★ Nippon Professional Baseball playoffs
The Nippon professional baseball playoffs have taken several different forms throughout the history of organizations. Divided into two leagues, the Pacific League is less popular and less profitable than the Central League. As a result, PL has used various playoff formats throughout its history in an attempt to increase fan interest. The first real playoff system was introduced in the 1973 season. It included a split season plan that split the season into two halves, and the two teams that won each half went on to play each other in a five-game playoff series. Despite its popularity among fans, the format was canceled after ten seasons due to serious problems and criticism. For the year following their last split season, the PL reverted to a single season, however if five or fewer games separated the first - and second-place teams at the end of the season, the two teams will play each other in a five-game playoff series. This playoff system was unpopular and ridiculed by the media and fans. It lasted just three seasons with a playoff series that never needed to be played.
After their first two playoff systems were abolished, PLS Seibu Lions won six Japanese series championship titles in seven seasons from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. after the fall of the Lions in the mid-1990s, the Pacific League struggled to win Championships against the Central League, and lost three consecutive Japanese Series In the early 2000s. once again fighting for its survival as its popularity faded, the PL Board of Directors agreed to re-introduce a playoff system to be used in the 2004 season, potentially creating more regular-season excitement. The new postseason plan initiated a two-stage playoff in which the top three PL teams competed. In the first stage, the teams that finished the season with the second and third best records played each other in a best-of-three series. The winner of this series faced the best finisher of the League in the second, best of five stages. The winner of the second stage advanced to the Japanese series, where they competed with the CLS regular season champion. Two years later, the rules were changed to award the first-place team an automatic one-win advantage in the second stage. Although Central League officials initially criticized this plan, the PLs playoffs were a success, and soon after, CL was criticized for not implementing their own playoff system.
Unlike the Pacific League, the Central League never experimented with any type of postseason system until 2006. They had situational playoff scenarios written into its bylaws in the event of a tie at the end of the season, however, this never happened, and a permanent playoff plan was never created. In 2006, encouraged by the success of the PLs postseason system, CL officials announced their intention to introduce playoffs for the 2007 season to help increase declining attendance. Later in the same year, officials of the PL and TC have agreed on a common system of postseason maintenance. CL implemented a playoff system identical to PLs, and the entire playoff series was dubbed the "climax series", the current NPBs playoff format. PL agreed to name the regular-season winners who finished first in the Champions League, rather than the team that won the corresponding League playoffs, a reversal from the previous three seasons. Both leagues also agreed that none of the regular season Champions should get a one-game advantage in the final stage of the Climax series. However, after one season, the leagues reversed their decision on the advantage of the final stage and agreed to award their Champions a one-win advantage in the final stage, starting with the 2008 climactic series. At the same time, the final stage changed from a best-of-five series to a best-of-six series, where the first team to win four matches moves on to the Japanese series.
1. The playoffs in the Pacific League. (Плей-офф в Тихоокеанской Лиге)
The PL Pacific League first experimented with an end-of-season playoff system in the 1952 season. After completing a season of 108 games, the teams with the top four winning percentages qualified to play in a twelve-game round-Robin stage, in which each team had to play three games against the other three qualifying teams. The results of these games were then added to the teams regular season results to determine the League champion. After all 120 games were completed, the Mainichi Orions and Nankai hawks scored 75 wins, but the hawks had one less loss than the Orions, due to a game against the Daiei stars that ended in a draw earlier in the season. Due to the fact that the draw affected the pennant race, the hawks and stars played an additional 121st game. The hawks won the game, giving them sole rights to the Pacific League title and the right to represent the PL in the Japanese series. After the season, this fake playoff system was abandoned due to criticism that it was unfair to the three unqualified teams that shortened their seasons.
1.1. The playoffs in the Pacific League. Split season 1973-1982. (Сплит сезон 1973-1982)
During the Pacific League owners meeting on November 20, 1973, a split-season plan was approved that included a potential true playoff series for the 1973 season. Less popular and less profitable than Nippon Professional Baseballs NPB of another League, the CL Central League, PL hoped that the new format would significantly increase fan interest. The season was divided into two 65-game halves. The two teams that won each half went on to play each other in a five-game playoff series. The first two games of the series were played on the field of winners of the first half, and the rest-on the field of winners of the second half. The winner of the series was named PL champion and went on to play in the Central League CL champion in the Japanese series.
Split-season playoff games were commercially successful and often played to sold-out crowds, a rare occurrence during the Pacific League regular season. However, this format has had several problems and criticisms. While it did create two potential playoff races in the same season, dead rubber games that made no difference to the playoffs still resulted in the team capturing every title for six months. In addition, this allowed the team with only the third-best winning percentage for the entire season to reach the playoffs and the Japanese series. The Manager of Seibu Lions during the final season of the split-season format, Tatsuro Hirooka, strongly criticized the playoff system for this reason. He believed that teams could potentially abuse the format by focusing only on the first half, rather than the full season. Then, as soon as the team became the champion in the first half, it could rest the players in the second half, since their place in the playoffs was already guaranteed. Another problem with the split-season format is that the playoff series was canceled if one team won both halves of the season. This happened twice in 1976 and 1978. These problems led to the format being scrapped after ten years and replaced with the 1983 season.
1.2. The playoffs in the Pacific League. Results. (Результаты)
In the 1973 season, the first year of implementation of this system, the Nankai hawks took a place in the playoffs, winning the first half of the season, however, they finished the full season with only the third-best winning percentage in the League. This was the only instance in the split-season era where a team without the two highest winning percentages won a playoff series and advanced to the Japanese series. In the 1976 and 1978 seasons, the Hankyu Braves won both half-seasons, eliminating the need for a playoff series. Of the eight playoff series played, the first-half champion won five.Bold The team won the series to become the Pacific League champion and advance to the Japan Series.
1.3. The playoffs in the Pacific League. Five or fewer games separately 1983-1985. (Пять или меньше игр отдельно 1983-1985)
In 1983, the PL returned to a single season of 130 games, but if five or fewer games separated the first - and second-place teams at the end of the season, the two teams would play each other in a playoff series. The winner of the five-game series will be named League champion and represent the PL in the Japanese series. This playoff system was unpopular and constantly mocked by most of the baseball media and fans. While the system eliminated the possibility that a team with a low winning percentage in the regular season would advance to the Japan series, it also eliminated the excitement of a close pennant race near the end of the season. This forced the winning team, which almost beat its second-place rival, to try to beat them again in a playoff series. This system lasted only three seasons, and the playoff series never needed to be played.
1.4. The playoffs in the Pacific League. The playoffs 2004-2006. (Плей-офф 2004-2006 годов)
In the years following the cancellation of the PLs playoffs, and in the era before interleague play, the Pacific and Central leagues competed for the championship through the Japan series. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, PLS Seibu Lions entered their "Golden age" by winning six Japanese series titles in seven seasons. After the fall of the lions in the mid-1990s, the Pacific League struggled to win Championships against the Central League. By the early 2000s, PL had lost three consecutive Japanese TV series and was fighting for its survival as its popularity faded. When the first-place team had a significant lead in the standings near the end of the regular season, there was no pennant race leading up to the Japanese series, and fan interest and excitement waned. In an attempt to fix this problem and boost the overall popularity of the leagues, the PL Board of Directors agreed to re-introduce the playoff system to be used in the 2004 season, potentially creating more excitement in the regular season. The new postseason plan initiated a two-stage playoff in which the top three PL teams competed. In the first phase, teams that finished the newly shortened, 135-game regular season with the second and third best records played each other in a best-of-three series. The winner of this series faced the best finisher of the League in the second and final stage. The winner of the second stage advanced to the Japanese series, where they competed with the CLS regular season champion. Games could end in a tie if there was no winner after twelve innings. In the case that resulted in a tie in the series, the team that had the best result in the regular season advanced. The winner of the playoff series was named Pacific League champion instead of the team that finished the regular season in first place. After that announcement, CL officials criticized the plan, and giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe went so far as to say that if the PL team that finished third in the regular season moved to the Japan series, then his team would refuse to play in that series.
Originally, the Leagues top finisher at the end of the season was supposed to have home-field advantage throughout the second leg, but in August 2003, PL officials announced that if the first-place team led the second-place team by more than five games at the end of the regular season, that team would also have a one-game advantage in the second leg of the best-of-five series. The first two years of this playoff system resulted in the first-place Fukuoka Softbank hawks missing out on a one-game advantage in the second stage by only half a game in both seasons and losing both series as a result. Frustrated, SoftBank asked PL officials to review the rules. As a result, the PL eliminated the requirement for a five-game lead in the 2006 playoffs in favor of automatically awarding the first-place team a one-win advantage. Due to this change, the first-place team no longer had home field advantage for the entire second stage, instead the remaining four games were to be divided equally between the stadiums of both teams. Changing the rules of conduct was not a factor, because ultimately won first place fighters Hokkaido Nippon-Ham took place in the Japanese series in two straight games, the second phase against SoftBank with absolute advantages in one victory, which helped establish the hawks.
During the three years of the PLs playoff system, the winner of the PLS postseason tournament competed against the CL team that finished the regular season with the best record. The discrepancy between the two postseason leagues has drawn some criticism from baseball analysts and insiders. During the 2005 Japan series, the Japan Times Stephen Elsesser called the unbalanced postseason NPBs system "a bad system" and believed that CLs decision not to implement its own playoff system was "stupid". Citing the poor performance of the Japanese Hanshin Tigers series, he suggested that CLs lack of postseason play was a drawback. Ellsesser believed that the 17 days between their last regular-season game and the first game of the Japanese series did nothing to prepare the tigers for a possible championship series against the Chiba Lotte Marines, who played continuously. Like Elsesser, after seeing the "excitement" generated by the 2004 PL playoffs, then-marine corps Manager Bobby Valentine was "incredulous that the Central League didnt follow suit" and created his own playoff series.
1.5. The playoffs in the Pacific League. Results. (Результаты)
In the first two years of the Pacific League playoffs, the two second-place teams won both stages and advanced to the Japan series. In their third and final year, the third-seeded hawks won the first stage. With the second-stage rule change to give the top-seeded fighters a one-win advantage, the fighters were the first top-seeded team to win a Pacific League title during this playoff plan.Bold The team won the Second Stage to become the Pacific League champion and advance to the Japan Series. ^† For 2006 Pacific League Playoffs, instead of the top-seeded team having home-field advantage for the entirety of the Second Stage, the rules were changed to award the top seed a one-win advantage while the remaining four games were split evenly between both teams stadiums, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters won the Stage in two games, removing the need for games three or four to be played at the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome.
2. The Climax series, 2007-present. (Серия "кульминация", 2007-настоящее время)
Unlike the Pacific League, the Central League never experimented with any type of postseason system until 2006. CL had situational playoff scenarios written into its bylaws that required either a tie in the standings or teams with more wins ending up with a worse winning percentage than the top team, but a permanent playoff plan was never created. In March 2006, encouraged by the success of the PLs postseason system, CL officials announced their intention to introduce playoffs for the 2007 season to help increase declining attendance. During meetings later that year, PL and CL officials disagreed over proposed plans detailing a new playoff system. Since the creation of the PLL playoffs in 2004, the League has awarded its pennants to the winners of the playoffs, rather than to the team that finished the regular season with the best record. LP did not approve of CLss intention to continue awarding its championship title to the first-place finisher in the regular season, using the playoffs to determine which team the Japanese series would compete against.
In September 2006, the two leagues agreed on a single postseason system. CL implemented a playoff system identical to PLs, and the entire playoff series was called the "climax series". The PL agreed to name the team that finished first in the regular season as Champions of the Champions League, rather than the team that won the corresponding League playoffs, a reversal from the previous three seasons. It was decided that both leagues would play 144 regular-season games, the first time that both leagues would play the same number of games since the PL introduced its playoff system in 2004. Both leagues also agreed that none of the regular season Champions should get a one-game advantage in the final stage of the Climax series, stating that it was unnecessary from a business point of view. It has been suggested that the Yomiuri giants voted for the idea of the playoffs in 2006 because they have not finished atop the standings in the regular season since 2002, and the playoff concept would increase the giants chances of winning the Japanese series. However, this plan backfired on them. In the first season of the Climax Series, the giants finally won the CL pennant, but were still denied a spot in the Japanese series when they were defeated by the runner-up Chunichi dragons in a three-game sweep during the final leg of the 2007 Central League Climax series. The following season, the leagues reversed their decision to take advantage of the final stage and agreed to award their Champions a one-win advantage in the final stage, starting with the 2008 climactic series. At the same time, the final stage changed from a best-of-five series to a best-of-six series, where the first team to win four matches moves on to the Japanese series.
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