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The 2023 World Series is all that remains between us and a long, cold winter right now. Before looking forward at what is a very exciting (hopefully) seven games, for myriad reasons, let's look back at the first three rounds of the playoffs. 

Winner: The pitch clock

What a pleasure it is to see players just play baseball instead of standing around for 30 seconds between every single pitch for very little reason. 

The main reason this matters, of course, is attracting casual sports fans who don't watch a ton of regular-season baseball. The playoffs are the time to sell your product to new customers in hopes that they keep coming back in future seasons and it's entirely possible that a good number of former baseball fans heard about the pitch clock and decided to check out some hardball this October. 

I firmly believe those people will be impressed with the results. 

Offense is up and the time of game is significantly down. These numbers were run before Game 7 of the NLCS. 



Avg. time of game







2023 so far



There are still some people holding out and saying they hate the pitch clock and, as best I can tell, the argument against it is that we're getting "rushed baseball." I have no idea how you could watch these playoffs and believe the players are "rushing" instead of just playing. Excessive downtime has been cut out, there have been zero pitch clock controversies and the games starting at 8 p.m. ET are ending around 11 p.m. ET, which is a huge plus on weeknights. 

For real, I've already heard from a decent number of people how excited they are to watch the end of playoff games at a reasonable hour. Remember, the die-hard fans aren't going anywhere and we'd stay up all hours of the night to see the conclusion, but there are bigger things at play than your flex about how much you love baseball and would watch until 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. 

Loser: The bye teams

The teams with byes this season were, collectively, terrible. The Dodgers were swept in three games by a team that won 16 fewer games in the regular season. The Orioles were swept by a team that won 11 fewer regular-season games. The Braves lost in four to a team that was 14 games worse in the regular season (though I'd argue the playoff product the Phillies put out there was a lot closer to the Braves in overall talent than the records themselves show). The Astros advanced to the ALCS and then lost. The World Series has two wild-card teams.

Winner: Road teams

All die-hard baseball fans know that home-field advantage is definitely a thing but it's definitely not as drastic as it can be in other sports. Along those lines, we've seen a lot of road wins so far in the 2023 playoffs. 

In the Wild Card Series, it was a split. The Diamondbacks and Rangers went a combined 4-0 on the road while the Phillies and Twins went a combined 4-0 at home. In the divisional round, road teams went 8-6. The ALCS obviously skews things here with the road team winning all seven games, but still, road teams were 10-4 in the LCS. 

Overall, home teams went 14-22 in the playoffs before the World Series. It was better to be on the road! 

Loser: Those of us wanting do-or-die drama in early rounds

This one can still be salvaged, as the enduring image of the postseason each year is always the World Series. If we get seven games in the World Series and Game 7 is a classic, all will be forgiven and forgotten. Plus, we got two Game 7s in the LCS, only the second time that's been the case since 2004.

Still, the drama hasn't been especially high on the series level to this point. All four Wild Card Series ended after just two games with the winners having never faced elimination. In the divisional round, there were two three-game sweeps and two four-game series with nothing advancing to Game 5.

There was an awful lot of fun in those first two rounds, but we sure could've used some dual elimination games. 

Winner: The Home Run

There's a decent-sized segment of sports fans who believe there's either something wrong with the home run or that it's somehow more "skillful" to "hit 'em where they ain't." I'll dive more into this in the coming days, but I think it stems from Little League when very few players could hit the ball over the fence and everyone had to learn that you aren't supposed to try to hit a home run. 

These are professionals, though, and it doesn't hurt when they try. It's the quickest and easiest way to score. For example, would you rather a field goal or a touchdown in football? Would you rather a three-pointer or a layup in basketball? These are dumb questions, because it would be foolish to say field goal and layup. And yet, there are actually people out there who would argue a single is better "in some situations" than a home run.

Hogwash. It's not. A home run is always better. 

Teams that hit more home runs than their opponents have gone 21-4 this postseason. 

Loser: The format?

It's only the second year with this current format and a 106-win team that somehow endured having to go five days without playing baseball won the World Series last season. Please note the dripping sarcasm. 

Anyway, I'm open to changing the format if we see a trend year-in, year-out where the best teams are bowing out early every single year. This year was not a good one for the current structure. We've got a five seed and a six seed in the World Series. The LCS saw three 90-win teams and an 84-win team. The 84-win Diamondbacks have the third-lowest win total ever for a World Series team. 

If a bunch of players come out and say, and truly believe, that they totally lose the ability to play baseball after five off days, I'll listen. If everyone decides the Wild Card Series teams need more of a built-in disadvantage than having to win the round over another team while the bye teams get to skip it, I'll listen. If everyone decides we need a seven-game series in every round, I'll probably enjoy that because that would mean more playoff games and playoff games are fun. 

I just don't think this is a bigger trend than "weird stuff happens in small samples." We've had two wild-card teams in the World Series before. The 2014 Fall Classic had two sub-90-win teams and we all somehow survived. In 2003, an 88-win team beat a 101-win team, just as a 91-win team beat a 100-win team in the NLDS. Again, we all survived. On that note ... 

Losers: Those whining about the format 

You know, we don't have to be a society that cries "no fair!" every single time the team we want to win loses. Is this really who you want to be? Every time your team loses, it's because the rules weren't fair. That's little kid, "I'm taking my ball and going home!" stuff. Be better than that.

Do I need to point out that in 2021, there were 10 playoff teams and the worst record among those 10 belonged to the team that ended up winning the title? Was that due to bad format or were we OK with the 107-win Giants getting taken out by the 106-win Dodgers before the Braves had to see either team? The champion won 19 fewer games in the regular season than a team that didn't even make the NLCS.

Again, weird stuff happens in baseball in small samples. That's just how it goes.

Winner: Everyone who watched the ALCS

The ALCS pitted the Rangers and Astros against each other in the first-ever league championship series with two teams from the same state. It did not disappoint. There was drama throughout the series. Every single road team won, which is astounding. There were several dramatic home runs, especially the Game 5 shots from Adolis García and Jose Altuve. There was the nonsense surrounding García getting hit, but in and of itself, it's kind of cool to see teams in the LCS have a benches-clearing incident, no? 

What a breathtaking series. It's too bad Game 7 was a laugher, but overall it was outstanding. 

Winner: The Arizona Diamondbacks

Down 2-0 against a team with more talent and all the vibes in the world, at least in Philadelphia. Down late in both Games 3 and 4. Down three games to two heading to Vibe Central where very few people thought they had a chance to win both games. And they did. They played exceptional baseball in Games 6 and 7. 

In other sports, the Cinderella story seems to be embraced a lot more while in baseball the masses just want to scream about how much the playoff format should be changed instead of celebrating the underdog. 

Can we try to embrace the D-backs as the Little Engine That Could going into the World Series? They lost 110 games in 2021. They were picked to finish fourth place by most people heading into this season. They had a brutal bullpen for a while. And yet, they've pieced it all together at the right time. They have two frontline, veteran starters in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly while prospect Brandon Pfaadt just keeps growing. They now have a great formula in the bullpen. Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte are as fun as it gets as a 1-2 punch in the lineup. There's a lot more, too.

I'm embracing the story here. Kudos, Snakes. 

Loser: Sanity

Every year, plenty of people lose their minds over small-sample results and grasp for some overarching meaning. No matter how much we tweaked the playoff format, it would happen. Crazy stuff happens in small-sample baseball. That's just how it is. We don't have to freak out and call for change every single time. We also don't need to try and study the Diamondbacks and Rangers and how they possibly unlocked some secret formula. They played good baseball at the right time. Let's hope it continues to another seven games.