New Italian Serie A format explained

Yesterday you could read about the merger of the Serie A1 and A2 into one league which will contain 32 teams. Today, the FIBS (Italian Baseball and Softball Federation) came up with extra information.

The 32 team league will be split into several divisions. This reminds us to the 1990 Serie A season in which a total of 16 teams participated, split in two groups of 8 teams. The 32 teams will come from the 6 teams of last season’s Serie A1, last seasons 19 teams of the Serie A2 and those teams who withdrew from the Serie A1 and Serie A2 due to corona. For the Serie A1, those were Rangers Redipuglia and Grizzlies Torino. Nettuno Baseball City and Nettuno 2 also withdrew but these teams merged with the recently promoted Nettuno BC 1945. Also four teams of the Serie B that earned a promotion to the Serie A2 last season, will be added to the new league.

But the eight teams of the former Serie A1, now to be called Serie A, will be split in two groups of 2 of 4 teams based on the 2020 ranking and they will play the so called Premiere Round. The remaining 24 teams of the former Serie A2, will be split into 6 groups of 4 teams and these clubs will play a qualification round.

The top four finishers of the Premiere Round will earn the right to play in the Super Round and will win the right to play in next year’s Premiere Round again. The top 4 finishers of each group (12 clubs in total) in the qualification round will be added to the teams that finished in places 5-12 in the Premiere Round and play in the Recovery Round. In this round contains 4 groups of 4 teams.

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The number 3 and 4 finishers of the qualification round (also 12 teams) will be placed in the Safety Round. In this round 2 groups of 6 teams will battle for survival in the Serie A. The bottom 2 finishers of each group will be demoted to the Serie B.

The top 2 finishers of the Super Round will advance to the semi-finals. They will have to wait for two weeks before they will know their opponents. These opponents will come from the Recovery Round. The winners of the 4 groups of the Recovery Round will earn the right to play in next year’s Premiere Round and will play in a kind of play off system in which the opponents are drawn by lottery to earn a spot in the Super Round in a best-of-three series.
The winners of these series will advance to a next best -of-three series against the number 3 and 4 finishers of the Super Round. The winners of these two series will advance to the semi-final, which will be played in a best-of-three series as well. The two teams that will reach the Italian Championship Series, will qualify for the 2022 European Champions Cup.

What catches the eye is that the former Serie A1 teams are clearly favored over those former Serie A2 teams. The teams of the former Serie A1 have several opportunities to reach the semi-finals: 1. By winning the Premiere Round and the Super Round but also by finishing in spots 3 and 4 in the Super Round and playing another best-of-three series vs the teams of the Recovery Round. 2. By finishing in spot 3 and 4 in the Premiere Round and winning the Recovery Round. Even then they still have to play two best-of-three series to make it to the semis, but their chances are bigger nonetheless.
The former Serie A2 teams only have one opportunity: They have to finish in the 1 and 2 spots of the qualification round and of the Recovery Round. And still then they have to play the 2 best-of-three series to make it to the semis. So in fact it is nearly impossible for the former Serie A2 teams to make it to the semi-finals.

One can wonder what is wrong with a normal round robin in which each team has equal chances. Sure there still would be a slim chance the former Serie A2 teams would have made it to the semi-finals because of the class distinction, but on paper, the chance would have been bigger. On paper, there even could have been an all former Serie A2 semi-final but with the new format, two spots in the semis are secured for former Serie A1 teams already. Not really fair if you’d ask me.

Anyhow, the new format is rather complicated. And besides that, knowing Italian baseball a little bit, don’t be surprised if there will be teams that will drop out before the start of the season. That is something that has happened a lot in the past seasons. Time will tell.

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