MLB’s playoff format was changed for 2012 by adding a one game playoff between the teams with the second highest winning percentage among non-division winners. Previously, the team with the highest winning percentage was the wild card and played the winningest team, if that team was not in its division, for the Division Championship, prelude to the League Championship Series.
What this means is that contenders in August and September are focusing on that second wild card position and that creates some interesting scenarios. In the National League, the scenario is who plays whom with five teams all but guaranteed playoff positions. The second highest winning percentage is Cincinnati’s .556. 65 wins v. 52 losses. No one else is close. The only question is whether the wild cards, all from the NL Central, will include èittsburgh or St. Louis, depending on whether the Pirates can hold its 3 game lead over St. Louis. That will be close, but this one game playoff, Cincinnati v. either St. Louis or PIttsburgh, will be very competitive.
In the American League, the situation is not so clear as there are three teams Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Baltimore, that will make up the two teams that playoff for the Wild Card position in the Division Series. If Oakland beats Texas or Tampa beats Boston and wins the Division, make the changes that implies. It will be interesting.
The determining factor will be the teams’ ability to win under pressure. See here The games will be largely determined by the ability to catch the ball and make plays in the field, the most rudimentary of baseball actions.
UPDATE- I now include Kansas City and New York in the Wild Card Race as both teams have played very well. There will be two wild cards this year, so pay attention.
This is a very interesting MLB season. The National League East Division has four teams within 1 1/2 games of each other with the highly paid, but poorly performing Dodgers buried in last place. This one may go down to the last week of the season. The American League East Division has four teams winning more than half their games. Separation will have to occur when they play each other more.
The race I am focused on is in the AL Central where my beloved Twins play.
In this division, the Kansas City Royals are emerging as a real contender. It has moved ahead of Cleveland for second place and is within the critical five game margin that means one good week for it and a bad week for Detroit and they will be neck and neck. All teams have bad streaks and good streaks, the Royals had its bad streak and the Tigers will have one.
The Royals success pleases me because I saw this team at the end of the 2011 season and predicted great things for 2012. It was not to be. Players such as Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, and Perez lead this team that is for real now, and James Shields will win going forward if the team scores more than 2 runs a game for him.
Gene Mauch, the great manager said, “teams have to learn to play, then to win, then to win when they have to.” Kansas City has learned to play, and is learning to win. We will learn if it can win when it has to sometime after Labor Day. Detroit will be hard to beat with its superb starting pitching, but its relief pitching is suspect. This will be a great race and that is all I ask for in a Major League Season and this one has great races that will keep us engaged until the snow flies.
A Chicago Tribune article today said that the Cubs may leave Chicago and Wrigley Field. This is such nonsense that it needs to be examined. The Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is taking the risk of severing the ties that bind the people of the North Side to the Cubs so that the team remains popular eventhough performance is poor. The Cubs are currently last in the National League Central with a 11-16 record, 5 games out of 1st after one month of the season.
Here’s the link to the Chicago Tribune article. http://my.chicagotribune.com/#story/chi-wrigley-upgrades-20130501/