It will be wild

New playoff format makes the most unpredictable stretch run in recent history

Updated: August 24, 2012, 7:36 AM ET
By Buster Olney and Doug Mittler | ESPN The Magazine
Bronson ArroyoAP Photo/Al BehrmanThe Reds Bronson Arryo has the best ERA on short rest with at least 12 starts (3.57).

MLB'S NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT, featuring two do-or-die games for four wild-card teams, has made this the most unpredictable stretch run in recent memory. Here are nine things to know as an astounding 12 wildcard contenders head into the storm.

SOME ODD GUYS PITCH WELL LATE

Such as Bronson Arroyo of the Reds. The 35-year-old starter, with a 4.26 career ERA through Aug. 14, becomesa monster as the season winds down. His 24 wins and 3.55 ERA in September are his personal best for any month. (He is also durable, with six straight 200-inning seasons, from 2005 to 2010.) His career .676 winning percentage in September/October trails only the Giants' Brad Penny (.688) among healthy NL contenders. The MLB leader is the Rangers' Roy Oswalt. Yes, that Oswalt. He may have wilted in the Texas heat -- posting a 6.49 ERA in six starts before landing in the bullpen in July -- but expect the 2005 NLCS MVP to improve as the weather cools. He is as good a finisher as anyone, with a .761 winning percentage and 2.70 ERA late in the season. White Sox fans, meanwhile, know that Jake Peavy has not struggled this year -- a 1.06 WHIP through Aug. 14, eighth best in MLB -- and shouldn't expect him to any time soon. He is 21-10 in 41 September/October regular-season starts, and his 2.86 ERA in that span is fifth among active pitchers. If the White Sox square off against the Angels in a one-game playoff, Peavy could face another strong finisher, the newly acquired Zack Greinke (19-10, 3.08 ERA late in the year).


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Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine

Doug Mittler

Rumor Central