Monday, April 25, 2005

2005 MLB Playoffs - NFL Style

The NFL is deemed by most to be the most popular team sport in the United States. Whether you measure it by Super Bowl TV ratings, TV dollars, national interest - it seems to come out on top. One of the reasons for this is supposedly the fact that the NFL has a salary cap, and thus more parity, which in turn holds more fan interest during the regular season.

While I think it is likely true that the salary cap does at least partly help promote a more even playing field in the NFL, I personally don't believe that the credit can all be given to that. (We won't go into the fact that, despite so-called parity, the NFL Champion has been the same team 3 of the past 4 years.) No, I think that the 16 game season, combined with 12 teams making the post-season, allows teams to go on hot streaks just long enough to make the playoffs. Why am I writing about this today? It just so happens that every team in MLB has now played 16 or more games, allowing us to look at who would make the playoffs under this kind of a system.

AL East - Red Sox, 10-6
AL Central - White Sox, 12-4
AL West - Angels, 9-7

Wild Card - Twins, 10-6
Wild Card - Orioles, 9-7
Wild Card - Athletics, Rangers, Mariners, 8-8

(Note - ESPN doesn't have their team vs. team standings updated for 2005, and I didn't want to look at 3 weeks of scores to sort it out.)

Your 1st round playoff match-ups would be the Angels vs. the #6 seed (either Oakland, Texas, or Seattle) with the Twins getting home field advantage over the Orioles. The White Sox and Red Sox would have the 1st round bye, with the White Sox having the overall #1 seed.

NL East - Marlins, 9-7
NL Central - Cardinals, 11-5
NL West - Dodgers, 12-4

Wild Card - Nationals, 9-7
Wild Card - Braves, Mets, Cubs, Reds, Diamondbacks, 8-8

A little bit more "parity" in the NL. The Marlins and Nationals would get to host 1st round playoff match-ups, each playing teams with an 8-8 record among those listed. The #1 seeded Dodgers and #2 seeded Cardinals would be resting for the 2nd round.

Using these criteria for picking and seeding playoff teams, you see that the Yankees don't even come close to making the playoffs. Granted, they aren't exactly off to a great start, but do you think they will finish the season without finishing in the top 8 in the AL? It's also hard to imagine the White Sox finishing the season tied for the best overall record in baseball, but with a short season the improbable becomes possible.

The NL doesn't provide any huge shocks among the division winners, but the rest of the playoff pool is very interesting. The Washington Nationals not only making the playoffs, but having home field in the first round? And what about the Reds and/or the D-Backs making the playoffs this year? Neither are very likely in MLB, but would be very possible in the NFL.

This post isn't meant to tear down the NFL, so much as to show that too much credit is given to the salary cap. Anyone who claims a cap is needed in baseball and uses the NFL as proof? Well, a cap may or may not be the answer for baseball, but the NFL isn't the right example to use in their argument.

14 Comments:

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Zubin said...

Nice work Robb.

A couple of thoughts...

1) I know I am stating the obvious, but I don't think the comparison between the NFL and MLB is apt. Your typical baseball game is determined more often by luck than by skill. (I think in Moneyball the figure they give is a four run variance for luck and a one run variance for skill.) That is why it takes 162 games to sort things out.

2) Baseball has contemplated an extended playoff format with 3 division champs and three wild cards in each league. The top two would get a "buy" And then the two highest seeds would play three game sets a home with the two lowest seeds. This would give the lower seeds more of a disadvantage since they'd possibly have to play 3 games on the road and conceivably they'd wear out their pitching ahead of a 5 game set with one of the top two seeds.

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger Robb said...

Thanks Zubin,

I personally like only 8 teams making the playoffs. In fact, if I were running things I would expand the league by two teams, create 8 divisions of 4 teams each, and nuke the wild card all together. I think winning the division should actually mean something (coming back to your point of luck in baseball, especially in a 5 or 7 game series). But that's just me.

If they keep 6 divisions and 2 wild cards, though, I do think the 1st round should feature the wild card with just 1 home game.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous bittergradstudent said...

Of course, the data is skewed severely due to the strength of schedule so far in the season--the preponderance of eries has allowed the Cardinals to play the Pirates twisce and the Brewers twice as well, while other teams have had a much more difficult schedule.

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Robb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger Robb said...

I agree that strength of schedule would and does have a large role in these standings, and that a true 16 game schedule would feature a couple of games against each team in the division.

So far the Cardinals have had the 23rd hardest schedule in baseball (.480 WP). Of course, the Cubs have had the 27th hardest and are still trailing.

The Nationals have had the 2nd toughest schedule in baseball, yet would still be in the playoffs.

 
At 6:28 AM, Blogger John VonBokel said...

Brian Gunn made a similar analysis here, but if you look at the comments (it says zero comments, but they're there, trust me) you'll see he re-analyzed it to more closely match the scheduling of the NFL, and the results showed more "parity". I think to do that throughout MLB just to determine theoretical playoff matchups might not be worth the time, but I felt it should be noted that the scheduling in MLB has little relation to the scheduling in the NFL.

 
At 3:29 AM, Anonymous Sam II said...

The playoffs in MLB are good but
I actually like the idea of 12 teams in the MLB playoffs. However, only if the league does this. Have 32 teams and 4 Divisions in each league. There will be 4 division champs and 2 wild card teams. A weak divisional champion will face a tough wild card team. I do not like the idea of 4 divisions with no wild card. When a team wins 103 (San Francisco '93) games and misses the playoffs to a team that won 97 (Philadelphia '93) , there is something wrong there. I actually like New York vs. Boston (the media overplays it though) and Houston vs. St. Louis in the Championship series. Without the wild card, both of those fantastic series (especially Houston vs. St. Louis) would have never happened.

 
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At 1:11 PM, Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love NFL. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link http://allsportsmarket.com
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for NFL this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps
-Erik

 
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