My editor, the Twins Geek, ponders the value of the postseason:
I myself have spit out similar thoughts often [that the MLB postseason is a crapshoot compared to the 162-game regular season], especially given the Twins postseason futility. But this time I was suddenly struck by something. Namely, that nobody other than baseball fans ever say this.
For instance, the Spurs record last year was much worse than the Mavericks, but the Spurs won the NBA championship, the Mavs went home early, and nobody doubts who was the better team. (Though, I'll admit, Phoenix was a different story.) In the NFL, if a 12-4 team beats a 14-2 team in the Super Bowl – a single game - nobody tries to claim the 12-4 team was better. And when Anaheim marched through the Stanley Cup playoffs last year, they were acclaimed by all sides as a clearly superior team to emulate, despite having the third most points in the regular season.
With respect to the NFL, in addition to their 16 game schedule, don't forget about their scheduling for parity. Baseball's unbalanced schedule and differing interleague matchups aren't nearly as bad. It's entirely possible that the 12-4 team is just as good as the 14-2 team. Just the fact that a team can go 12-4 in a league with as much artificial parity as the NFL should tip you off--that's a .750 winning percentage.
A baseball team with a .750 winning percentage would win 121.5 games and shatter the 116-46 record tied by the 2001 Mariners. 14-2? 141.75 wins...
Do you remember that horrible Forbes article about the best general managers in sports that used a direct comparison of differentials in winning percentage from the previous GM's tenure as the basis for ranking GMs across different sports? Kevin McHale was first and no MLB GM appeared until Billy Beane came in at 26th. McHale is no more better than every GM in baseball than a 16-game or 81-game schedule is at separating the best teams over a 162-game schedule.
The Twins Geek asks:
Why are we tempted to ignore the results when the best play against the best?
There are three obvious answers. Either:
1) There is something inherently different about baseball OR
2) Baseball is right and all the other sports are wrong OR
3) The other sports are right and baseball is wrong.
I'll let Thomas Boswell answer for the merits of the 162-game schedule. From his two-decade old Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football?:
46. Parity scheduling. How can the NFL defend the fairness of deliberately giving easier schedules to weaker teams and harder schedules to better teams? Just to generate artificially improved competition? When a weak team with a patsy schedule goes 10-6, while a strong defending division champ misses the playoffs at 9-7, nobody says boo. Baseball would have open revolt at such a nauseatingly cynical system.
21. Having 162 games a year is 10.125 times as good as having 16.
And just for fun:
94. You'll never see a woman in a fur coat at a baseball game.
95. You'll never see a man in a fur coat at a baseball game.