Since we last examined this topic, the season has progessed to September. So let’s take another look at what is happening in the wild card and pennant race leagues. First, let’s recap some of the factors in this important baseball strength characteristic. These factors include: the number of teams played during the long regular season; the number of divisions; the number of teams that make it to the post-season; and the strength provided by a “pennant race only” focus.
In a league where the purpose is to create the conditions for season long pennant races, a team plays a concentrated number of games against the 7 teams in their division that are rivals for the same pennant. The wild card league with interleague play has teams dissipatring their focus and energies by playing 19-21 teams each season. They don’t even play a majority of their games against rivals for the same pennant.
A season’s energy is further spread out when 8 teams rather than 4 make it to the post-season. By having three divisions rather than 2 per league and adding a wild card, attention is weakened by the constant switching of focus betrween division and wild card competition. The wild card is most destructive during the all-important month of September when the best teams are assured playoff positions and focus is transferred to the weaker wild card teams. Wild Card League fans are also deprived of the strong energy that a winner take all climax adds to the season.
Let’s take a look at who is still in contention in the wild card and pennant race leagues. Remember, being 7 games or less back of 1st Place keeps a team in contention.
Wild Card League:
East: NY (—); TB (2.5)// Central: MIN (—); CHI (6)// West: TEX (—); OAK (7)
East: PHI (—); ATL (1)// Central: CIN (—); STL (5)// West: SD (—); SF (2); COL (4)
Wild Card Competition:
TB (–); BOS (6.5)
ATL (—); SF (.5); COL (3.5); STL (5.5)
There are a total of 13 teams competiting for 8 playoff positions. 62 % go on; only 38 % go home.
Pennant Race League:
East: TB (—); NY (4)// West: MIN (—); OAK (5.5); TEX (7)
East: PHI (—); ATL (1); CIN (1.5); FLA (4.5); HOU (6)// West: SD (—); COL (3.5); SF (3.5); LA (7)
There are 14 teams competiting for 4 playoff bids. 29 % go on. 72 % go home.
Wild Card proponents like to say that there league is better because more teams are in contention longer into the season. This analysis does not seem to stand up to the facts, as the pennant race league has MORE teams still in contention than the wild card league.
The evidence shows that all wild card and three divisions does is add 4 teams to the post-season and one week of playoffs. As has been shown these additions seriously detract from pennant races and the World Series, baseball’s two strongest features. A clear example of “more” actually being “less”.