OUA baseball playoff format raises questions yet again

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

For the second straight year, I have found myself writing an article questioning the OUA baseball playoff format.

Last season the OUA tried a new format that saw 11 teams split into three pools, with the winners of each pool, plus one wild card, advancing to the semifinals. That seemed like a decent idea, until the OUA decided to put Brock and Toronto — two of the top three teams in the league — in the same pool, while Laurentian and Waterloo — the two worst teams in the league — shared a different pool.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the semifinal seeding was reverted back to regular season records, so Laurier, who advanced as a wild card yet had the best regular season record, essentially got a free pass to the finals as they were matched up against crummy Laurentian. They went on to win the championship.
On paper, that format would’ve worked fine had they put the proper teams in the correct pools. A snake-draft would’ve worked perfectly — Pool A: team no. 1, 6, 7, 11. Pool B: team no. 2, 5, 8, 10. Pool C: team 3, 4, 9. Winners of each pool advance, as does one wild card. Voilà.

Here’s what the OUA did instead — Pool A consisted of teams 1, 4, 5 and 8. Pool B consisted of teams 2, 3, 6 and 7, while Pool C consisted of teams 9, 10 and 11.

That was last year though, and the 2019 OUA season saw the addition of three new teams added to the league: Ottawa, York and Carleton. With the league up to 14 teams now, the sheer quantity of teams in the league should have been enough for the OUA to make the playoff cutoff at eight.

A classic 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5 bracket with single-game elimination in the first two rounds, followed by a best-of-three finals? Sounds pretty good to me.

The 2019 playoffs, however, will employ an eight-run mercy rule after five innings, and all round-robin games have a two-hour time limit. The seedings are based off of last year’s playoff results. What? In one broad stroke of silliness, the OUA managed to make the entire regular season absolutely meaningless.
This is like the ending of Game of Thrones all over again; the regular season, much like Jon Snow’s true Targaryen heritage, will have zero effect on the final outcome.

For example, McMaster will be seeded 10th this year (due to last year’s early playoff exit), yet they currently sit third in the OUA with a 5-1 record. On the other hand, Laurentian will be seeded third this year, yet they currently own the third-worst record in the league.

“The [OUA] is trying hard to fit all 14 teams at one facility in three days,” said Justin Ayles, a former Brock pitcher who now covers Canadian baseball and the OUA under the moniker ‘Canadian Baseball Guru’. “This feat is almost impossible, and because of that they initially put time limits on the games. The mercy is fine, but eight runs is an odd number where 10 runs over five innings is the common way to go a seven-inning game.”

“I believe the OUA baseball community made enough noise to quickly change the format to allow for a third field and to erase the time limits,” said Ayles. “No time limits are going to allow baseball games to play at the pace they should be played at.”

With all that messy formatting out of the way, Brock will share a pool with Guelph, Waterloo and Ryerson. Playoffs will take place during the Oct. 11-13 weekend in Ajax.

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