Why adding a 2nd Wildcard Team isn’t the Worst Idea Ever

by JohnBowen

Last week, Bud Selig strongly suggested that playoffs would be expanded to include wild-card round. The way the new system would work is pretty simple:

-          The two best teams in each league who didn’t win their division would be the wildcards and square off in a best-of-three series.

-          The best division winner would play the winner of the wild-card series in the division series. This may or may not be the case if the winner of the wild-card round is in the same division as the top team; since 1995, it has been a rule that two teams from the same division can’t play each other in the division series.

-          The other two division winners would play each other, and the playoffs would proceed as normal.

My gut reaction was a casual indifference, but I think I’m coming around to liking the idea. Here are a few reasons why a 5th playoff team in each league would be good for baseball:

It wouldn’t really reduce the quality of the playoffs much at all.

This spreadsheet shows all 26 of the hypothetical 2nd wildcard teams since 1998 (when the current, 30 team format began). On average, the worst team that has made the playoffs has gotten in with a win total of 90.3. The fifth playoff teams, if they had been making it, have won an average of 89.3 games. In other words, the average difference between the worst team that makes the playoffs, and the 5th playoff teams since 1998 is about the same as one Jorge Cantu. I mean, really look at those teams. How many of them really have no business being there? The 2001 Twins, perhaps. The 2006 Phillies… except they actually won more games than the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals! At any rate, you certainly won’t get a scenario like the one the NFL had this year, with a team that had a losing record making the playoffs (and actually advancing to the second round).

It would get rid of a lot of dull games down the stretch.

Home-field advantage is nice, but how much of a motivator is it, really? Since 1998, teams with home-field advantage are 49-42 in playoff series, for a .538 winning percentage. A small edge, although it’s somewhat diminished by the fact that, before the World Series, the team with home-field advantage is probably the stronger team, hence why they have home-field advantage in the first place.

Let’s say it’s 2006, and you’re Jim Leyland. You’d like to get into the playoffs as a divisional winner, but you’re not going to start Justin Verlander on 3-days rest to lock up an extra game per series at Comerica, are you? But wait! If you don’t hold off the Twinkies, you’ve got an extra obstacle in the way of getting to the World Series: a 3-game series against Ozzie Guillen’s crew. Another series just means another opportunity to fail. If your chances of winning the World Series were about 1 in 8 before, they’re now 1 in 16. Also, Ozzie Guillen is a crazy person and might shock you to death during a profanity-laced verbal tirade.

One extra playoff team will mean that at least a couple extra fan-bases will maintain interest deep into the season.

Let’s look at the 2001 season. The four playoff teams were basically set by September 1, with the closest race being the 6.5 game difference between the Indians and Twins in the AL Central. Great. So with a month to play, no races were going to be interesting in the American League. Add a fifth wildcard team, and all of a sudden, you’ve got four extra teams within three games of that fifth spot. Four more teams means four extra fan-bases  energized for an exciting wildcard hunt.

It would still be the most exclusive playoff system in sports.

The NBA admits more than half of their teams to the playoffs. This season, 8th seeded Indianapolis finished 37-45. Hockey also admits 16 of 30 teams. Football admits 12 of 32 teams to the playoffs, which is a slightly higher percentage than the hypothetical 10 of 30 that baseball is proposing. And I literally have no idea what FIFA does for soccer, but I’m pretty sure it involves something like 60 countries, some head-butting, and a weird off-sides rule than no one can ever actually explain to me.

It would be an excellent excuse to schedule double-headers.

At least, I hope. I don’t like that the playoffs go into November any more than anyone else. I don’t think the players really want to do this either, even if they are interested in expanding the playoffs. Simple solution? Put double-headers into the schedule. Maybe baseball will lose some revenue there, but not nearly as much as they’ll gain by the addition of extra playoff races and an extra playoff round. Let’s play two!

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80 Responses to “Why adding a 2nd Wildcard Team isn’t the Worst Idea Ever”

  1. Guy Says:

    It should have been done along time ago! I still think dropping the season games to 150 would work and give the playoffs the needed time. Doubleheaders is an interesting scenerio and could be fun but don’t think the owners would go for it.
    The only negative that could happen is 3 teams making it from the same division (which would probably come from the American league) Yanks, Sox, Rays.

  2. Jim Says:

    You’re right, its not as bad as my decision to marry my first wife. But baseball doesn’t need an additional playoff team.

  3. Raul Says:

    Soccer has multiple leagues going on at once. So in the Premier League, you have teams battling for the top spot.

    The bottom 3 teams in the division at the end of the season are relegated (demoted) to the league below it. In England’s case, the League Championship, followed by League 1 and League 2.

    In the league below, let’s say the League Championship, the Top 2 teams are promoted to the Premier League, with the next 4 teams engaging in a playoff to determine the 3rd promoted team.

    Now when you’re in the Premier League and you finish atop the standings, there’s no “promotion”. What happens is you get invited to the Champions League, which is a collection of the best teams across several of Europe’s top leagues (La Liga in Spain, the French Ligue, the German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A…).

    Some teams (the 3rd place team in the Premier League, I believe) get into a sort of..”Champions League” qualifier. And the 4th team gets invited to the Europa League, which is a sort of lesser Champions League.

    So there are multiple things going on at once in soccer.
    That’s why you have teams like Manchester United and Liverpool playing in the Premier League, Carling Cup, Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup all at the same time.

    And then you have individual players participating in FIFA qualifiers for their national teams.

    That’s why you see Lionel Messi playing for Barcelona in La Liga, the Champions League, and then you see him in New Jersey playing Team USA as part of the Argentinian National Team in a Friendly.

  4. Cameron Says:

    “Also, Ozzie Guillen is a crazy person and might shock you to death during a profanity-laced verbal tirade.”

    Highlight of the article, right there.

  5. Raul Says:

    I love Ozzie Guillen.
    He’s the greatest thing to happen in sports since Casey Stengel.

  6. brautigan Says:

    John: Thanks for the article.

    However, I know I have noted previously what my preference is, and I think less teams in the playoffs, the better.

    I recall the 1963, 1964 NL pennant races listening to my grandmother’s radio in the mountains of Ukiah, Oregon. Hard to replace that. Then there was the 1967 AL pennant race. Good times my friend.

    Now, there are so many teams, so many divisions, that I cannot keep track of them and it’s almost like the GB category is meaningless. The GB was the most important stat while opening up the sports page. I used to check that out to see how many GB’s the Cardinals were up by, or down by, given the situation. Now, it’s like who really cares what the GB is.

    LOL, or am I over simplifying the situation?

  7. brautigan Says:

    I like Ozzie too. He’s like Billy Martin with 20 beers in him, only Ozzie is beerless.

  8. Raul Says:

    Why do I imagine Brautigan as like, an older, mellow version of MacGyver?

    I’m pretty sure if there’s a guy around this country that actually built his house with his bare hands, treks into the forest daily for fresh water and goes fishing with nothing but knife and hat — it’s Brautigan.

  9. brautigan Says:

    LOL @ Raul. Let me dispel that image quickly.

    It’s 1979 and opening eve of deer hunting. My friend Marc and I get drunker than 10,000 Umatilla Indians and we decide it would be a good idea to stay up (since it was already late, late in the evening) and instead of going to bed, we’ll just go get bambi and put him down and call it a day. So we get a friend to drive us up into the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon and I walk out on these points and decide this was a good place to watch for deer when the sun comes up. My friend Marc, stays in the pickup and drools all over himself and I go out on point. The next thing I know, I’m laying down on this rock with my Winchester model .70 pre-64 featherweight 30.6 laying across my chest and the sun is beating down on my face. I hear rocks rolling and sit up in time to see a herd of cow elk walking about 10 feet from me. No sign of mule deer anywhere, for all I know they came by, licked my face and moved on. I felt like crap.

    The next day, we go back up and we’re hunting off of the reservation (you cannot hunt on the reservation unless you have a special tag). I look down and sure enough, I see a big 4 point buck and BLAM, nail him. Well, the problem is, he’s at the bottom of this huge canyon and because you would have to drive onto the reservation to remove the deer, I had to gut the damn thing, slit it’s tendons on the back legs, cut it’s head off, and run the front legs through the back legs and lift that dead sucker up onto my back like a backpack (the reason I cut the head off is I didn’t want some idiot hunter to see a deer walking up a hill weirdly with it’s head bouncing up and down and for me to take a bullet in the back). So, here I am, packing this dead deer up the hill, the blood flowing down the back of my shirt into the back of my pants and I’m still a bit hung over, I’m thirsty as hell and by the time I hike that god damn dead thing a mile straight up this canyon, I am ready to die. I get it to the car, throw the deer down and puke a mile of vile bile.

    I have never gone deer hunting since. Yup, I’m no McGuyver. I’m not even Ted Nuggent. (well, I still kill pheasants with regularity, I’m a pretty good shot with my Model 90 shotgun.)

  10. Raul Says:

    That’s an awesome story.

    Sorry, I was thinking “one shot, one kill” while reading that. Damn you, Christopher Walken.

  11. Cameron Says:

    Ted Nugent can kill pheasants with the power of his sheer madness. …Or rock.

  12. Raul Says:

    Hey what’s the count on DUI this year?

    Miguel Cabrera
    Derek Lowe
    Austin Kearns
    Coco Crisp

    Who am I missing?

  13. Cameron Says:

    I know he wasn’t driving, but I’m pretty sure Roger McDowell may have had some booze in him.

  14. John Says:

    Those were sone fantastic pennant races, Brautigan. But how many times had the pennant winner just run away with the thing, effectively ending the season in August?

  15. Cameron Says:

    I’m a bit too young to remember those races, but 1993, man, that was awesome.

  16. Raul Says:

    Brandon Phillips is good, but he should not be your clean-up hitter. What’s up Cincy?

  17. Cameron Says:

    Brandon Phillips is actually one of the better hitters on that team, but Votto/Bruce is that cleanup spot. One of them has to be hurt or on a skid.

  18. Raul Says:

    and Bautista just keeps on homerin’

  19. Cameron Says:

    I tell you, Jose’s new swing can generate a lot of power when he gets wood on it, but that lack of swing speed won’t do his batting average any favors.

  20. JohnBowen Says:

    Through 22+ games this year, Jose Bautista is leading the league in the rate stat triple crown, .360/.529/.760 (going into today’s game).

    He has a .373 BAbip. That’s 140 points higher than last year. So he’ll MOST LIKELY regress just a tad.

    Just as soon as Adrian Gonzalez stops making me look like a liar.

  21. JohnBowen Says:

    Yuniesky Betancourt just cranked his first homerun of the season.

  22. Cameron Says:

    Watching the kid, I still find it hard to believe Nathan Adcock jumped from High-A ball in the Pirates system to locking down a Major League job in KC. That’s just amazing.

  23. JohnBowen Says:

    As my dad loves to say…

    Carlos Gomez just tied the all-time Major League record for putouts in a single inning.

  24. JohnBowen Says:


    Carlos Gomez just drew a walk.

    I still say batting him second is stupid.

  25. JohnBowen Says:

    Betancourt has both a HR and a walk today.

    Holy crap.

  26. Raul Says:

    What’s the definition of a quality start? 6 innings and 3 runs?

    Freddy Garcia went 5 innings and 3 runs…..but with 7 hits allowed and 5 walks.
    Even if he’d gone another inning, that wouldn’t be quality.

  27. Raul Says:

    So the Minor Leagues tests for HGH but the Major Leagues don’t?

    So it’s conceivable that Jose Bautista is on HGH?

  28. Raul Says:

    Yeah I think it’s time I bench Carlos Santana…for a long time.

  29. Raul Says:

    And Mike Pelfrey will end the month of April with a 7.39 ERA.

    It can only get better from here, or can it?

  30. Raul Says:

    Mike Cameron hit 2 home runs today which brings his season total to 2. He has 25 at-bats.

    Adrian Gonzalez’s season total remains at 1.

  31. Raul Says:

    I love how the Florida Marlins score 7 runs, and Mike Stanton isn’t a part of any of it.

    Someone really, really fucking hates me.
    Maybe it’s Cam Newton.

  32. Raul Says:

    Motherfucker. Another homer from Ryan Braun?
    Did he sell his soul to the Devil or suck his dick?

  33. JohnBowen Says:

    “What’s the definition of a quality start? 6 innings and 3 runs?”

    Yeah. Probably a lot closer to quality 10 years ago.

    Brett Wallace just took a collision from Prince Fielder at first on an errant throw. He held on. Kudos.

  34. Raul Says:

    After a couple of hitless games, Alex Gordon is back today with a double and a triple.

    Unfortunately for the Royals, nobody was able to drive him in either time.

  35. JohnBowen Says:

    “Adrian Gonzalez’s season total remains at 1.”

    He’s on pace for 70 doubles. His line is .306/.370/.459. That’s what he does when he’s slumping by his standards.

  36. Raul Says:

    The Rockies are really going to fuck me out of this fantasy week because they can’t score 3 runs off Kevin Correia.

  37. JohnBowen Says:

    Spectacular catch by Michael Bourn on that hill out in CF in Houston, to rob Corey Hart of at least a triple.

    Which, personally, I think is a cool touch.

  38. JohnBowen Says:

    Betancourt walks AGAIN.

    How is this guy?

    He had three walks ALL YEAR going into today.

  39. Raul Says:

    The Giants lost today with Tim Lincecum on the mound because Jason Marquis threw a complete game shut out.

    If I were a Giants player, I’d drive home with a bag over my head.

  40. JohnBowen Says:

    Good news, Raul, is that Evan Longoria should be coming back very soon.

  41. Raul Says:

    You know what’s not good news?

    Me having Cory Hart on my team and that fuckface Michael Bourn making a good catch.

  42. JohnBowen Says:

    Well, I had David Price going today. So that sucks

    But Marcum is pitching beautifully.

    All in all, 10 K’s and probably a win out of today.

    IP should really be a fantasy stat.

  43. JohnBowen Says:

    @40, he had a strikeout where he didn’t look too good…chased a ball low and about a foot outside. But man, he got all of that ball. It’s probably out of every park except Houston and Petco.

    Brewers took Marcum out after 97 pitches. Come on…

  44. JohnBowen Says:

    Up 5-0, with your starter at 97 pitches, do you really bring in your LOOGY to get Michael Bourn out…and then, on cue, bring in another reliever?

    Ron Roenicke is confusing me. He’s also batting one of the worst hitters in baseball 2nd.

  45. Raul Says:

    Up 5-0, with your starter at 97 pitches, do you really bring in your LOOGY to get Michael Bourn out…and then, on cue, bring in another reliever?

    That’s the dumbest fucking decision I’ve heard of in a while.

  46. JohnBowen Says:

    That’s the fifth shutout for the Brewers this year.

    They had 7 all of last year.

  47. Cameron Says:

    Fun Fact: Sam Fuld likes sabermetrics and is a stathead. Probably helps him keep track of his own performance.

  48. Chuck Says:

    Check out this bomb from Justin Upton


  49. JohnBowen Says:

    Huh, so Matt Williams is the 3B coach, huh? Cool.

    Good day for my fantasy team in that game. Soriano and Soto both went yard.

  50. Chuck Says:

    Soriano twice.

  51. JohnBowen Says:

    Sick. Party like it’s 2006.

  52. Raul Says:

    I’m thinking I want to get in a time machine and have a threesome with Pat Benatar and Blondie.

  53. Cameron Says:

    I was going to agree to that, Raul, but after a close inspection… Debbie Harry looks way too close to my mom to ever consider her hot again.

    Thank you Raul, you have shut down that wing of my spank bank.

  54. JohnBowen Says:

    Cameron just said spank bank on Dugout Central.


  55. Cameron Says:

    Would you ever expect anything less of me? I’m sophisticated as fuck, y’all.

  56. Bob Says:

    Brautigan, your hunting story was awesome. And venison is delicious. Never had pheasant.

  57. Bob Says:

    Alex White, the Indians first round pick in 2009 will make his mlb debut today.

  58. Chuck Says:

    And Alex Cobb debuts for the Rays on Sunday.

  59. Raul Says:

    Indians have the best record in the American League.

  60. Chuck Says:

    Minnesota has the worst.

    By season’s end, you can almost bank on them being reversed.

  61. Raul Says:

    A month into the season, the Dan Uggla/Omar Infante trade has been of benefit to no one.

    Uggla is hitting .189/.246/.377.
    Infante is hitting .224/.271/.296.

    Uggla has 10 runs scored with 9 RBI.
    Infante has 7 runs scored with 9 RBI.

    I suppose the only difference is Uggla has struck out 21 times while Infante has whiffed 9.

    I still say the Marlins could have gotten a lot more when they traded Dan Uggla, but he’s making over 9 million this season and Infante makes 2.5.

  62. brautigan Says:

    I’m not a big fan of pheasant. I like to hunt them, I don’t like to eat them. Fortunately, I know a lot of people that do, so it’s not a problem finding a home for dead pheasants. They are a little too gamey for me and the inevitable bb pellet can loosen a tooth quickly.

  63. brautigan Says:

    Yeah, I used to talk pheasant hunting with Dusty Baker and Trevor Wilson. I was trying to get them to come up to Eastern Oregon for a hunting expedition but it never materialized. I used to see Trevor regularly in Oregon City, and he used to hunt pheasant with Dusty up in the valleys north of the bay area. Those birds are tiny compared to the football sized pheasants of Eastern Oregon.

  64. Cameron Says:

    Eh, pheasant is a little stringy to me. Never liked the texture.

  65. Cameron Says:

    The Houston Area has a TV station with the call letters KILT. …That’s just awesome.

  66. Raul Says:

    AJ Burnett finished April with what was probably his worst start of the year, but not terrible — at least, statistically. I have no idea if the hits were line drives or simple bloops.

    6 innings, 9 hits, 4 ER.
    He was at just 82 pitches so I’m assuming they took him out because he just didn’t look like he had his stuff today.

    Burnett ends April with 3.93 ERA and 4-1 record.

  67. Chuck Says:

    According to PitchFX, which is about as reliable as the Census, AJ Burnett has the best curveball in MLB.

    Problem is, you really can’t control a curve from a 3/4 arm slot.

    Using Braut’s hunting analogy, it’d be like trying to shoot a deer from 300 yards with a shotgun.

    Burnett’s not as good as his 18 win season in 2008, and he’s not as bad as last year.

    Take away those two seasons, Burnett’s career record is 85-76 over eleven seasons.

    He’s never been an All Star.

    He’s led the AL in starts once, walks once, strikeouts once, hit batters once, wild pitches once, and led the NL in wild pitches once, fewest hits per nine once, and shutouts once.

    And this is a guy you commit sixteen million a year to?

    AJ Burnett is widely considered to have some of the best stuff in the game, yet after twelve seasons his W/L % is less than the cumulative % of the teams he has played for.

    Some people will look at him as an overachiever, some as an underachiever.

    Both sides are correct.

    But anyone who criticizes Burnett are wrong.

    It’s not his fault he got the contract he did.

    You want proof pitching in MLB is the worst its ever been?

    Don’t look at Bartolo Colon or Matt Anderson.

    Look at AJ Burnett and Jamie Moyer.

  68. Jim Says:

    Through 6 on Saturday night the RS are 0-10 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 9. John Lackey’s line for the night 6.0 Ip, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 4K, 3BB, not bad and he’s set for the loss.

    The RS BA/RSP is 0.210-ish for the season.

  69. Chuck Says:

    John Lackey is AJ Burnett.

    He got famous for winning a World Series clinching game.

    Nine years ago.

    Since then, he’s dogshit.

    John Lackey voluntarily going to Boston is like a civilian engineer voluntarily going to Japan to clean up nuclear waste.

    The pay is good, but there’s no way to avoid a disaster.

    Given the choice, I’d take Burnett over Lackey.

  70. Chuck Says:

    Pablo Sandoval out six weeks with surgery to repair a broken hand, Mark DeRosa out at least two weeks with a strained Achilles.

    Giants are fucked.

    They’re big time overrated as a team, the next six weeks will prove it.

  71. Cameron Says:

    Kansas City scored 11 runs in their last game. Only 8 were credited as RBI to KC’s hitters and only 4 were credited as earned runs to Twins’ pitchers.

  72. Chuck Says:

    Is a question somewhere in that statement?

  73. Cameron Says:

    No, just one incredibly screwy box score.

  74. Chuck Says:

    Yeah, that’s true.

    I heard before ST that Cuddyer was the backup at second, still, that kinda shows a lack of depth.

    Did you see Gordon’s homer”

    He KNEW that pitch was coming.

    3-1 count, I’m looking for something off-speed and away, certainly nothing I can drive.

    Obviously, I don’t know the previous four pitches or the sequence, but a confident hitter is looking for dead red and in his boner zone.

    Watch his follow through.

    Dead giveaway for Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday.

  75. Cameron Says:

    I thought the backup would’ve been Alexi Casilla and then… Brendan Harris? Why is Cuddyer in that mix at all?

  76. Chuck Says:

    Brendan Harris is an Oriole.

    The Twins signed some Japanese dude who Nick Swisher introduced to MLB and is now on the DL.

    Casilla is the starting SS.

    Nick Punto is in St. Louis.

    After Cuddyer, the backup middle infielder in Minny is Ron Gardenhire.

  77. Cameron Says:

    Wow, they used to have MI up the ass. What the hell happened?

  78. John Says:

    “Burnett’s not as good as his 18 win season in 2008, and he’s not as bad as last year.”

    I would say Burnett’s 18-win season was a pretty typical AJ Burnett season where he received great run support.

    “You want proof pitching in MLB is the worst its ever been?”

    Nah, the fact that the number of teams has doubled pretty much does that for me.

    “John Lackey is AJ Burnett.”

    Lackey is 4-years younger. So while he’s very overpaid, his contract is way more justifiable.

    “He got famous for winning a World Series clinching game.
    Nine years ago.
    Since then, he’s dogshit.”

    Since then, he’s put up five consecutive seasons with an ERA under 4, including winning an ERA title in 2007. Last year, he was essentially a league average pitcher. Not what I would call dogshit.

    “Pablo Sandoval out six weeks with surgery to repair a broken hand, Mark DeRosa out at least two weeks with a strained Achilles.
    Giants are fucked.
    They’re big time overrated as a team, the next six weeks will prove it.”

    How do injuries to Sandoval and Mark DeRosa necessarily fuck them?

    Sandoval sucked big time last year and DeRosa played all of 26 games last year (and sucked). They were so fucked, that they won the World Series.

    I think they’re both overrated and also going to win the division. The NL West sucks.

  79. Raul Says:

    AJ Burnett and Josh Beckett have virtually the exact same career.

    And Pablo Sandoval hurts the Giants because he was the only player who was actually hitting.

    Mark DeRosa is a quality player off the bench.

    The Giants are 13-13 and if over the next 6 weeks they fall behind (they’re already 4.5 games back) their season will be over.

  80. JohnBowen Says:

    “AJ Burnett and Josh Beckett have virtually the exact same career.”

    Essentially the same career numbers. I would say Beckett’s best seasons are better than Burnett’s but Beckett has had more crappy years too.

    How far do the Giants have to fall behind for the season to be over? Arizona and San Diego aren’t going to stay competitive. LA is .500 too. Colorado has played an obscenely easy schedule. They’re not gonna play .667 ball all year.

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