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March 02, 2012

2012 American League Playoff Hypothetical

Wednesday, 3 October, last day of regular season:

West Central East
Texas (96-65) Detroit (90-71) New York (92-69)
Los Angeles (95-66) Kansas City (81-80) Boston (88-73)
- - Tampa Bay (85-76)

Texas at Oakland
Los Angeles at Seattle
Boston at New York

Texas enters the day with the best record in the league (in fact, the best record in baseball) but ahead of division-mate Los Angeles by only one game. Texas sends Yu Darvish to the mound against Oakland's Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy matches Darvish and the A's eke out a 3-2 victory. The Angels beat the Mariners 4-1, creating a tie atop the West.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees are able to play the back ends of their 40-man rosters, having secured their playoffs berths, and, more critically, their #2 and #5 seeds.

Thursday, 4 October, division one-gamer:

Texas at Los Angeles

The Rangers and Angels fly into Los Angeles to play a single game to determine the West champion. (The Angels host based on a 10-9 advantage head-to-head.) Texas again loses 3-2. Boston has a plane prepped and is able to land at DFW before the Rangers.

Friday, 5 October, wild card play-in:

Boston at Texas

Having fallen from the #1 seed to the #4 seed in two days, Texas hosts the play-in game. Boston had the previous day off, while Texas is playing its third consecutive game in a different city and lost two hours on its most recent flight. Furthermore, Boston's "safe" position as #5 seed allows the Sox to hold back ace Josh Beckett for this very game. Boston wins 6-2, eliminating the Rangers, who had the best record in baseball 48 hours ago.

Saturday, 6 October, ALDS:
Los Angeles at Boston
New York at Detroit

The ALDS begins with the one of the two best teams already eliminated and the other on the road. Because of the 2-3 ALDS format, the Angels are rewarded for their victory over Texas and the best record among playoff contenders with a cross-country red-eye into Boston. They had to wait for the outcome of Friday's game, because a Texas victory would have them playing at Detroit (the ALDS can't match division foes).

I'm sure Bud's thought this through.

UPDATE:

I knew I posted this too quickly. The #1 vs. #4 matchup would begin on Sunday, not Saturday. See here. And division rivals CAN play each other in the ALDS.

I still don't like it much. It still leaves the strong potential for punishing better teams. The 2-3 format reminds me of the 1996 ALDS, when Texas had home field advantage over the Yankees despite a slightly worse record (90 wins vs 92) but had to open on the road. (Even worse, 99-win Cleveland had to open at 88-win Baltimore.)

Also, that division rivals can play each other creates another weird scenario in which the team with the best record is forced to play against (and open on the road against) the team with the second-best record. In my hypothetical, that happens if Texas wins the play-in. LA would open in Arlington.

Yeah, I ruined my punchline by having to make corrections. Oh, well.

Posted by Lucas at March 2, 2012 06:33 PM