Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, August 02, 2019

The Wild Card is not incentivizing teams to improve themselves

Back when three divisions per league and the Wild Card was adopted it was sold as a way for more teams to compete. Then, when the second Wild Card was added, it was touted as a way for even more teams to compete. The thinking was that the more playoff spots, the more teams in the running, the more incentive everyone would have to improve and try and all of that.

Except it’s not happening. And the second Wild Card is certainly not incentivizing teams to improve themselves at the deadline. Take this quote from Jayson Stark’s article about the trade deadline in The Athletic today:

“And speaking of the wild card, virtually every baseball front office is now populated by smart dudes who understand it makes no mathematical sense to be “all in” at the deadline if your reward is only a one-game Wild Card Game playoff that could end your season in three hours.

“If you do that, you’re putting a lot of your future on playing one game,” said one NL exec. “It doesn’t make sense [to go all in to play one game]. If you made the Wild Card two out of three, I bet you’d see more teams willing to do something. At least that’s a series. But who’s going to make a big trade for a chance to play one game?””

An article of some interest, given the discussions we’ve been having concerning the results of the trade deadline.

QLE Posted: August 02, 2019 at 01:11 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: wild card

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. The Duke Posted: August 02, 2019 at 08:36 AM (#5867618)
Just a lot of Yada, yada, yada. On july 31 no one knows how things will shake. Look at NL central. At one point shortly before all star break you could see any team winning the division or wild card. Bottom line is if you think your team has the horses, you will give it a shot. The problem now is that every team’s strategy is to stay ultra-young and minimize salaries in the long term so no one really wants veterans at expense of cost-controlled talent. Kudos to luhnow for bucking the trend
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: August 02, 2019 at 08:43 AM (#5867621)
There's got to be a nice middle ground between going "all-in" and trading away current assets for lottery tickets/payroll relief when you're team is still in the hunt for a WC berth.
   3. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: August 02, 2019 at 08:47 AM (#5867622)
The value of the WC is not just the opportunity to play maybe just one game. It's keeping your fans engaged for the last two months of the season and generating interest that will hopefully roll over into the following year.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: August 02, 2019 at 09:04 AM (#5867624)
Is this all about the Diamondbacks? Because other teams in the WC chases did improve themselves.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 02, 2019 at 09:10 AM (#5867626)
There's got to be a nice middle ground between going "all-in" and trading away current assets for lottery tickets/payroll relief when you're team is still in the hunt for a WC berth.

Yes. I think teams have gone overboard on a good idea.

No, you shouldn't trade top-prospects for rentals at the deadline. Yes, you should hoard top-100 prospects, and be very loathe to give them up.

But, there are lots of other prospects you can spend freely, and there are lots of assets you can acquire at the deadline for little more than salary relief, and some C prospects.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 02, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5867638)
The Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Rays, and A's all made win-now type trades, despite not being in first place in their division.
   7. JRVJ Posted: August 02, 2019 at 10:37 AM (#5867652)
Robo wrote an even more pessimistic piece. I get the impression that MLB writers have their POVs set in stone (or perhaps their stories pre-written), and aren't willing to move an inch.

   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 02, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5867654)
Maybe this is a better place for my post from the Atkins thread:

I get that it can be frustrating for fans of certain teams that don't add players who will (marginally) increase their odds of reaching and/or succeeding in the postseason. But how is it Bad for Baseball overall that teams as a whole are sticking to longer-term thinking?
   9. GregD Posted: August 02, 2019 at 10:43 AM (#5867655)

The Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Rays, and A's all made win-now type trades, despite not being in first place in their division.
+1

And some of those teams have zero chance of catching the first place team. The Wild Card is the only thing incentivizing the As

This headline is missing the world “all”
   10. bfan Posted: August 02, 2019 at 10:46 AM (#5867657)
The Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Rays, and A's all made win-now type trades, despite not being in first place in their division.


And the Braves, Astros and Twins made win-now trades as well, to protect their division lead.

You know what this amounts to? The Yankees and Red Sox didn't do anything, so nothing happened. 11 teams go out and improve themselves, but if the Yankees and Red Sox don't, nothing else matters?
   11. Captain Supporter Posted: August 03, 2019 at 12:16 PM (#5867973)
You know what this amounts to? The Yankees and Red Sox didn't do anything, so nothing happened.


The Yankees have nothing to do with the wild card. So it is really just about the Red Sox. And they don't have prospects anyone wants because Trader Dave sent them packing over the last couple of years. All in all, this was an awful article written by someone who made up a thesis and tried to shoehorn the available 'facts' to fit them. Which they don't. It is precisely the existence of the second wild card which freezes up the trade market. With too many teams still trying to 'go for it', the supply of available players dwindles and teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox (correctly, in my judgment) chose not to overpay for the small number of mediocre pitchers that were made available. Zach Greinke was the only really good pitcher to be had (unless you count Marcus Stroman, who Toronto unaccountably decided to trade for less than they could have if they waited a bit more), and Houston did in fact pay a hefty price for him.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: August 03, 2019 at 01:57 PM (#5867986)
also, the Mets traded neither Thor nor Wheeler (nor even Frazier), and acquired Stroman despite not being near first place.

the better article might have been, "are too many teams trying to qualify for a one-game playoff where their season can end in 3 hours?"

it would still have some of the warts mentioned above, but would be a better angle.
   13. . Posted: August 03, 2019 at 03:41 PM (#5868022)
“If you do that, you’re putting a lot of your future on playing one game,” said one NL exec. “It doesn’t make sense [to go all in to play one game]. If you made the Wild Card two out of three, I bet you’d see more teams willing to do something. At least that’s a series. But who’s going to make a big trade for a chance to play one game?””


This is painfully, miserably stupid. The fact that you can move on by winning merely a single game makes the second wild card more valuable, not less.
   14. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 03, 2019 at 05:26 PM (#5868038)
My research a couple of years ago indicated that teams win a series about 70% of the time when they win the first game. So the one-game playoff isn't necessarily as much less valuable than an entire series as it might seem at first, if we assume that were it simply game one of a series, the rest of the series would play out with the winning team winning the series at that historical rate.

On the other hand, looked at another way, winning the one-game playoff only increases your odds of advancing from 70% to 100%, which, granted is an all-important increase, but losing the one-game playoff is, of course, extremely worse than losing the first game of a multiple game series, since doing the latter still gives you a 30% chance to advance, while doing the former gives you a 0% chance.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: August 03, 2019 at 06:55 PM (#5868052)
I'm not sure we saw any substantial change in deadline activity or which teams were active -- although it was a little weird the Mets got Stroman but that suggests they think they can compete in 2020 so it's still a move to improve. (Can I TM "Move to improve" -- pretty sure I can build a whole fitness/workout scam of some sort on that phrase.)

But I do expect that teams have a more "realistic" assessment of how much impact these deadline moves can make. To shift yourself, on average, a win over the course of two months, you've got to grab a 3-WAR player ... and it's still pretty likely that the one extra win won't improve your chances against the field that much. Guys like Mike Leake are not going to sufficiently increase the talent of your team to make a difference ... on averge.

But "on average" thinking probably isn't the way to go at the deadline. If you're making a long-term inveBstment that costs serious money, you care a lot about the average. But you're in a 2-month crapshoot to enter the big money crapshoot. Play to get lucky. Assuming he's better than what you've got, might as well see if Mike Leake can pull off a Doyle Alexander. (Assuming it doesn't require a "serious" investment.)
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: August 03, 2019 at 07:13 PM (#5868054)
The only thing about a best 2 out of 3 wild card playoff that would be more valuable than the current setup is the guaranteed home game and the revenue that generates. The winner of the single game is in the exact same place as the winner of the Best of 3.
   17. akrasian Posted: August 03, 2019 at 07:37 PM (#5868059)
Since the wildcard play in game was instituted in 2012, 14 teams have been the second wild card. One (the Giants, in 2014) has won the WS. Small sample, but it makes me think that teams should consider being the 2nd wild card as being a valuable opportunity. Of course, in that time only 3 other wild card teams have won the divisional series, so while trades make sense, it may not be worthwhile to trade a ton.
   18. mathesond Posted: August 03, 2019 at 07:48 PM (#5868060)
(Can I TM "Move to improve" -- pretty sure I can build a whole fitness/workout scam of some sort on that phrase.)


I seem to recall an episode of "Nathan For You" that involved convincing people who wanted to lose weight/get in shape that they could do so by becoming unpaid furniture movers.
   19. Zach Posted: August 04, 2019 at 12:47 AM (#5868154)
“If you do that, you’re putting a lot of your future on playing one game,” said one NL exec. “It doesn’t make sense [to go all in to play one game]. If you made the Wild Card two out of three, I bet you’d see more teams willing to do something. At least that’s a series. But who’s going to make a big trade for a chance to play one game?””

This kind of Ricky Bobby "If you ain't first you're last" thinking ignores the fact that a playoff run is incredibly validating for a fan base.

The two games I've been most emotionally invested in were Rockies-Padres game 163 and the Royals-A's wildcard game in 2014.

I remember way more about the Royals - A's game than game 7 of the World Series the same year.
   20. . Posted: August 04, 2019 at 07:20 AM (#5868160)
This kind of Ricky Bobby "If you ain't first you're last" thinking ignores the fact that a playoff run is incredibly validating for a fan base.


Oh, hell son -- I was high that day. That doesn't make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth ... hell you can even be fifth!
   21. Sunday silence Posted: August 04, 2019 at 11:25 PM (#5868285)
To shift yourself, on average, a win over the course of two months, you've got to grab a 3-WAR playe


Doesnt it matter how bad the position is that you're replacing? Some positions are in negative WAR.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

News

All News | Prime News

Old-School Newsstand


BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Martin Hemner
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogBaseball Question of the Day: Who’d you think would be a star but wasn’t?
(123 - 5:07am, Mar 30)
Last: Ben Broussard Ramjet

NewsblogUS-based pro sports leagues monitoring coronavirus outbreak
(3375 - 3:41am, Mar 30)
Last: the Centaur Nipple Paradox (CoB).

NewsblogMLB final pitch could be closer to Christmas than Halloween
(5 - 10:47pm, Mar 29)
Last: Doug Jones threw harder than me

NewsblogDodgers snapshot: Nomomania grips L.A. and Japan when Hideo Nomo dominates in 1995
(9 - 10:41pm, Mar 29)
Last: Greg K

NewsblogMLBPA chief Tony Clark says 'no door is closed' for playing the 2020 All-Star Game after COVID-19 pa
(22 - 10:35pm, Mar 29)
Last: Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome

NewsblogWhite Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen
(1 - 10:23pm, Mar 29)
Last: DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar

NewsblogOT - NBA Thread 2020
(1993 - 10:21pm, Mar 29)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogEx-Astros slugger Jimmy Wynn, nicknamed 'Toy Cannon,' dies at 78
(44 - 8:23pm, Mar 29)
Last: DanG

NewsblogHow the Cleveland Indians’ Lineup Dynasty Was Assembled
(4 - 7:41pm, Mar 29)
Last: ajnrules

NewsblogReport: Mets Trying to 'Drum Up Interest' in Sale During Coronavirus Hiatus
(10 - 5:58pm, Mar 29)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogReport: MLB to expand rosters once season starts
(8 - 4:29pm, Mar 29)
Last: wjones

NewsblogD-backs troll Giants over Madison Bumgarner signing, 2017 Opening Day
(1 - 4:09pm, Mar 29)
Last: bbmck

NewsblogBaseball Question of the Day: What’s the coolest thing you have ever seen at a ballpark?
(105 - 11:30am, Mar 29)
Last: pikepredator

NewsblogBaseball Question of the Day: What is your least-popular baseball opinion?
(142 - 9:42am, Mar 29)
Last: pikepredator

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1925 Ballot
(4 - 9:41am, Mar 29)
Last: John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy

Page rendered in 0.3208 seconds
46 querie(s) executed