Daily Archives: March 24, 2007

The pursuit of excellence

SI.com‘s Tom Verducci, in discussing the current state of baseball in the context of winning championships, writes that

2. The postseason is a crapshoot.
Yes, Billy Beane was right. But he’s even more right about it as the years go on. Again, this goes back to a larger pool of quality teams. To borrow from the NCAA, as the talent gap shrinks between the No. 1 seed and the No. 4 seed the more likely the possibility of an “upset.”

Here’s how much things have changed: In all postseason series from 1995 (the start of the wild-card era) through 1999, the team that won the greater number of regular-season games came out on top 52.5 percent of the time (21-19).

But from 2000 to ’06, the team with more regular-season victories won only 36.2 percent of postseason series (17-30). [Emphasis added.]

3. The best team doesn’t win.
Greatness need not be a requisite for a world title. Chew on this: Of the past seven world champions, only one finished in first place with more than 92 regular-season wins [Emphasis added.] — the 2005 White Sox (and they didn’t even make the playoffs the next season). Of the other six world champions, three were second-place teams and the other three posted 83, 87 and 92 regular-season wins.

Think about that for a minute.  The regular baseball season is a 162 game marathon, with teams scheduled to play numerous times against their divisional and league rivals.  If any regular season is set up to produce a good picture of who the superior teams are, that’s it.

Nevertheless, regular season mediocrity is rewarded in baseball’s postseason on a recurring basis.  Indeed, it happens frequently enough to be characterized as the rule rather than the exception.  And baseball doesn’t use a single elimination format in its playoffs.

If that’s what happens with professional baseball, imagine what an enlarged playoff structure, combined with a single elimination requirement (March Madness, in other words), would do for D-1 football – “any given Saturday”, and all that.

“The postseason is a crapshoot.”  I know some people (OK, lots of people) think that’s a worthy goal and love the excitement of the underdog pulling the upset, but is that worth the price of diminishing the significance of the best regular season on the planet?

There has to be more to what makes someone passionate about following a sport than filling out a bracket sheet.

(h/t Braves & Birds – The Atlanta Sports Blog)


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