By Blaidd Drwg
If MLB is going to insist on keeping its current configuration of 162 games and 15 teams in each league, there are a few things that they should change, and don’t worry, what they should change won’t affect the “integrity” of the game.
Change 1 – eliminate the divisions. When you have divisions, all you are doing is potentially recognizing mediocrity. Even with 2 wild card teams, the potential still exists to have a division winner having a worse record than a team that does not make the playoffs, you also have the potential of a division winner having a worse record than both of the wild card teams. That makes a huge difference since the wild card winners have to play in the “coin-toss” game (AKA the wild card game) and then get to not have home field advantage against a team with an inferior record. Granted, home field doesn’t mean much in baseball (home teams win about 54% of the time) but I think most teams would rather have it. I am much more in favor of taking the 5 best teams in each league for the playoffs. Heck, I would even be in favor of adding another team and having the top 2 teams get a “bye” and the next 4 play a best of 3 series to advance. It would make the positioning for the playoffs much more important, forcing teams to play more meaningful games later in the year.
Change 2 – balance the schedule. If you eliminate the divisions, it becomes a no brainer to balance the schedules in the leagues. Even with the divisions, the balanced schedule makes more sense. You don’t think that it gives a team in the NL East a competitive advantage this season to get to beat up on Philadelphia and Miami 18 times each than say the NL Central which only has Milwaukee as a whipping boy? You can never balance the interleague stuff, but it wouldn’t hurt to have all of the AL teams play each other the same amount of times each season and eliminate the imbalance of the division strengths.
Change 3 – have both leagues use the DH. This one will upset people who complain that it will ruin the “sanctity of the game” or causes less strategy in the game. To that I say bullcrap. Here is how MLB pitcher have faired over the last 4 seasons (2015 stats through May 31).
Honestly, let’s say you were faced with a situation in a playoff game where you are down 1-0, a runner on 3rd, two out in the 8th inning. You have Felix Hernandez pitching and he is dealing – he gave up 1 hit (a HR in the first on a bad pitch) and he has retired every batter since and hasn’t had a hard hit ball against him since the HR. Let’s say you are facing elimination. Your chances of winning in the 9th aren’t good because you are facing a Marino Rivera-like closer in the 9th. What would you do? Before you answer, here is what pinch hitters have done over the last 4 seasons:
With a pitcher hitting, you have pretty much no chance that you will be tying up the game. Granted, a pinch hitter is no real guarantee, but wouldn’t you rather have someone who hits for a living up at the plate? So how does it not cause less strategy? Look at it from the other way – if you have the DH in play and don’t have to worry about the pitcher coming up at bat, you have an opportunity to deploy your pitchers more effectively in critical situations. What made Mariano Rivera so great in the post season was that the Yankees were able to utilize him in multiple innings without having to worry about his spot coming up in the batting order. Look at the 2014 WS – the games in KC allowed both teams to deploy the 2 best bullpens in the league over a longer stretch and hit more strategic matchups than you ever would with allowing the pitcher to bat.
In addition to this, if you don’t like the 2-1 games that dominate baseball these days, putting in a DH vs a pitcher is worth about half a run a game. Wouldn’t you rather see a guy with 250/20/75 slash lines up at the plate rather than a guy who has a 100/0/0 slash line? A pitcher in the lineup generally means that you end up with effectively an 8 man lineup with an automatic out thrown in. That isn’t all that much fun to watch.