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MLB Postseason Notes: Let’s Whine About The Format And Give Austin Riley His Due

Beef with the new playoff format, Austin Riley finally deserved some of the spotlight, and Bob Costas’s hair looks so natural at 71!

SAY HEY, WILLIE MAYS Premiere in NYC Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO

There’s been a lot of talk this week about the new playoff format and the top teams in the league getting too much rest after the end of the season. In the old format last used in 2021, the one-game Wild Cards were played on Tuesday (AL) and Wednesday (NL), with the ALDS on Thursday, and the NLDS starting on Friday. The days of these games alternated leagues by season but the premise remained the same. The extra playoff team that’s been added in each league and three-game series pushed everything back by one day to start on Saturday.

This stuff happens and teams have to deal with it throughout the entire playoffs. In 2006, the Detroit Tigers swept the Oakland A’s in the ALCS which ended on October 14th while the NLCS went a full seven games and ended on the 19th with Carlos Beltran’s bat on his shoulder. With the World Series starting on the 21st, the Tigers had to wait a week to play again and got waxed by the St. Louis Cardinals. Play a scrimmage or exhibition game in those five days off to stay fresh if you must.

Instead, the issues that I see with the current format are as follows:

  • All we heard when the leagues expanded from four to five teams in 2012 was how important it was to win your division. Don’t want to play in the one-game playoff? Win your division. Well, now the third seed is back in the first round and has to play a 3-game series which makes the concept of “win your division” far less impactful. I loved the idea that Travis Sawchik at The Score re-circulated yesterday. From his initial article in 2021, “In the KBO, the wild-card team with the better regular-season record hosts and must win only once to advance, while the wild-card team with the lesser record must win both games to advance.” That seems like the perfect format and level of advantage for the three seed.

Of course, we’ll never see playoff games taken away after the recent bargaining agreement with ESPN paying for exclusive rights to the Wild Card round but there has to be a better way to repurpose those games.

  • Why aren’t we re-seeding? The location of the games is already determined with home field advantage given to top two seeds. The winners of the wild card round already have their bags packed. The (1) Braves should be playing the (6) Diamondbacks and the (2) Dodgers should be playing the (4) Phillies. If the Braves and Phillies are in fact the best two teams in the National League, they should be playing seven games against each other next round.
  • Removing the concept of Game 163, at least for the final playoff spot, is a travesty. No team should miss out on a playoff spot because of a head-to-head tiebreaker. Give that game to ESPN in return for the Wild Card game that we’re taking away from them, so that Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez can interview more players while the game is going on about how their parents passed away.

Other disjointed thoughts from the Division Series...

  • These playoffs badly needed Monday night’s Phillies vs. Braves ending (and Brian Anderson’s voice cracking) in what has been a fairly dull playoffs so far in terms of memorable moments. Austin Riley had one of the quietest 5.9 bWAR seasons of all-time with his 37 HRs, 97 RBIs, 117 runs scored, and .281 batting average getting buried behind Ronald Acuna’s MVP season (8.1 bWAR) and Matt Olson’s franchise record of 54 home runs (7.4 bWAR). Between Riley’s season-saving, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, as well as a fantastic back-up of a relay throw after Michael Harris’s spectacular catch in center field to double-off Bryce Harper and end the game, he should get his due going forward.
  • If Royce Lewis can stay on the field for the duration of the playoffs, the Twins can beat anybody in the American League. Using Lewis’s 239 plate appearances as a minimum, only five players in the American League had a higher wRC+ than he did. Counting the playoffs, Lewis has hit 18 home runs with 56 RBI in only 62 games this season. That’s preposterous. With two torn ACLs in his past and oblique and hamstring injuries down the stretch this season, the Twins have to hope that he can stay healthy and not skew closer to his teammate Byron Buxton’s career.
  • Be prepared to deal with the BBWAA Police when criticizing Clayton Kershaw’s 4.49 ERA in the postseason. There’s an excuse for all his poor performances, he’s actually been excellent. Please, there’s nothing to see here.
  • When will Mookie Betts get the same criticisms? Credit at least to OTM’s Jake Wallinger, who I believe wants to have a dialogue (and has had one after every Betts at-bat this week).

Over 57 postseason games, Betts is now hitting .256 with a .722 OPS, 4 HR and 18 RBI. He’s 3-for-his-last-34 in the playoffs. During his 2018 MVP and World Series championship season with the Red Sox, Betts hit .210 with 1 HR and 4 RBI in 14 games.

  • I can’t get enough of the Marbles Dance from Major League 2 that the Phillies players are exchanging with the dugout after a clutch hit. That probably shows my maturity level, as I still enter houses in my late-30’s by exchanging a Degeneration-X crotch chop.
  • Speaking of 90’s WWF, Brusdar Graterol could probably choose a better intro song than The Undertaker’s Theme to run into. And it’s not even the upbeat biker version of The Undertaker; he’s using the Dead Man version. Hansel Robles did the same thing at Fenway in 2021, making it feel like we were attending a funeral. One of these years, someone will have the guts to run in to Shawn Michaels’ “Sexy Boy” theme song.
  • Great to see Bob Costas calling games at the age of 71, with a full head of jet-black hair. Perhaps Marv Albert handed him down his wig on the set of the NBA on NBC in the late 90’s? “YES!!!”
  • Finally, my favorite tweet of the past week, in regards to the AL East being 0 and 6 in the postseason: