There are some major problems with the way that the MLB structures its playoffs. Some of these playoff flaws are being exposed just one week into the postseason. My biggest pet peeve with the way that the MLB playoffs are structured is that the MLB has the most amount of games in a regular season out of any professional sport (a whopping 162 games) starting in April and going all the way until September. During that 6-7 month span, teams normally get between 11-13 off days depending on rainouts. This forces teams to have deep benches, pitching rotations and bullpens.
However, the game changes completely in October, during the playoffs. The Milwaukee Brewers already received 4 off days since the playoffs started (beginning of October)…..it’s October 9th. By Friday, they will have had 7 off days in only two weeks.
“…Red Sox starters pitched just 11 1/3 innings, combined over four games).” Stated the Atlantic, regarding the 2017 MLB playoffs.
This is not the only example of extreme bullpen use that we have seen in the playoffs. Last Wednesday, the Oakland A’s elect to start a reliever and did not pitch a single starter throughout the whole game.
Teams cannot be blamed for using their bullpen more strategically in high leverage situations if you know that they will get the next day off (or the next 3 days in Milwaukee’s case). They are simply taking advantage of a scheduling problem that the MLB has. This shifts the emphasis of the depth of starters and benches to an extreme emphasis on depth and use of bullpen relievers.
Although there is no easy solution to this problem, my solution is:
- Make two divisions, one for each league. This will reward teams, like the Cubs, who finish with the second best record in the National League. It is simply unfair to play in a division with better teams and be punished for it at the end of the season. The Cubs would have been rewarded with a #2 seed and home-field advantage in the first round. This will also ensure that the playoffs are more evenly matched as well, producing better and longer series.
- Eliminate the one-game wild card. Yes, I know that this was put in to make the game “more fun”, but if you’re a true fan, you will appreciate the playoffs no matter how long the series is.
- Schedule games closer together. For example, the NLCS should be played in Milwaukee on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The next three games should be played on that Friday, Saturday, Sunday and have game seven scheduled for the Monday. That way, you can get one off day in one week creating more of a regular season feel.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the MLB playoffs, it is my favorite time of the year. The one-game playoff has produced a lot of drama and fun, but because of the grueling 162 games regular season schedule, I would prefer for the MLB to promote a schedule that is closer to that of a regular season one with less off days possible. This will reward the deepest teams in the end and will give baseball teams a true test of durability and grit.