As we all know, MLB added an extra wild-card team this year -- with the two wild cards playing a one-game playoff -- and this will no doubt have an enormous impact on how front offices handle decisions during the season.
The critics of the one-game wild-card playoff will point to the fact that a team could win its division with 82 wins, while another team wins 98 games but finishes second behind a team that wins 100 games and is forced to play just the one elimination game. There is also a scenario in which the two wild cards could come from the same division and the third-place team could still win the World Series.
But no matter what, there is an extra spot at play in both leagues, and that affects management’s way of thinking. Most notably, I hear people ask some version of the following question: “Let’s say you are one game out of the division lead in the last week of the season. Should you burn your top pitchers to go for the division title, or save your ace for the wild-card game and be rested for the rest of the playoffs?” Having gone through the experience of a one-game playoff, I can tell you it won’t be an easy call. However, I know what I would do.