MLB releases 2012 playoff schedule

Game 111: Escape from Detroit
Perhaps the greatest John Sterling call in history

We already knew that the 2012 playoff schedule wasn’t going to be pretty. MLB took its sweet time to decide on a new playoff format, and then decided to institute it this year instead of next. Worse, they made the decision after the TV networks had set their schedules, so they had to work around those limitations. The most significant consequence: the lower-seeded team gets to start at home in a 2-3 style LDS. It’s hard to call it home field advantage if you’re going home down 0-2.

Given the pre-existing TV schedule, and given the need to account for possible tiebreaker games, we’re left with an odd setup for the first round. Here’s a quick rundown of how it will unfold.

October 3: Last games of regular season.

October 4: Potential tie breaking games. (More on tie breakers later.)

October 5: Wild Card Games.

October 6: LDS begin. This will be the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 3 seed in both leagues.

October 7: LDS Game 1 for the No. 1 seed and the Wild Card Game Winner.

October 11: Potential Game 5 for No. 2 vs. No. 3 series.

October 12: Potential Game 5 for No. 1 vs. No. 4 series.

October 13: ALCS Game 1.

Here’s how it could go for the No. 1 seed. They play a game on October 3, and then get three days off. That’s good, as they can rest and line up their rotations. That’s bad, though, because any player will tell you that they don’t like all that time off. They want to play games.

The 2-3 format is to blame for this. If the idea is to handicap the Wild Card — and that’s pretty clearly the intention with this format — there should be no day off for them between the play-in game and Game 1 of the LDS. The No. 1 seed should get to sit at home and await the winner in a 2-2-1 format. That way the No. 1 seed takes only two days off and gets, ideally, the opponent’s No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher. (Though I suppose the Wild Card winner could throw their No. 1, depending on how the regular season unfolds.)

And then, because of the TV schedule, the No. 1 seed could go directly from a Game 5 of the LDS to Game 1 of the LCS. They’ll stay at home, so that’s something of an advantage. But it’d probably be nice to get a single day off between series. But hey, if they’d rather play every day then maybe it’s not such a big deal.

It might be that the No. 3 seed has the best position here, at least in the early goings. They get to jump into the LDS after just two days off, and they start at home. Win the first two at home and then you need to win just one in a three-game series on the road. And they still have a chance at home field in the LCS, if the Wild Card beats the No. 1 seed.

Tiebreakers. Here’s the deal with tiebreakers. In previous years if two teams tied for the division, but both would make the playoffs given the Wild Card, there would be no tie breaking game. They’d use head-to-head and other tie breaking factors to determine who wins the division and who gets the Wild Card. This year, given the importance of winning the division, there is a tie-breaking game at stake when teams tie for the division lead, even if both teams would be in the postseason otherwise. Head-to-head record will determine who gets home field for this game.

And, of course, there will be tie-breaking games for teams tied for Wild Card spots if more than two teams qualify. That is, there clearly won’t be a tiebreaker if two teams tie for the Wild Card spot. They’ll just use the tie-breaking formula and those two teams will have the normal play-in game. But if two teams are tied for the second Wild Card, they have to duke it out, with the winner going on to play the first Wild Card the next day. Four teams tied for Wild Card spotswill ensure mayhem.

In future years these kinks won’t exist. TV networks will base their coverage around the current playoff format. But this year the No. 1 seed has plenty going against it. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think that’s any way to reward the team that won the 162-game marathon. But this is the hand MLB forced this year.

This is only one way of interpreting the format. I’m interested to see others add their thoughts as to how MLB laid it out this year.

Game 111: Escape from Detroit
Perhaps the greatest John Sterling call in history
  • BigBlueAL

    What happens if 3 teams tie for both wild card spots like the current AL Wild Card standings?? Right now the Top 3 teams in the AL Wild Card standings all have the same record.

    • William

      Insanity. That’s what.

    • Tom

      Last year it was two 1 game tiebreakers.

      The team with the best record head-head-head of the three teams had the option of playing 2 games at home or playing just 1 game on the road.

      So basically the #1 would play the #3 at home and if they win play the #2 at home (winner gets in the playoffs) or let the #2 and #3 play each other and then play the winner on the road (winner gets in the playoff)

      I have no idea what they are doing this year, or if it matters if there are 3 teams tied for 2 spots vs 3 teams tied for 1 spot, or what happens if you have a potential division winner tied with 2 wild card teams like DET+ CHI + (LA or BAL or TB)

  • David

    Dont forget if I recall right the wild card winner actually hosts first two games of LDS. So not only does #1 seed sit but they have no clue where they are going. I believe this is this year only.

    • Mike Axisa


  • Mike Axisa

    If the 1 vs. 4 LDS goes the full five games, the winner will play five games in five games and will need a fifth starter. Unless they start someone on short rest, of course.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Obviously MLB believed the Yankees would be the #1 seed and was trying to screw them.

      • jjyank

        No doubt.

    • Tom

      And the LCS starts the next day to boot… so it will be 7 straight days with games 1 and 2 (for whoever wins a game 5)

      This is important because if you were to say start your #1 on 3 days rest for a game 5, the team will still need a 5th starter to open the ALCS (or have to also pitch their #2 and #3 starters on short rest.

      It’s almost better to be a #3 seed this year (start at home, extra off day during the LDS, at least one day off after the LDS if you win)

    • Tom

      Mike – I made the same mistake you did it’s 5 games over 6 days (one travel day after game 2)

      Oct 7/8 – games 1/2
      Oct 10/11/12 – games 3/4/5

      Is there an off day after game 1 of the ALCS? If not then it’s potentially 5 days in a row with games 1/2 of the ALCS (which means a 5th starter for game 2 of the ALCS!)

  • Eddard

    Why couldn’t Bud just wait till next year to implement the 2nd wildcard. He’s screwed this up so bad. Who the hell wants the #1 seed if you have to sit around, don’t know who you’re playing, have to travel for Game 1 of the LDS and might not get a day off before the ALCS? What if the Angels win the 2nd WC and the Yanks have to go cross country to play the 1st two games. It’s a complete joke.

  • A.D.

    What if the 2 best records in the AL come out of the same division? Then the #1 seed has a to play a tie breaker, to then sit for 2 days?

    This has the potential to be whack

  • ajra21

    The whole schedule is devoid of logic. There is absolutely no reason, even in this current system that the number 1 seed shouldn’t start at home for two games. The reasons that MLB have given are just idiotic. I don’t care about TV schedules etc. you do what is right or the sport and you tell the TV network, “tough, this is our sport”.

    • Bud Selig

      *takes another shot of Bacardi 151*

      Whuddya mean? It makesss perfect senze! *burps*

      You just gotta…umm…ya gotta just think about it, man. Yeah!

      • Get Phelps Up


    • Pasta Stumbling Sojo

      I think the reason is that if they started at home for 2 games, then they’d have to travel back for a potential Game 5, which would mean an extra travel day (between Games 2 and 3 and between Games 4 and 5) that they don’t have.

  • Mike

    Should have waited til next year to do all this

    And instead of a 1 game WC playoff, how about they make it a Best of 2 (yes best of Two)

    Have the top WC team host the 2nd WC team for 2 games, 2 straight days. The top WC team has to win 1 of 2 to advance, the other WC team has to win both games to advance. If the top team wins the first game, no 2nd game is played then and they move on from there

    Pretty much like a team ahead getting 2 home games in a best of 7 series with them up 3-2, need 1 to win. Other team (away team, or in this case the 2nd WC team, needs 2)

    I know this won’t ever happen, but what are your thoughts on this?

    • Get Phelps Up

      I actually really like that idea.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      I like it.
      And I agree it won’t ever happen.

    • Mike

      Most people say a Best of 3 is better. I don’t have a problem with a Best of 3 but if they want to limit the traveling I think a Best of 2 could work

    • jjyank

      I actually like this as well. It helps eliminate my fear of a 92 win team playing an 85 win team in a do-or-die one game WC playoff.

      • Get Phelps Up

        I share that fear as well and 2001 is the perfect example. 102-win A’s against the 84-win Twins.

        • jjyank

          Right. And that’s absurd. I would freak out if a 102 win Yankee team had to play an 84 win team.

  • Braun

    Who cares if the lower seed opens the first two games at home? It was bullshit that the lower seed had two chances to clinch at home while the higher seed only had one. This is better, unless they make a 1-2-2 format with the higher seed opening the series at home.

    • Jarrod

      I care. It couldn’t be considered fair if for example a 100 win NYY as the #1 seed ends up going to BOS for the first 2 games of a 5 game series. Say BOS win the first 2 then they only have to win 1 of 3 at NYY to advance. Not much of a reward for being the #1 team in the AL?

      I do like the 1-2-2 idea though, makes a lot more sense.

  • Jarrod

    Apologies if this has already been covered somewhere but does this mean that the wild card winner (the winner of the wc v wc game) can play the #1 seed even if that team is from their own division? I think previously the wild card team played the team with the best record that was not in the same division.

    • Jarrod

      Meaning that we could see a NYY vs BOS/TB/BAL ALDS?

      • Get Phelps Up

        That’s right.