Split season

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A Split season is a schedule format implemented in a variety of sports leagues. It is used in several contemporary Minor League baseball leagues and was used in the earliest years of the National League. It is also frequently used in high school basketball leagues.

In this case, the league will divide the season schedule into two parts. Usually, the teams with the best record in the first-half and the second-half of the season play each other for the league championship after all regular season games have been played. In the event that the same team finishes with the best record in each half, there is no playoff; the team winning both halves is declared champion.[citation needed]

One problem with the split season format is that the team with the best won-lost record overall can, on occasion, miss the post-season playoff entirely. For example (figures in parentheses are won-lost records):

1ST HALF STANDINGS --- Team A (5-1), Team B (4-2), Team C (3-3), Team D (0-6)

2ND HALF STANDINGS --- Team D (5-1), Team B (4-2), Team C (2-4), Team A (1-5)

OVERALL STANDINGS --- Team B (8-4), Team A (6-6), Team D (5-7), Team C (5-7)

In this example, Team A (the first-half champion) plays Team D (the second-half champion) for the championship, while Team B ... the best team overall ... misses out. This situation happened twice in the 1981 Major League Baseball split season, as the St. Louis Cardinals finished with the best overall record in the National League East, while that division's playoff was between first-half champion Philadelphia and second-half champion Montreal, and the Cincinnati Reds finished with the best overall record in the National League West, while that division's playoff was between first-half champion Los Angeles and second-half champion Houston.

A second problem relates to the requirement of tiebreaker playoffs within each half --- something that can confuse the public. For instance, in the following standings

1ST HALF STANDINGS --- Team A (5-1), Team B (4-2), Team C (3-3), Team D (0-6)

2ND HALF STANDINGS --- Team A (4-2), Team B (4-2), Team C (2-4), Team D (2-4)

Team A (the 1st-half champion) will play Team B for the second-half championship. If Team A wins, that team wins the 2nd-half championship and the overall title. But if Team B wins, they are merely 2nd-half champions (via tiebreaker playoff), and must play Team A again for the overall title. Some fans find this confusing. (It is sometimes even more confusing when the tiebreaker playoff is for the first half title ... as that playoff occurs during a lull between the halves ... meaning that fans might see, e.g., Teams A and B compete for the first half championship, and follow that up with a second-half opening game).

The must-beat-the-same-team-multiple-times scenario can be increased even more if, at the tailend of the season, the second-best team in the 2nd half is a game behind, and faces a second-half leader who just happens to be the first-half champion to boot. I.e.,

1ST HALF STANDINGS --- Team A (5-1), Team B (4-2), Team C (3-3), Team D (0-6) (schedule completed)

2ND HALF STANDINGS --- Team A (4-1), Team B (3-2), Team C (2-3), Team D (1-4) (each team one game remaining)

In this scenario, the schedule might, by luck of the draw, call for Team A to play Team B, and for Team C to play Team D, in the last round of the season. This means that for Team B to win the championship, it must defeat Team A three consecutive times, i.e., (1) once in order to force a tie for the second-half championship, (2) again in the second-half tiebreaker playoff, and (3) once more in the all-season playoff. Team A, for its part, must win only one of those final three games.

Still another problem are first-half rainouts in baseball leagues that use a split season. If a first-half game is important, the teams may find themselves playing the game during the second-half of the season. On the other hand, if the first-half championship is not affected by the game, the rained out game may be canceled --- resulting in a loss of revenue.

Aside from these problems, many minor baseball leagues, as well as high school basketball coaches, like the split season format because it gives teams more chances to overcome a bad start.