2018 MLB Playoff Oddities

No playoff system in American sports is perfect and there will always be debates about ways to improve them. Major League Baseball has long had the smallest field of playoff teams among the North American professional sports leagues, and the most straight-forward postseason format. This October, though, could be one of the strangest MLB postseasons in memory.

Today in the National League, the teams with the four best records in the league will play two tiebreaker games. The winners will take their division’s respective crown and head to the League Division Series. The losers will square off tomorrow in the National League Wild Card game. It will mark the first time in baseball history that a loser of a tiebreaker game won’t be eliminated. The 90-win Atlanta Braves have the fewest wins of all National League playoff teams and will be the only National League team that does not have to play an extra tiebreaker and/or Wild Card game before the Division Series.

Meanwhile in the American League, the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s will face off in the American League Wild Card game Wednesday. Both teams have more wins than the AL Central Champion Cleveland Indians. The Indians will take on the Houston Astros in one American League Division Series while the winner of the Wild Card game will take on the 108-win Boston Red Sox in the other American League Division Series. The Red Sox, with the most wins in a season by a team since the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in 2001, will have to face a tougher Division Series opponent than the second-seeded Astros.

Change is slower in baseball than any other professional sports league in North America. The 2018 playoffs, no matter how they play out, likely won’t spur a change to the MLB playoff format in the near future. They will make a great case for going to a system more like the NBA, though, where the top five teams make the playoffs and get seeded by record regardless of division. Again, that probably won’t happen soon but probably in the next decade or so.

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