How much would MLB’s playoff proposal really change things?

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

Just less than three weeks ago, news leaked that MLB was considering a new expanded playoff format that would blow up the bracket from 10 to 14 teams and add a reality-style selection show to the mix.

I hated it.

Look, I’m not a hot take guy. One of the reasons I am conservative about what I do on social media is that my ability to channel my emotions in a way that prevents them from forcing my fingertips to create regretful keystrokes is limited. I have to consider empirical information, historical context and many other things before I can arrive at something like a level-headed response. You will never see me on one of those talking-head debate shows because I would quite likely come across as a maniac.

Of course, things happen and you have to be ready to respond to them. If you stay close to your subject — baseball, in this case — there are rarely complete surprises. You hear whispers, you recognize trends, you encounter enough recurring situations that when news breaks, you pretty much know how to process it if you’re prepared.

Not in this case. That playoff proposal came out of the ether, materializing like Q on the bridge of the Enterprise, and it was just about as welcome. Here was a solution in search of a problem. And so I ranted.

We’ve since had some time to process it. There has been much written about the idea, which at this point falls short of an actual proposal. There has been some interesting analysis done. Players have responded, executives have chimed in, the MLBPA has acknowledged it in an opaque way. And you know what? I still hate it.

Let’s get into this by first tracing back a few years … let’s say five … and try to envision just how this format might play out in a typical season.

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