Playoff Format – Propose a new one?

Okay, I won’t post and just pretend I have been here all along keeping this blog going with fresh material just like my fellow two writers. They have done a wonderful job keeping this dream alive. Aside from the fact I transitioned into a new job and went on a 2 week staycation in the meantime, I pretty much gave up posting about the Rangers – I would seriously stress myself out too much thinking of them. I was out with fellow fans for the vast majority of the remaining games in the season/playoffs, and I was either too giddy (drunk) with a win, or too depressed (drunk) with a loss to make rational thoughts, organize them, and put them on paper the internet. Now that my mental block is over, I refuse to even acknowledge the team to whom we lost, the method, or the heartbroken feeling I’ve felt since that OT goal went in. Aside – hockey is really bad for me. Let’s talk about something I promised a few people I’d write a few weeks back – and this coincides with a new change in baseball for the 2012 playoffs. I do apologize in advance for the very long winded nature this post is bound to take on. I have had a few heated debates out loud about this topic, and have too much fuel for the fire to sound direct and to the point – nothing like returning with authority.
Are playoff series structured properly? I am omitting as per usual the NBA from this conversation, and the NFL because of the lack of many games in one series. While one can argue about the NFL and its way to seat teams/give out home field advantage – that has no place here and I’m sure I will discuss it in a future rant. The MLB and NHL are the two leagues I’d like to focus on here. Let’s review how things sit currently. Please for the following, assume I am talking from the perspective of the team with the better record/seeding going into the series when you see “H’s” and “A’s” for “home” and “away’ in each series.
In the NHL, we have 4 rounds of best of 7 game series. The format for each round goes 2H-2A-1H-1A-1H. Baseball is a little different – the first round is a best of 5 that (for this season) goes 2A – 3H. The last two series are best of 7’s that go 2H, 3A, 2H. These two games are very different in style and , so I’ll make the hockey section BEFORE the MLB section because I know you people who think it is an inferior sport will skip the section for sure if it is at the end. Who am I kidding? You’ll skip it anyways.
I think the way the NHL is set up is perfect for the sport, however I’m going to throw out there how a once esteemed blogging colleague thinks it would work better just so I have something to refute as I prove why this system should not be messed with. 2A, 2H, 1A, 2H. His argument for this format is that you basically do two things. The first is ask the favorite only to have to win one on the road of the first two games, and then the underdog becomes even more so having to still play 4 games in the opposing building. Also, this obviously takes a travel day out of the schedule and saves the minute expenses on a team (not my words) and wear and tear of boarding a bus/plane. Does anyone agree with this? I’m rather curious. The argument is an interesting one, but here’s why I think it sucks. Assuming the theory of the favorite winning one on the road at first is great in theory. However, you’re putting the extreme pressure of them to HAVE to win one, or risk then going back home in a 2-0 hole. If you say you’re asking the favorite to win two at home in the current format to avoid losing home ice off the bat, I see that, but I counter with the fact losing one of those games makes the series 1-1. Losing one of your first home games in the proposed format could mean you’re in a 3-0/2-1 hole. Furthermore, you’re guaranteeing that the underdog will play at least as many games as the favorite no matter what. How is that rewarding a franchise’s pockets? Think about it, currently, if the home team wins in 5 or 7 games, they played one extra game, and if it is settled in 4 or 6 games, it is evens. The scenario flips after the pivotal game five, being in the underdog’s house, guaranteeing that the only way the favorites in the series play more home games than the dogs, is if it goes 7 games. No thank you – I am just glad this isn’t actually currently proposed by the NHL and it is just a friend saying it. I felt the need to blast it on here and see what a few others thought – so your comments are welcome.
Now, back to reality in MLB. This year the playoff format has switched back to 2A 3H for the first round. I really dislike this, but not as much as hockey ever changing. As I mentioned, the two sports are different. I think home ice is greater than home field. In the NHL, you get the benefit of last change after all stoppages and to start periods. You are putting your 5 on the ice that match their 5 best. Baseball has all of its wacky stadiums, and the crowd behind a pitcher in a big spot definitely feels to us like it helps, but does the advantage of “last licks” really matter THAT much? For argument’s sake, let’s just assume it does (world series history shows the team with home field has a very slight edge, although home field hasn’t been determined by the “best team” in forever… so that may not be too valid). Is the MLB justified only guaranteeing the favorite team one home game? Isn’t making a team pitch their best two starters on the road a disadvantage on paper? In theory, if the home team wins the first two like they’re supposed to, it is fair to tell the favorite to go and sweep a 3 game series, even though it is at home? I would like to see a return to 2H-2A-1H for this series, and I do believe it is in discussions already. As for going 2H-3A-2H for baseball, the difference in games may have this make the most sense. In hockey, and off day simply gets your entire team more rest. In baseball, you may directly effect certain players utilization in that series. An extra day off to travel would mean an extra day’s rest for a bullpen, or a number 1 starter. It would give certain teams too much of an advantage. Imagine them going 2H-2A-1H-1A-1H? Theoretically, if you were the Detroit Tigers, you could have Verlander start game 1, game 4 (3 days rest), and game 7 (4 days rest). I don’t like the chances of any team having to beat him 3 times. The home field is nowhere near as important as the health and rest your rotation/bullpen has.
Well I hope this all came together as coherent thoughts, and I would love to hear what everyone thinks. Excuse the post for its incompleteness and loose ends if they seem that way – I was having a hard time rehashing the arguments I’ve had because now it is simply by myself. If we ever get into a verbal fight over these issues again, I’ll be sure to bring them up – but I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially about how MLB quietly slipped the 2A-3H format back under our noses with the addition of a wildcard team. Till next time!

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One Response to Playoff Format – Propose a new one?

  1. i like the format of 2h, 2a, 1h in a 5 game series, and 2h, 2a, 1h, 1a, 1h in a 7 game series. i know that could lead to a ton of travel (and potentially fatigue), but i think it makes for a more interesting series. i think they’re the mlb is trying to prevent games going into november. should be interesting nonetheless.

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