MLB should push ahead even further next year and give the “home” team home field advantage for all five games of the series. Since gate receipts are split evenly between both teams during the playoffs (that is after the MLB and Players’ Union take their cuts), it wouldn’t be a crippling financial blow to the visiting team. In all, the move would have three main effects. First, it would quicken the pace of the LCS. Five games, five days (ok, maybe six), no travel, and baseball everyday. Awesome. Second, it would test the depth of each team. With no (or one) off days to rest pitchers and set rotations, managers would be forced to rely more heavily on their fourth and fifth starters and dig deeper into benches and bullpens to win a series. Third, it would place even more emphasis on regular season records, a constant talking point cited by proponent of the new expanded wild card system.

This year has been fun. Let’s keep it going.

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