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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Let’s Rethink the Playoffs

In the KBO, half of the league’s 10 teams make the postseason each year, albeit with a catch: Instead of the traditional postseason bracket that American audiences are familiar with, the KBO uses a step-ladder format, where the two lowest seeds meet first, the winner faces the next lowest seed, and the bracket continues in that manner until a champion is crowned. To see how it works in practice, let’s use this season’s KBO playoffs as an example.

To start things off, fourth seed LG was given a 1-0 series lead against fifth seed Kiwoom in a best of three, with the idea being to reward the fourth seed for their superior regular season performance. LG prevailed and were thus matched against third seed Doosan in another best-of-three (this and all following matchups started 0-0). While that seems like a very short series, the quick turnaround meant that LG could not use its rotation stars, giving Doosan a significant advantage. Doosan won, and then was matched against KT in a best-of-five. My Wiz sadly bowed out at that point, and so Doosan advanced to the KBO series to play NC in a traditional best of seven; the Dinos wound up winning in six games.

The key to making it all work is that the teams with byes have more of an advantage in this format than higher seeds do in MLB’s current setup. Teams use the time off to rest up for a few days while their opponent weakens itself by using their top pitchers. In the KBO, the upshot is that the higher seed wins significantly more often, though not so much as to deprive a round of its drama.

It’s very unlike any postseason American audiences are used to. But if you think about it, the appeal extends far beyond the novelty of merely doing something different. The immediately obvious advantage is that you can expand the playoff field significantly while still rewarding the regular season’s top teams.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 25, 2020 at 04:46 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: playoffs

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   1. Bhaakon Posted: November 25, 2020 at 04:59 PM (#5991173)
So the top seed has to sit around twiddling their thumbs for something like two weeks (maybe more, if there are travel days)? We're flooded with whining about rust if one winner sweeps and the other needs a game seven in the LCS.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 25, 2020 at 05:48 PM (#5991183)
I'd like some first round byes, if we're eventually going to biggest playoffs, and 32. Something like two leagues, two divisions each, with eight teams. Four division winners get a bye. Next four best in each league are wild-cards. They play a three-game series. The two winners advance to play the division winner in a five-gamer.
   3. The Duke Posted: November 25, 2020 at 09:04 PM (#5991208)
I’m ok with longer playoffs if we shrink the regular season to 100 games. Who needs all these games if everyone gets in?
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 25, 2020 at 09:37 PM (#5991215)
I’m ok with longer playoffs if we shrink the regular season to 100 games. Who needs all these games if everyone gets in?

Ugh. No. Just no. Why would the league cut that much revenue anyway?
   5. Jeff Francoeur's OPS Posted: November 25, 2020 at 10:11 PM (#5991218)
Keep the typical format, but expand the Wild Card to a best-of-three.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 25, 2020 at 10:15 PM (#5991220)
Keep the typical format, but expand the Wild Card to a best-of-three.

Why exactly? Three games is barely less random than one, and one is far more compelling TV.
   7. DFA Posted: November 26, 2020 at 01:01 AM (#5991235)
4 teams per league makes the regular season mean a lot, and increases odds of best team winning. How the 2020 season ended with the two best teams in the World Series, well, in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible...
   8. winnipegwhip Posted: November 26, 2020 at 09:17 AM (#5991244)
1900-1968 format please. It will guarantee the two best teams in the World Series.
   9. bfan Posted: November 26, 2020 at 09:21 AM (#5991245)
The best 2 teams advanced to the finals. The best team won in an exciting series. Several other series were very exciting. Remind me of why we need to fix the play-offs?
   10. Jay Seaver Posted: November 26, 2020 at 09:57 AM (#5991246)
Remind me of why we need to fix the play-offs?


I don't really think this was an article about the current system being bad so much as observing that the KBO playoffs were a lot of fun for those who got up early to watch them, so why not play with the idea? I think the ladder system would have been great this year when we started with 8 games a day at some point, just in terms of the sheer amount, and I suspect the TV people would like the easy way it becomes a single thread people follow (or two, one for the AL & NL) rather than jumping around. There's probably some appeal in having everybody watch the same playoffs, if you want it to be more a national event.

As to implementing it... Well, it's a fun thought experiment. There's something very counter-intuitive about the best team arguably being featured least and getting the least in-stadium revenue (maybe the high seed gets all the home games before the World Series), and even if there's not necessarily much evidence that this kind of layoff hurts, people think it does enough for that to be blamed. It feels like something you might do if you were starting a new league and wanted to have a large playoff field, but no something you could practically switch to.
   11. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: November 26, 2020 at 10:43 AM (#5991249)
[9] It all worked out well this year, but don’t forget the all wild card World Series of 2014 or the 83 win champions of 2006. Although even when we had only 4 playoff teams, we still got a champion with negative run differential in 1987, so unless we go back to the pre-1969 format, we’ll get occasional crappy champions. I’d still like to peel back from 10 to 8 and really do not like the idea of 16.
   12. DL from MN Posted: November 26, 2020 at 11:34 AM (#5991252)
Why exactly? Three games is barely less random than one


You can sell a lot more ads in 3 games than you can in one. Like 3 times as many.
   13. winnipegwhip Posted: November 26, 2020 at 02:20 PM (#5991262)
You can sell a lot more ads in 3 games than you can in one. Like 3 times as many.


Plus more teams can sell merchandise saying "Playoffs 2021"
   14. Astroenteritis Posted: November 26, 2020 at 08:19 PM (#5991277)
1900-1968 format please. It will guarantee the two best teams in the World Series.


Of course this will never happen, but 1968 was the last time we had actual pennant races. Everything since then has been something less. Pennant races were fun, but before long there will be very few fans alive who remember them.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 26, 2020 at 09:18 PM (#5991279)
Of course this will never happen, but 1968 was the last time we had actual pennant races. Everything since then has been something less. Pennant races were fun, but before long there will be very few fans alive who remember them.

Nostalgia is great, but there were probably more years with no meaningful games after August 15, than great pennant races.
   16. Darren Posted: November 27, 2020 at 03:35 PM (#5991339)
The big positive of this year's playoffs was the lack of off days. Make these teams beat each other in the postseason with their full rotations or at least as close as possible.
   17. Darren Posted: November 27, 2020 at 03:38 PM (#5991340)
Are fans like us just fighting a losing battle? Is it just inevitable that there will be way too many teams in the playoffs and we'll have to learn to live with it, as is the case with all of the other professional leagues?

My guess is yes. And my guess is that we will also just learn to live with it, making our cases that the playoffs are fun but don't always result in the best team winning.
   18. Bhaakon Posted: November 27, 2020 at 03:51 PM (#5991343)
The average league leader has won 99.6 games since the current format was introduced in 2012 (not counting this season), and the small sample trend line looks like that number is going up. If a team needs 100 wins to have a decent shot at making the playoffs, 2/3rds of them will tank. And I wouldn't blame them.
   19. SoSH U at work Posted: November 27, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5991347)
If a team needs 100 wins to have a decent shot at making the playoffs, 2/3rds of them will tank.


Even if it's exaggerated, that's actually a pretty good point in favor of expanded playoffs. We may not like it, but an alternative where only half the teams are actively trying to compete has to be much worse.
   20. friendofafriend Posted: December 04, 2020 at 11:29 PM (#5992538)
Eliminate AL and NL and have 3 10-team divisions: MLB East, Central, and West.

Schedule till the pandemic is fully over: 18 games vs. each team in division = 162 games. (I wouldn't mind if they used this permanently.)

Schedule thereafter: 12 games vs. division, 3 games vs. 14 inter-division teams, 2 games vs 6 inter-division teams = 162 games

Playoffs: top 4 in each division. Seeded 1-12. top 4 get byes. First round is single game. They could make it best of 3 if they want, but single game is more fun.

It's a way to expand the playoffs while creating more to play for: the division, the bye, home field in first round.

League trophies would be retired and division trophies would be established. Somewhat of a big deal could be made about them, since they would mean being the top team of 10. No one under 40 cares about the AL/NL distinction, anyway. For the semifinal playoff round, have two best of 7 series called the "LCS" with no designation for the letters.

Way less travel during the regular season. Awesome rivalries. Fans could watch most games in their own time zone, and virtually all games if the pandemic schedule is employed.

Time to move into the 20th century! Really, they should have done this in 1998.

   21. sunday silence (again) Posted: December 05, 2020 at 04:54 PM (#5992634)
The problem with these ladder type playoffs to me, is that you're just going to stretch out the lower seeds pitching. So they move up to the next team who's well rested and then their pitching gets decimated. It seems like a common thing now that we have three weeks of playoffs. And now even a wild card game will through off some staffs if they've been through a close final drive.
   22. Jay Seaver Posted: December 05, 2020 at 09:42 PM (#5992688)
21 - By some lights, that's less a bug than a feature, a way to balance baseball's relative randomness in a short series against the way a championship ideally plays out.

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