This season, MLB now has 5 playoff teams from each league. There are the 3 division winners and 2 wild-card teams. Those are the teams with the two best records among non-division-winners, even if they’re from the same division. Those two teams play 1 game to decide who advances to the next round.
This is an improvement. Before, the division races were less meaningful, if the 2nd place team was going to get a wild-card. Now, it’s a huge penalty to be the wild-card team instead of the division winner. The surviving wild-card team is at a disadvantage in the next round, because they will use their best pitcher in the wild-card game.
There are some advantages of this format. A single game sudden death is good for TV. It limits the delay before the start of the next round.
There’s a reason baseball playoffs are best-of-5 and best-of-7. In a single game, the outcome is much more random.
They could have made it a 3 game series. All games are played at the higher seed. They play one game on the first day. On the second day, they play a doubleheader. The second game would only be played if necessary. It should be a straight doubleheader and not a day/night doubleheader. If the wild-card round is on the weekend, that would maximize attendance and TV ratings. They could have the doubleheader for one league on Saturday, and the doubleheader for the other league on Sunday.
I was surprised that the wild-card game was a 1 game series instead of a 3 game series. If they add a doubleheader, they could make it a 3 game series and add only 1 extra day to the schedule. A single game sudden-death is more interesting TV, but it’s a more random outcome.