This coming year we could see some changes in the playoff format. It is looking more likely there will be an extra wild card team added to each league. The two wild card teams will play a 1 game playoff and the winner will be the wild card entry into the same playoff format we have seen since 1995, going up against the team in the same league with the best record.
I think this is a great idea, it gives more teams a shot to make the playoffs. This translates into more meaningful games up to the end of the season.
This format also gives the division winners the advantage of an extra days rest and to have their pitching rotation lined up.
The wild card teams must throw their ace (if he is available) in this game and the winner will be without their best pitcher until later in the next series. Remember that is only a best of 5 game series, so the wild card winner will be at a disadvantage.
This should give more incentive to win your division. But we have seen its not always the best team that wins in the playoffs, its the hottest.
Many wild card teams were playing very meaningful games up until the last day of the season, so they were mentally ready for the playoffs. It is much more difficult to try to flip the switch when you have been coasting the last week of the season.
Since the 3 division and wild card format was introduced in 1994, but was first seen in 1995 (due to the strike) we have seen 5 wild card world series winners (1997 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, and 2011 Cardinals)
6 years in a row a wild card team reached the world series (2002-2007), and in 2002 the American and National league representative in the world series were both wild card teams (Angels and Giants).
I believe this new format would reward the teams that have earned their division crown after 162 games, but it also gives 2 extra teams a chance to make a splash in the playoffs. An extra day of playoffs is great, there is not a whole lot better than playoff baseball.