We already knew coming into this season that there would be two wild card teams who would meet in a one game playoff to face the top seed of the league. We were also aware of the temporary format of the Division Series, with the first two games being at the lower seed’s home field. Yesterday, we found out the scheduling of the new system. Here’s how it will go down, courtesy of the USA Today article:
- Wednesday, Oct. 3: Final day of regular season.
- Thursday, Oct. 4: One-game tiebreakers will be played, if necessary, to determine wild-card teams and division winners.
- Friday, Oct. 5: AL and NL wild-card teams to play one-game playoffs. TV: TBS
- Saturday, Oct. 6: AL and NL division series featuring two division winners get underway. TV: TBS or MLB Network.
- Sunday, Oct. 7: The other AL and NL division series, featuring wild-card survivors and top two division-winners begin. TV: TBS or MLB Network.
- Friday, Oct. 12: Possible Game 5s for second AL and NL division series are played.
- Saturday, Oct. 13: ALCS Game 1. TV: TBS
- Sunday, Oct. 14: NLCS Game 1. TV: Fox.
- Sunday, Oct. 21: Possible ALCS Game 7.
- Monday, Oct. 22: Possible NLCS Game 7.
Ultimately, how does this affect the Yankees? Right now, New York is a game back in the loss column of Texas, and would be the second seed in American League. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Yanks finish with the best record in the league, which of course is very possible.
The Yankees would go on the road for the first two games against the wild card one game playoff winner before returning home for the final three in the ALDS. The wild card winner gets a day off after the “play in” game in their home city, while the Bombers would be traveling. The amount of home games hasn’t changed from the past. Yet, losing the first two, for example, in Detroit or Los Angeles, wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. How much of a home field advantage is this really?
Next, let’s say the Yankees do win the ALDS as the top seed, albeit in five games. Guess what? The ALCS starts the day after game five. Sure, there is no travel since they are already home for game five and games one and two of the ALCS would be in New York, but they’d be unable to set up their rotation. That means the Yankees would have to use five starters, with a good chance of Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia starting games one and two of the ALCS. Not very appealing. If the Yankees used a four man rotation in the ALDS, with Sabathia games one and five, CC wouldn’t be on full rest until game four of the ALCS (there is one day off after game two of the ALCS).
It’s almost as if the best seed in the playoffs is third. I’d take my chances with the first two games at home in the ALDS, with a day off prior to the ALCS. If the season ended today, the Rangers would be the top seed, the Yankees number two, and White Sox three. Detroit and Baltimore would play a one game playoff to get to the wild-card playoff against Oakland. The wild-card race is tight though, with Tampa Bay and Los Angeles hanging around.
Overall, I think that the additional wild card is going to be very beneficial for the league. There is an added emphasis for winning the division and obtaining the top seed (well, in 2013 and on at least). Plus, there should always be a few teams competing in each league for that wild-card spot, making for an exciting finish in September. Oh yea, there will always be one game playoff each year. TV ratings tend to be astronomical for those, so the fans and league will be happy.
There’s no doubt it adds some fun and a new element to the league, but it sure seemed like it was rushed. If the Yankees do get the top seed, hopefully they can find a way to pull through. But the advantage of being the top seed is absent in 2012.