Bud Selig expects expanded playoffs to begin this season

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We’re just a little over two months away from the start of the 2012 season, but we still have no confirmation on when the expanded playoff format will take effect. Commissioner Bud Selig aims to change that real soon.

According to Jim Owczarski of CSNChicago.com, Selig was in attendance at SoxFest on Friday night to present an award to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and said that he still expects a second wild-card team to be added to each league this season.

“While I agree with Yogi Berra that it ain’t over til it’s over, I really believe we’ll have the wild card for 2012, this year,” Selig said. “Clubs really want it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an issue that the clubs want more than to have the extra wild card, this year.

“We’re working on dates right now. That will all take place. It looks to me like we’ll have it because I’ve told everybody that we have it. It’ll be exciting – (a) one-game playoff and start the playoffs out on a very exciting manner.”

The new 10-team playoff format would begin with a one-game playoff between the two wild-card teams in each league. MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement specifies that expanded playoffs will begin by 2013, but Selig has been vocal about his desire for the changes to begin as soon as possible.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that there are still some schedule quirks to work out, such as leaving room for potential tie-breaker scenarios, but the plan calls for union and management officials to resume discussions on the logistics early next week.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.