Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images
The Oakland A’s went 94-68 this year, playing hard for all 162 games and securing the division title on the final day of the season in a thrilling win over the Rangers.Their reward?
Going on the road for the first two games of a five-game series against the Detroit Tigers, a team that won six less games than them in the regular season.
Now Oakland is one game away from elimination, and it’s clear that baseball’s new playoff structure left them at a big disadvantage from the beginning.
The new format of the divisional series makes the team with the better record go on the road for two games, and then play the final three games at home.
Even though the better team still has one more potential home game, the team with the worse record is not only guaranteed two home games, it gets to play the two most important games of the series at home.
According to Sports Illustrated, the team that wins Game 1 of a five-game series goes on to win the series 70% of the time, and the team that wins Game 2 of a five-game series goes on to win the series 75% of the time.
In addition, home teams in MLB historically have a significant advantage, winning 54% of the time. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but to make a comparison, 54% is a more significant advantage than the house has in blackjack. So it matters.
In effect, MLB has given the team with the worse record an advantage in the most pivotal two games of the series.
The 2-3 format was adopted purely for logistics. Since MLB added a one-game wild card playoff, it needed to eliminate a travel day somewhere else in the playoff schedule. They did that by trashing the 2-2-1 (where the better team gets games 1, 2, and 5). But it’s clear that that move hurt the team with the better record, and even further eroded the significance of the regular season.
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