The 2012 MLB Playoffs New Format And Its Great Advantage

By Dr. Jeff A. Glenn / @jagadelic

A bit of controversy has erupted during the Divisional Series of the 2012 MLB playoffs. This year, the teams with the better records played on the road for the first two games and will be home for Games Three, Four and Five. Previously, the format had been 2-2-1; games 1-2 and 5 were at home for the team with the better record. This was done to gain a travel day because the wild card games had extended the season slightly.

I know this is hard to believe, but many people in Cincinnati, led by usually level-headed State Senator Eric H. Kearney, are actually upset that the Reds started the playoffs in San Francisco. With two wins in the bag, a sweep will mean that Cincy only got one home game. (By the time you read this, you'll know if the Reds swept or not, which they did not; Game Four is later today). Yes, it's odd that San Fran would end up with more home games, but consider it a happy accident. The object is to advance, not accumulate home games. There are plenty of home games available in the next two rounds.

Fans in Oakland are also crying foul. They had to start the series in Detroit and lost both games. Their beef is that it would have been a different story if the first two games were in Oakland, as they should have been.

Well, if we look at this logically, it's obvious that the 2-3 format is a huge advantage for the higher seeded team. The lower seeded team cannot win the series in its home park. A guarantee that all elimination games will be played at your house is tremendous. Let's say the Reds had gone to San Francisco and split the first two. We would be flying to San Fran for two games with the pressure of having to win one or the series is over.

Under the present format, if the first two games are split (like the Wash-Stl and Bal-NYY series are), all the higher seed has to do is win two out of three at home. You can't ask for more than that. Even if you look at Oakland's situation, it's not as bad as it would be under the old format. Yes, the A's spit the bit in Detroit. But now they have three back in the Bay. If they can sweep, they advance. Detroit has no home games left to close them out.

Is it impossible? Obviously not - the A's just did the same thing to the Rangers last week. A's fans, ask yourself this question. Would you rather have lost the first two in Oakland and be flying out to Detroit for two right now? I'll bet any manager or GM who was told he could pick his three home games in a best of five would say "give me three, four and five. If we win one away game, we're in the catbird's seat."

I also like the 2-3 format because it's quicker. One travel day in the middle of the series instead of two. It's how baseball is supposed to be played. Managers are also forced to use a four-man rotation instead of using the extra day off to cheat the system.

To those who are still not convinced, don't worry. This was a one -year aberration. The 2-2-1 format will be back next season. So for this year, just suck it up and live with it. People who whine about the format don't deserve to have a championship team anyway. Root for your team to win and move on!

11 Replies to “The 2012 MLB Playoffs New Format And Its Great Advantage”

  1. I gotta disagree with you here, my man. I think in a five-game series the first two games are incredibly important. Yes, it's always good to have three straight games at home, but think of it this way too: The home team wins both at home, then only needs to find a way to win 1 out of 3 road games. It's a big advantage taking a lead in a short series, so the team that earned the better record should get that advantage, in my opinion.

  2. Point taken. Starting the series on the road is not optimal. When there's no perfect solution, you're left with looking for the best one.

    The example you give has the lower seed winning their two home games. I concede that in a best of five, the team that starts down 0-2 has little hope in any format (Now that I've written this, my Reds will blow it). You are assuming that the higher seed would have won a game or two had they been the home team. I'm not assuming that. If they start at home and lose the first two, they're really in the trick bag.

    There's three possibilities; each one favors having 3,4,5 at home.

    #1 - I'm down 0-2. It's bad, but I can regroup and go home for three. Don't have to come back.

    #2 - It's a 1-1 tie. (most common occurrence) This is cool. I just have to win a 3 game set at home. (In the 2-2-1 format, I could lose the next two on the road and the series is over).

    #3 - I'm up 2-0 - Beautiful. I only need one win with three home games remaining.

    Rev - At least give me this much. In 2000, Oakland fans complained about the 2-2-1 format because the team had to fly to New York twice in one week (they lost game 5). Now they're complaining about the 2-3. You can't have it both ways.

    I respect your point and you are clearly with the majority. I'm just saying that if I had a choice, I would take the last three games at home and tell my team to get me a road win. A championship team ought to be able to come home with a split.

  3. I kind of agree with Jag on this one. In a 5 game series, travel with a 2-2-1 series can be cumbersome. Now if your record says you are better, then prove it by winning one on the road.

    I do see Rev's point though. If you get two big wins at home early and snatch momentum, then a lot of times you can suck the life out of your opponent.

    If you are the SF Giants and you are playing the Mets in the first round, then you have to fly across the country twice ... Seems like a lot.

    Interesting read.

  4. I understand the points both JAG & Joe make here, but I just don't agree with it. You win your division or have the better record, you get homefield to start and more home games. That's how it is. Yeah, travel is a bitch, but travel is always a bitch, whether it's a five-game series or a seven-game series.

    It's cool for the one-year anomaly, but I'm definitely a proponent of 2-2-1, 2-2-1-1-1 in the playoffs, no matter the sport (for sports that have series).

  5. Aha - Now Rev is onto a new topic. The NBA 2-3-2 format. This was a necessity due to the international media that comes to cover the games. It simply got too burdensome for all these media outlets and camera crews to schlep back and forth four times. The 2-3-2 format has a maximum of two moves.

    Rev - I hope you're joking about a 2-2-1-1-1- format for baseball. Four travel days in a seven game series???? You want to watch game 7 of the World Series on Thanksgiving? Baseball has a certain rhythm to it. You're supposed to play a series of 2, 3 or 4 games without a break. A manager could use a two man rotation with the format you proposed!

      1. Rev, either your pulling my chain or you've completely gone off the rails. Flying cross country on the red eye and playing a baseball game later that evening is so absurd that I'm going to stop considering it - right - now.

  6. Joe - You're absolutely right about the travel. In 2001. Oakland fans complained about the 2-2-1 because their team had to fly to New York twice in one week. Now they're complaining about the 2-3 format because they lost the first two on the road. Make up your minds!

    Would they be complaining about the format if they had won one of the road games? No way.

  7. Rev - The cost of all this travel would be prohibitive. Let's say the Dodgers are playing the Yankees and the Yankees have home field advantage. The Dodgers would have to:

    1- Fly to NY for games 1,2
    2 - Fly back home for games 3,4
    3 - Fly to NY for game 5
    4 - Fly to LA for game 6
    5 - Fly to NY for game 7

    That's five cross country trips to play a 7 game series. Preposterous. Why do you think the NBA stopped doing it in '85? The Boston - LA championships were a logistical nightmare in the old format.

    It's expensive, time consuming (11 days would be needed to play this) and bad for the environment.

  8. "We'll beat them here. We'll beat them there. We'll beat them in Africa." - Michael Beasley at Kansas State talking about Kansas

    I agree with JAG here, and that's a rarity in itself. If a team is better than another, then it doesn't matter where they play. I have no issue with the format baseball is using this opening round. Steal a game on the road, then go home and close it out. Hell, you have three straight chances to do so! Get it done, dammit.

  9. If Kenny agrees with me, I need to re-evaluate my whole argument!

    Let's take it from the other side. If you're the lower seeded team, would you choose to be home for games 1,2 or 3,4?

    Most people would choose 3,4. That way, if you can get a 1-1 split, you can come home with a chance to win two and advance. If you choose the first two at home, you must play the clincher in the other teams yard.

    Therefore, if the lower seed prefers 2-2-1 to 2-3, it stands to reason that the 2-3 must be more advantageous to the higher seed.

    But Kenny's right. Win a road game and the format doesn't matter much either way.

    Ed - forgive me for doing so much venting. It's obvious that I'm trying to avoid thinking about my Reds losing a very winnable game last night. Might come back to haunt us.

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