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What the Extra Wild Card Means

Posted By Howard Megdal On September 8, 2011 @ 10:27 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

The outstanding D.J. Short said this [1] on Twitter today: “If there was a second Wild Card, the Mets would only be five games back. #idontknowwhatthismeans” [2]

It is fairly tantalizing to consider this in retrospect- if you could simply move the future extra playoff spot back into 2011, and keep Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez going forward forward, the resulting alchemy would mean the Mets could find themselves in a pseudo-playoff race as we speak.

But absent a time machine, it means something very different, I think. Take a look at the last ten years to get a sense of what I mean.

Year   # of wins, Wild Card  # of wins, Second Wild Card

2010    91, Atlanta                   90, San Diego

2009   92, Colorado                88, San Francisco

2008   90, Milwaukee            89, New York

2007   89, Colorado               89, San Diego (Colorado actually at 90 after playoff, but with two spots, both get in- Mets sixth in NL at 88)

2006  88, Los Angeles          85, Philadelphia

2005  89, Houston                88, Philadelphia

2004  92, Houston                91, San Francisco

2003  91, Florida                   87, Houston

2002  95, San Francisco      92, Los Angeles

2001  93, St. Louis                90, San Francisco

What do we see here? Over the past ten years, the wild card has averaged 91 wins. Had the second wild card existed, that team would have averaged 88.9 wins per game- effectively, 89 wins.

Had the average fifth playoff team averaged more in the neighborhood of say, 82-84 wins, that could change the nature of building a baseball team. After all, you’d be talking about a fundamentally different goal. With the dice-roll nature of the playoffs, simply creating a consistently mediocre team that can back into the playoffs and get some postseason revenue regularly would make some sense.

But building a team geared to win a consistent 89 games is pretty much the same thing as creating one geared to win a consistent 91 games. And for what it’s worth, this year’s Mets are on pace to win 80.4 games. Even if they’d kept Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, it is hard to imagine they’d have been good enough to contend for that mythical fifth wild card spot. More importantly, building a team like the 2011 Mets- filled with dead money, bad contracts, and a whole lot of hope- isn’t a sustainable model, even in a new, more inclusive playoff system.

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[1] said this: http://twitter.com/#!/djshort/status/111775546777677825

[2] #idontknowwhatthismeans”: http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%23idontknowwhatthismeans

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