Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Evolution of the MLB Postseason 2/11/20

Hey baseball fans!

Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred announced that the MLB was planning to expand the postseason from ten teams to fourteen teams (from five in each league to seven). Now, I don't feel it's right to judge this until the plan becomes official, but I do feel it's right to discuss the history of the MLB playoff bracket before assessing this potential decision.

From the start of the World Series in 1903 to 1968, the MLB postseason was the World Series. Before expansion in 1961, there were only eight teams in each league, so having the AL and NL pennant winners duke it out for the title just made sense. There were plenty of 100-win teams that didn't make the Fall Classic because they came in second in their respective league, but for the most part, the most deserving teams were in the World Series.

Starting in 1961, the MLB began to grow by a lot. From 1961-1998, Major League Baseball almost doubled, going from sixteen to thirty teams. Over that time, divisions were created and changed, so the playoffs needed some alterations as well. Starting in 1969, each league was split up in two divisions, an East and a West. The winners of each division would compete in a Championship Series against the other division winner in the same league, and the CS winners would go on to the World Series.

The playoffs would stay like this until 1995 (really 1994, but the '94 strike cancelled the '94 postseason), except for 1981, when a mid-season strike shook up the playoffs entirely. Even though each league still used a two-division model in '81, a new Division Series was added to compensate for each completely different half of the season. So, the first-half division champs and the second-half division champs made the postseason in 1981. This proven four-team playoff structure was implemented for good in 1995, when each league expanded to three divisions and a Wild Card was also put into the postseason. In 2012, a second Wild Card and a Wild Card Game were added to the postseason to get us to our number now of ten total teams in the MLB postseason.

The trend seems to be that adding more teams is the biggest catalyst for expanding the postseason. In 1969, four teams were added to the MLB (Brewers, Mariners, Padres, and Royals) and the postseason grew from two to four teams. In 1993, two more teams were added (Rockies and Marlins), and the very next year, the postseason doubled again. So, my advice to Major League Baseball would be to expand the league before expanding the postseason. 32 teams and 14 spots in the postseason makes more sense than 30 teams and 14 spots. So, as long as the MLB adds some teams, I see no problem with expanding the postseason. But again, let's see if this really happens, before we judge this.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

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