Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thoughts on Baseball's Wild Card...

The Colorado Rockies are in the World Series. Congratulations are due; after catching the Padres at the very end of the 162+1 game season, they swept the Phillies and Diamondbacks. They are the hottest team in baseball right now.

They were also the Wild Card team, having finished in 2nd place in the NL West. This marks the sixth consecutive year in which a wild card team has reached the World Series. The AL Wild Card team, the Yankees, finished their playoff season much too quickly.

Some interesting statistics on Wild Card participants:

  • The Wild Card has been around since 1995. In thirteen seasons, with twenty-six wild card teams, nine have reached the World Series (34.6%). Keep in mind that Wild Card teams only make up 25% of playoff participants.
  • Of the eight previous World Series participants who were Wild Card teams, four have won the Series (Florida in 1997 and 2003, Anaheim in 2002, Boston in 2004), and four have lost (NY Mets in 2000, San Francisco in 2002, Houston in 2005, Detroit in 2006).
  • Six of the nine Wild Card teams to make the World Series are from the National League.
  • Florida has only ever made the playoffs twice—both times as a Wild Card team—and won the World Series both times.
  • The NY Yankees have made the playoffs three times as a Wild Card team (1995, 1997, 2007), and have lost in the first round all three times.
  • 15 of the 26 Wild Card participants have won their first round series. 9 of those 15 won their second round series.
It hasn't always been this way. From 1995-2001, the fourteen Wild Card participants advanced out of the first round only six times, and to the World Series only twice. Since then, in six more seasons:
  • There has been a Wild Card team in the World Series every year since 2002. In 2002, both teams were the Wild Card participants.
  • Wild Card teams won three straight World Series from 2002-2004.
What is the point of all this? I am really curious to know why the Wild Card teams, especially in recent years (and with the blatant exception of my Yankees), have done so well in the playoffs. Why? Although some of them have been really good teams with the second-best records in their leagues, others have "dragged" themselves in (see: 2006 Tigers), and yet, they do well. Why is this? And why can't the Yankees make any good come from being the AL Wild Card team?

I don't know. Do you?

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