The MLB Playoff Format is Fine, Quit Whining


Jaxon Van Pelt, Staff

With the month of October upon us, many look forward to falling leaves, pumpkin spice beverages, and Halloween. For those of us who follow the six-to-seven-month-long season of Major League Baseball, it means it’s the postseason.

The World Series matchup was just recently decided as the ALCS and NLCS concluded. The Houston Astros will represent the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies will represent the National League.

The Astros come as no surprise given their recent success in the postseason over the last five or so years, including a controversial World Series title in 2017. The Phillies, however, have come out of nowhere. They are the sixth seed in the National League side of the playoff bracket out of six, and they were given no thought when it came to predicting a world champion.

The Phillies have been an inspiration and the underdog story of this year’s playoffs. In this day and age of sports, we can never just appreciate what teams are doing. It is always someone’s fault. The refs, the coaches, and with this year’s new playoff format, it has given those first- and second-place seeds something to cry about.

The most notable upsets came in the NLDS round. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 111 games in the regular season, were beaten by the San Diego Padres. The Padres were the fourth seed and are considered the “little brother” of the Dodgers by the LA fanbase. After the final out that sent the Padres to the next round, social media was on fire about how the Dodgers deserved better and were too good to be done after their first series.

There was complaint after complaint as I scrolled through my Twitter feed. Fans and some analysts felt that the Dodgers were hoodwinked out of a series win. They were talking as if winning a certain number of games in the regular season should guarantee you a free pass through the postseason. Newsflash everyone: it does not guarantee you anything. Dodgers fans, your team was outplayed and outcoached. While I am sure it stings extra that it was the Padres that ended your season, no one cares how many wins you had in the regular season.

I could get into many reasons the Padres got to where they did in the postseason, including making moves at the Trade Deadline that were meant to get them to where they got, but that is not the point. The point is Dodgers fans and analysts on TV and radio that say some rather unintelligent things are whining about a format that has nothing wrong with it. If the Dodgers had won that series and probably a World Series, there would have been no talk about a flawed format.

All of this can be applied to the Atlanta Braves and their NLDS loss to the Phillies. Braves country had some words of their own about the format, all of which sounded a lot like what those LA fans said. The Braves won 101 games and actually had an identical record to their division rivals, the New York Mets, who lost in the Wild Card Round. Of course, there were some upset that a team with 101 wins was playing in a best-of-three series.

There is one simple solution for all three of these teams and their fanbases. Win the games.

Those records do guarantee you home-field advantage. All of those teams were the higher seed in the respective series that they lost. Unfortunately, teams with home-field advantage only win 59% of the time. It is not a staggering statistic by any means, but at least it’s better than a 50-50. Those teams were favored to win and may even be the better teams in those situations, but you still play the games, and that is a reason baseball is great; it is anyone’s game as soon as you step on the field.

One thing I will agree with the format-haters on is the first and second seeds on each side of the bracket had to wait about a week between their last regular season game and their first postseason one. That is a while in baseball terms, and it can certainly cool hot teams off. Unfortunately, for those fans of the National League teams who lost, the first and second seeds on the American League side of the bracket had no trouble with the wait and were the teams playing to go to the World Series. It does not help those who dislike the format at all and is proof the wait doesn’t hinder teams too much.

There is no problem with the current playoff format for the MLB, and those who say there is are probably upset about their respective team losing or only want to see big-name teams succeed. The postseason has always been about the team that gets hot at the right time, and that is exactly what we are seeing. So quit your whining and take your blame somewhere else because what we are witnessing is exciting, and there will be more as the World Series gets started.