The Division Series or “Killing The Goose”

I’m sure that just about everyone is familiar with the story of “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs”, but just in case…

….There was this town that came to the magnificent discovery that they were in possession of a goose that every day would lay one marvelous golden egg.  The town leaders, being generous sorts, decided to share the egg by putting it in the town treasury and using it for civic improvement, to provide aid to town people in emergency circumstances, and the like. All the town’s people were happy, and for a while felt they were blessed to have such a special goose.

        As things will happen in the lives of men and beasts, a few in the town began to grumble.  You could hear some say, “Why do we only get one egg a day.  Surely we can figure out a way to get more eggs than that!”  Little by little, the grumbles developed into a great roar; and the town elders decided to hold a meeting to see if anything could be done to increase egg production.  They came to the conclusion that maybe if they fed the goose more, it would increase the production of eggs.  Sadly, all that the goose produced was more fertilizer.  This made the town people even angrier than before.

         Finally, some one got the bright idea, “Why don’t we chop off the gooses head and get all the eggs at once.”  There was such a large mob, the elders could do nothing but consent to the plan.  They brought the goose to  the center of town and in front of all the people cut off the gooses head.  Lo and behold, when they reached in to get the eggs, they found none.  The goose was dead; and there would be no more golden eggs for the town.

This story came to mind as I finished some research I was doing on MLB’s Division Series and the affect it has on the rest of the postseason, particularly the World Series.  The information I discovered pointed to the fact that the more baseball front loaded the postseason to increase revenues, the more  negatively the World Series was impacted.  By trying to get more golden eggs they are slowly killing the best goose they have.

The reason I say this is because the best World Series possible, ones that go the full seven games, have been declining steadily since the beginning of division play.  It appears that baseball, like no other sport, has only a finite amount of quality product they can expect to tap during the postseason.  If I were to hypothesize why this is the case, I would say this fact is due to the increased use of pitchers during extended playoffs. 

The pitcher is unique in baseball as there is a new pitcher in the starting line-up each day.  This is true of no other position in sport’s playoffs.  After a long season, the competitive balance of the event deteriorates as pitchers are required to pitch more innings during the postseason.  A pitcher who might be good for two or three more starts will not hold up as well over six or seven.

Let me give you the information I have found for Division Series, League Championship Series, and World Series.

Divison Series 1995-2009(series outcomes)

  1. 3-0 = 25  (41.7% of series)
  2. 3-1 = 22  (36.7%)
  3. 3-2 = 13  (21.7%)

League Championship Series 1995-2009

  1. 4-0 =  3  (10%)
  2. 4-1 = 10  (33%)
  3. 4-2 =   9   (30%)  
  4. 4-3 =   8   (27%)

World Series 1995-2009

  1. 4-0 =    5  (33%)
  2. 4-1 =     3  (20%)
  3. 4-2 =     4  (27%)
  4. 4-3 =     3  (20%)

7 Game World Series 1947-2009 (Modern Era)

  1. 1947:     ’47
  2. 1950s:   ’52;  ’55;  ’56;  ’57;  ’58
  3. 1960s:   ’60;  ’62;  ’64;  ’65;  ’67;  ’68
  4. 1970s:   ’71;  ’72;  ’73;  ’75;  ’79
  5. 1980s:    ’82;  ’85;  ’86;  ’87
  6. 1990s:     ’91;  ’97
  7. 2000s:    ’01;  ’02

7 Game World Series By Period

  1. No Divisions  1947-1968:    12  (55%)
  2. 5 Game LCS     1969-1985:      7  (41%)
  3. 7 Game LCS     1986-1993:      3  (38%)
  4. 5 Game DS        1995-2009:     3  (20%)

Notice the steady decline in 7 game World Series as playoff games are added to the postseason.  Couldn’t MLB expect more revenues than they get now if they improved the chances of producing closer World Series?  It is also important to point out that the Division Series is not doing the best it could when only 22% of them end up going 5 games.  Since this one extra week of playoffs determines the rest of what happens in the sport, it is safe to say that it is just not worth it. First you lose real pennant races, then you diminish the World Series.   Keep the goose healthy and take the golden eggs as they come.

Reference: http://mlb.com/mlbhistory

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