Sawchik: Let’s improve the wild-card round

From Travis Sawchik at FanGraphs on September 21, 2017:

Since the second Wild Card was introduced in 2012, Major League Baseball has enjoyed most of what the expanded playoff field has done for the game. The extra playoff berth has made division titles significantly more important. Winning a division outright allows a team to bypass the play-in game to advance into the October tournament. The second Wild Card has also created two more playoff races, allowing the majority of clubs to retain some plausible chance of reaching the postseason into the second half.

The Wild Card play-in game has also made for some compelling television, manufacturing two made-for-TV elimination games.

But the new format isn’t without its flaws, the most prominent of which, in the opinion of this author, is this: the No. 1 Wild Card can be a significantly better team than the No. 2 Wild Card but is nevertheless subject to playing in something of a coin-flip game after the grind of a 162-game season. It can be pretty unfair to have, say, a 98-win team lose to an 86-win team in a one-game playoff.

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Originally published: September 22, 2017. Last Updated: September 22, 2017.