When it comes to Major League Baseball, all the talk recently has been about the rule changes to speed up the game, and adding a 3rd wildcard spot in each league. The goal of the league has been simple: make the games go faster and keep more fanbases engaged for longer. Both have been accomplished. The average length of games is down about a half hour from last year, and seemingly every offensive stat that matters is up: Runs, stolen bases average, OPS, and OBP and more. However, one of the changes that seems to have fallen under the radar is that the top two teams in each league now receive a bye in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
We all know how coveted the 1st round byes are in the NFL, and MLB seems to be no exception. Last year was the first year of the new playoff format, and the #1 seed in the AL, the Astros, ended up winning the World Series. However, the level of importance of the bye is being questioned. Neither the Braves nor Dodgers, the top two teams in the NL last year, won their divisional series matchup. This year, the Braves and Dodgers are currently the top 2 seeds in the NL, and the Orioles and Rangers currently occupy the top two spots in the AL. It stands to reason that a younger team like the Orioles, who aren’t used to this kind of success, may want to keep playing to keep their momentum going. However, a team like the Dodgers, who have plenty of veteran players and have had playoff success before, could use the bye to get key players rested up. They didn’t lose last year because of their bye in the 1st round. The Padres simply played better during the series.
The byes have changed the discussion around how important it is for the top teams to get homefield advantage, and those coveted byes. The Braves would love nothing more than to welcome two different teams into the lion’s den that is Truist Park. That’s why they play so hard everyday and are doing everything they can to rack up wins. If the NLCS is between them and the Dodgers, the team with homefield advantage will be the team that has the edge in the series.
MLB Playoffs have never been more exciting, and this is exactly why.