Thursday, September 3, 2015

OT: MLB playoffs and DH rule

I was AGAINST adding the 2nd Wild Card as well as the "1 and done" format but given what is happening this year, I can understand why it was done.  If the season ended today, Pittsburgh and Chicago, owners of the 2nd and 3rd best records in the NL, would face off for the right to play the #1 seed (St. Louis).  Meanwhile #4 and #5 automatically qualify for the NLDS.  Under the old system of only 1 wild card, Chicago stays home.  Even stranger things have happened before.  In the strike shortened '94 season, we would have seen a sub.500 division champ in the AL West.

 In MLB, the best team usually wins just over 60 percent of their games while the worst team wins close to 40 percent.  Even those bad teams do get hot at times and it's certainly possible for a mediocre team to win 3 consecutive series.  I'm old school and want to see a World Champion that was among the best teams all year long, not just in October.  Increasing the number of playoff teams will definitely increase the likelihood of a rather ordinary team winning it all.

Last season was fair.  Pittsburgh and San Francisco tied for the #1 wild card with 88 wins.  It was essentially a 1 game playoff.  San Fran had a red hot pitcher in Madison Bumgarner and rode him all the way to a championship but they were a deserving team.  The best non-playoff team was only 82-80.  Suppose that San Fran lost 5 more games and made the playoffs at 83-79 and Bumgarner made 36 starts in which his team went 27-9.  Without him, they are 14 games under .500 but would probably be favored in a 1 game playoff if they start their ace.  IMO, that system must be reformed.

I heard one announcer suggest that the #1 wild card be given 2 chances to win a game.  That is, if the #1 team wins the first game, it's over but the #2 team must consecutive games.  I like that idea because it safeguards against an otherwise mediocre team riding their ace to victory but I've got a better idea: Go back to 2 divisions per league.  That way, with 7 or 8 teams per division, you won't see a weak division winner.  Give the 2 division winners home field advantage and take the next 2 best records as wild cards.  If there must be a play in game, the 1st wild card gets a bye while the 2nd and 3rd duke it out.

Now let's shift gears to the Designated hitter rule.  I grew up a National League fan so I was against the DH but have since changed my position.  First, I'll list the pros and cons:
-It violates the fundamental 9 on 9 rule.
-More bench players are used as pinch hitters
-It's more challenging to manage in the NL with the double switches and defensive changes.
If the game is tied 1-1 in the 6th inning with men on base and the pitcher due up, what do you do?  You could bring in a pinch hitter and try for the go ahead run or leave an effective pitcher in the game and go for it the next inning. Depends on your strategy and the matchups later in the game.
-An average pitcher hits about .125 (1 for 8) and most of the hits are weak bloopers over the infield or grounders that find a hole,  When you take into account sacrifice bunts, figure an out is made nearly 9 times out of 10.  If the #7-8 hitters are also weak, that's a third of your lineup right there,  More offense make things interesting.
-When a pitcher does get on base, he usually dogs it running the bases to protect against injury and tiredness before next inning.  You're being paid millions/year.  Put forth some effort or take a seat.  
-It can extend careers of older players who are weak in the field or somewhat injured but can still hit well and it can give players a "half day off'' by not playing them in the field.
-Most importantly to me is that it gives more AAAA players a chance to play regularly.

Many of these career minor leaguers could be decent players if given a real shot but with no DH in the NL, they are more likely to be blocked by All-Star caliber starters.  A lot of players struggle in the pinch hitting role because it's harder to come off the bench cold.  Even the best hitters can go through slumps in which they hit under .200 for a month so you really cannot judge a hitter based on 150 ABs especially if most of them are off the bench.  In the AL, a part time DH is much more likely to get the 300-400 ABs needed to develop and show what he can do.

Perhaps most telling of all is that over the last 25 years or so, the AL has dominated the All-Star game and usually comes out on top in Interleague play.

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