Last week, Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball would add a second Wild Card team in 2012. With the expansion, MLB’s title of “most exclusive playoff system” may be in jeopardy.
By expanding to 10 playoff teams next year, Major League Baseball’s playoff system will now include one-third of the 30 teams. That percentage (33.3%) is still more exclusive than the NFL (37.5% of teams make playoffs) or the NBA and NHL (16 of 30, 53.3%). However, if we look at the teams that will now be included, the quality of teams in baseball’s playoffs may not be on the same level as the NFL.
So what kind of miscreants will we now see in MLB’s playoffs? Let’s take a look at the last 15 years (the Wild Card era) and see what a second Wild Card team would have looked like. Here is a chart of the number of wins the second Wild Card team would have had in each year since Major League Baseball added the first Wild Card*.
And those winning percentages are compared to the weakest playoff team from the NFL and NBA during the same period…
While the variation is greater in the NFL, typically, the last team in the playoffs still has a better winning percentage than a second Wild Card team in baseball (with the 7-9 Seahawks this past year being a notable exception). And the NBA’s final playoff team is lucky if they don’t have a losing record**.
A few notes on an expanded playoff…
- In the American League, the second Wild Card ranged in Wins from 84 to 93, while in the National League they ranged from 85 to 96.
- Of the 30 teams that would have been in the playoffs as a second Wild Card, 11 won at least 90 games.
- Four of the 15 seasons would have required a playoff to decide one of the second Wild Card teams. In 2002 and 2007 (AL) and 1997 (NL) two teams would have needed to play a one-game playoff in determining the second Wild Card. In 1996, three teams were tied with 85 wins, which would have required two play-in games before the Wild Card round even began.
- In seven seasons, the two Wild Card teams would have come from the same division including the 2010 AL East, 2009 NL West, 2008 AL East, and 2007 NL West. In three other seasons, the two Wild Cards may have come from the same division depending on how the play-in games were determined.
* 1995 (strike-shortened season) is excluded. ** The NHL is excluded from this chart because of the more complicated nature of their point system.
Data via Pro-Football-Reference.com, Basketball-Reference.com, and Baseball-Reference.com