As a quick follow-up to a previous post, I decided to do a little research to find out just how often the better team really does win in the playoffs. Data goes back to the debut of the Wild Card. In the rare event that opposing teams had the same regular season record, I decided that the "better" team was the one with the better run differential. Results:
Better team wins series: 44
Worse team wins series: 46
Better team win%: .489
Since 1995, the MLB playoffs have basically been a coin flip. Regular season success hasn't mattered for shit.
And, no, it isn't like this in other sports. You know, the ones for which the playoffs aren't totally random. I looked at the NHL and NFL over the same time span (ignoring the strike-shortened 94-95 hockey season) to see how they stacked up. Because more teams make the playoffs in these two sports, I decided to throw out the first round and concentrate on the final eight, keeping things consistent with baseball and in theory eliminating the pretenders who didn't belong. The results:
Better team wins series: 61
Worse team wins series: 30
Better team win%: .670
Better team wins game: 63
Worse team wins game: 28
Better team win%: .692
(For the NFL, just as with MLB, tied records were broken in the direction of the team with the better point differential.)
Hockey and football: two sports where the playoffs actually test how good of a team you are.
The baseball playoffs make for some good stories and provide all kinds of suspense, but in the end, if the results don't in any way favor the better teams, then what's the point? What are we rewarding? This format needs to change.