The MLB playoff system is about to get an overhaul.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement moving at a fast pace, the two sides have “all but agreed” to add one Wild Card team in each league.
Under this scenario, one-game playoffs will be held to determine which Wild Card team advances to the next round. The changes could be instituted as soon as next season, as the two sides hope to announce a new CBA during the World Series, but the new system will begin no later than 2013.
The big hang up with the new CBA is disagreement over how to handle the draft, especially in regard to slotting. MLB also wants to have two 15-team leagues, something that is tied up because of the sale of the Astros, who are the most likely team to move to the American League.
What’s the motivation with expanded playoffs? Well, we’re going to hear plenty about fairness and the importance of winning your division, but this is — no surprise — mostly about cash.
Management has been interested in going from eight to 10 playoff teams to create more contenders in September and to add inventory to sell to a TV network.
The TV networks generally have been uninterested in the other wild-card option — a best-of-three series — instead wanting the drama and ratings potential of a sudden-death game.
By the way, if these changes were instituted right now, the Cardinals would have a two-game lead over the Giants for the final Wild Card spot while the Rays would hold a one-game lead over the Angels.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: