Things are looking up for the Orioles. They got closer to the playoffs yesterday without adding a single player.
They did, really, but so did every other club in the game, too.
When baseball adds a second wild card playoff team in each league for a total of five clubs, teams will obviously need fewer wins to make the playoffs.
I went through the last 10 years of the American League standings. The wild card winner in the 10 seasons from 2002 through 2011 averaged 95.2 wins per year. The club that would have earned the second wild card in those seasons, the fifth playoff team, had there been one then, would have averaged 90.3 wins per year.
By the way, some are figuring that the AL East will now be regularly getting three playoff teams per year under the new rules, but a team from the AL East would have earned that second wild card in just three of 10 seasons while in 2002, Boston and Seattle would have tied with 93 wins.
To me, the second wild card is good for the game, even if that team (or the first wild card, for that matter) may only play in one playoff game. Baseball will still send fewer teams to the playoffs than the other major sports.
Division winners will now get the benefit and deserved reward of an extra day or two off after the regular season to rest and to set up their pitching for the playoffs.
Some have pointed out that the drama we saw in the final days this past September between Boston and Tampa Bay would not have been there under the new system, since both teams would have known they were advancing. That is true because Boston would have made the playoffs with 90 wins and the next closest team, the Angels, had 86 wins.
But seven times over the last 10 years, the second wild card team would have been two games or less ahead of the next winningest club. Twice in the last 10 years, two clubs would have tied for that final playoff spot. So there will likely be a real exciting race for that final playoff spot most seasons.
By the way, the most wins a team would have had in claiming that second berth was 93 over that 10-year period and the fewest wins to make it was 87.
Not only will there be drama most seasons in a race down the stretch to get the fifth and final playoff spot, but clearly there will be drama in a one-game playoff those wild card teams will then play for the right to advance.
What is your take: Is adding a playoff team in each league good for the game and its fans? Does it help the Orioles? How do you feel about any other aspects of the new five-year labor agreement?
Follow Steve Melewski on Twitter: @masnsteve.