So How Exactly Will These New Playoffs Work?


As people started buying tickets from the Reds ticket office for the NLDS in the past few days (and especially this morning), it became readily apparent that the new format changes with the introduction of the 2nd Wild Card and the play-in Wild Card game on Friday, October 5th, confused people on the implications of the schedule to follow.

In a nutshell, here are the basics of what you’ll want to know:


Wednesday, 10/3 – Final day of the regular season. Reds will conclude a series at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals in St. Louis, possibly knowing their seeding by a prior day or having it determined by that day’s results.

Thursday, 10/4 – Off-day (specifically built into the schedule for tiebreakers and any weather-related make-ups that may impact standings. In the event of a multi-team tie, this could get especially murky, but we’ll wait and see what this means for Wild Card teams especially. The Reds are pretty safely NOT playing a game on this day)

Friday, 10/5 – Wild card games played in each league (Winner advances, loser goes home – simple as that). Wild Card teams would be the Oakland Athletics hosting the loser of the Orioles/Yankees tiebreak in the AL and the Atlanta Braves hosting the St. Louis Cardinals [As things stand TODAY]

What Reds at Giants looked like earlier this season … (CREDIT: ©Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE)

Saturday, 10/6 – Both American League Division Series and National League Division Series featuring “Middle Seeds” begin, with the #3 seed hosting the #2 seed.  The format is 2-3 (2 high seed, 3 low seed as hosts – same in the alternating Division Series).  If things stay the same as they entering play TODAY, the Chicago White Sox will host the tiebreaker winner of the Orioles-Yankees in the “2-3” ALDS and the San Francisco Giants will host the Cincinnati Reds in the “2-3” NLDS.

Sunday, 10/7 – Play starts with Game 1 for the “1-4” ALDS and NLDS and will continue Game 2 of the “2-3” ALDS and NLDS.  As of TODAY, this would be the AL WC winner {Athletics OR “loser” of AL East tiebreaker game 163} hosting the Texas Rangers in the “1-4” ALDS and the NL WC winner {Braves OR Cardinals} hosting the Washington Nationals. Games: {Orioles/Yankees} @ White Sox [Game 2] AND Reds @ Giants [Game 2]; Rangers @ {A’s / Orioles/Yankees} [Game 1] AND Nationals @ {Braves / Cardinals} [Game 1]

Monday, 10/8 – Game 2 of the “1-4” ALDS and NLDS. Games: Rangers @ {A’s / Orioles/Yankees} [Game 2] AND Nationals @ {Braves / Cardinals} [Game 2]. Travel day for the “2-3” DS.

Tuesday, 10/9 – Game 3 of the “2-3” ALDS and NLDS. Games: White Sox @ {Orioles/Yankees} [Game 3] AND Giants @ Reds [Game 3]. Travel day for the “1-4” DS.

Wednesday, 10/10 – Games: White Sox @ {Orioles/Yankees} [Game 4 – IF NECESSARY] AND Giants @ Reds [Game 4 – IF NECESSARY]; {A’s / Orioles/Yankees} @ Rangers [Game 3] AND {Braves / Cardinals} @ Nationals [Game 3]

Thursday, 10/11 – Games: White Sox @ {Orioles/Yankees} [Game 5 – IF NECESSARY] AND Giants @ Reds [Game 5 – IF NECESSARY]; {A’s / Orioles/Yankees} @ Rangers [Game 4 – IF NECESSARY] AND {Braves / Cardinals} @ Nationals [Game 4 – IF NECESSARY]

Friday, 10/12 – {A’s / Orioles/Yankees} @ Rangers [Game 5 – IF NECESSARY] AND {Braves / Cardinals} @ Nationals [Game 5 – IF NECESSARY]

At this point, the Championship Series (ALCS and NLCS) would commence with the best record dictating the start of play (better seed hosts) in a 2-3-2 format (traditional):

Saturday, 10/13 – Best-of-seven American League Championship Series (ALCS) begins in the home park of better seed remaining

Sunday, 10/14 – Best-of-seven National League Championship Series (NLCS) begins in the home park of better seed remaining

Wednesday, 10/24 (to 11/1, if necessary) – Best-of-seven World Series begins in the home park of the NL pennant winner (based on NL’s victory in the All-Star Game) in a traditional 2-3-2 format as well.

Network Coverage?

Where can you watch the games? Any tiebreaker games will be broadcast exclusively on TBS, which also will air the October 5th Wild Card games. TBS will air 18 of the 20 LDS games, with MLB Network airing its first live playoff games Sunday, 10/7, and Wednesday, 10/10, (games to be determined – whichever matchups TBS does not take those nights). TBS has the ALCS, and FOX has the NLCS (a positive for better reach with over-the-air to the National League, in my opinion). FOX will present exclusive coverage of the World Series.

Possible Complications …

Because adding a 2nd Wild Card team came so late and the schedule was already finalized, there could be complication. Major League Baseball was hoping to create some additional drama in the regular season’s final week … and could get more than it hoped. For example: If more than two teams are tied for the second wild card spot, there could be two play-in games to determine who faces the top wild card team in the one-game playoff. Take a look at the schedule and you’ll see there isn’t any room built for an extra couple of games, just 10/4 for one game.

It’s conceivable that a division race might be decided by a tiebreaking game 10/4, which could impact the start of the Wild Card round a day later. The collective bargaining agreement signed before this season mandates certain rest periods, especially when teams have to travel across multiple time zones. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a team finishes its season in the Eastern Time zone, has to move to the west for a play-in game and then head back east for the Wild Card round. Right now, there’s no telling how baseball would handle that situation.

As you can see from next year’s regular season schedule, there will be a little more leeway in 2013. And the LDS rounds will return to their normal 2-2-1 alignments, with the top-seeded teams opening the series at home and hosting a potential seventh games. Likewise, both ALDS and NLDS used to start on the same day, not one series from each league on successive days. That’s because the potential for travel nightmares would be too difficult to overcome. And, unlike in previous years, the 2012 schedule permits teams from the same division to play in the LDS rounds (previously, two teams from the same division couldn’t meet in that round; now, for instance, the Nationals could play the Braves).

But this year’s postseason schedule – as maddening as it might be – accomplishes two things baseball set out to do: make it more difficult for the wild card teams and enhance the value of finishing in first place. Just don’t get too attached to this year’s routine, since it will change again in 2013 with a compressed regular season schedule to allow for more off-days/travel days during the playoffs.

Don’t even ask what happens if there’s a significant weather delay in any round. No one even wants to start thinking about that.

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