Last week’s column prompted various discussions about British baseball schedules and the postseason, alongside a thoughtful conversation starter by Joe Gray.
Since then, the 2011 postseason schedule has been announced on the British Baseball Federation website.
This contains a variety of key changes from the initial draft, with the number of games being reduced and the whole postseason being condensed and brought forward to the beginning of September.
Originally we were looking at a two-week period for the playoff stage over the weekends 10-11 and 17-18 September before a relatively late National Baseball Championship (NBC) event taking place on the weekend 24-25 September. This has now been revised so that the playoff stage takes place on a single weekend (3-4 September) and the NBC has been moved forward by a fortnight to 10-11 September, hosted by Herts Baseball Club for the second straight year.
Both the National Baseball League and the AAA playoffs were originally going to be spread out over two weeks and a team would have needed to beat their opponent twice to make it through to the NBC. Now, qualification will be dependent on the outcome of a single nine-inning game in each contest.
So for instance in the NBL, the team with the third best win-loss record will face the team with the sixth-best record. It looks like the Southampton Mustangs will get that third-best place, meaning that they will be playing under the pressure of knowing one defeat could bring their impressive season to an abrupt end.
The playoffs in Double-A and Single-A have undergone an overhaul. At each level there will be a Midlands and North playoff and a South playoff with four teams involved in each group.
That might be attractive to some teams. It gives them a mini-event to attend, making up in small part for the two levels each only getting a single nine-inning final on the Sunday at the NBC. One of the downsides, as noted in the Comments last week, is that it will mean some teams will be playing a double-header for the first time in the year and that could stretch their pitching resources.
It will also be interesting to see how the use of pitchers is affected by the changes to the NBC event for the NBL and AAA. The ‘double-elimination’ format from the last couple of years has been replaced by a straightforward semi-final/final set up, with the semis on Saturday and the finals on Sunday.
Who will make it through?
Bringing the postseason schedule forward complicates matters when it comes to assessing who will make it into the playoffs. There are now going to be a number of teams left unable to make up postponements and we’ll have to wait and see how those un-played games are taken into account in the standings.
In the National Baseball League, the top six teams currently look like this:
It’s not entirely clear whether the Mets would be ahead of the Mustangs in these standings. London has the better winning percentage, but has played two games less than Southampton. The Mets defeated the Essex Arrows twice on Sunday and don’t have any more regular season games unless their two postponed games against the Croydon Pirates from 19 June are quickly rearranged.
The Mustangs should have been playing a double-header against the Blazers on 4 September to finish their regular season, but that now cannot take place because the playoffs are being played that weekend. The Blazers are already due to play a double-header at home against the Diamondbacks this coming Sunday, while the Herts Falcons host the Southern Nationals.
The situation in AAA-South is neatly summed up by Michael Jones on the BBF website. The Bristol Badgers will go through to the NBC as the division champions, with the playoff likely to feature the Oxford Kings and Essex Redbacks. As for the two automatic NBC qualifiers from the North, the champion Liverpool Trojans will be joined by either the Manchester A’s (9-7) or Halton Jaguars (10-9). Those two teams are scheduled to meet in a double-header on Sunday.
In Double-A, the South four-way play-off pool will be contested by Latin Boys, Essex Archers, probably the Guildford Mavericks and then either the Sidewinders or Poole Piranhas. It doesn’t look like the Thames Valley Bisons can make it now as their scheduled games for this Sunday – two against the Kent Mariners – are already accounted for in the standings as forfeits by their opponent.
In the Midlands/North play-off pool, the Milton Keynes Bucks will be joined by the Nottingham Rebels after they swept the Birmingham Maple Leafs on Sunday to secure second place in the Midlands division. The Sheffield Bladerunners also swept their way into second place by defeating Oldham North Stars twice to join the Bolton Robots of Doom as the two North AA qualifiers.
In Single-A, the Midlands/North play-off pool will bring together the Humber Pilots, Manchester Torrent, Birmingham Maple Leafs and Leicester Blue Sox. The South should be contested, provisionally at Bracknell, between the Cambridge Royals, Southampton Mustangs II, Old Timers and London Marauders. While the Herts Raptors didn’t make it to the playoffs, they did win three of their final four games to end their season on a high note and to hopefully set them up for a good season in 2012.
We’ll see what the final weekend of the regular season brings this Sunday and then await clarification on the final standings.