MLB’s wild-card tiebreakers have essentially been decided. Where does your bubble team stand?


You can’t call the final week of Major League Baseball’s regular season a pennant race. The term no longer applies in that teams must dispatch at least three postseason opponents, win nine games and maintain the lead over three additional weeks to clinch a pennant and represent their circuit in the World Series. will be. The true pennant race has not yet started.

But pennant fever “sounds much better than finding out who will have the sixth-best record and make the postseason as the third wild card.” So yes, maybe we need to work on the marketing a little. No matter how you feel about it, the introduction of a third wild card is having the intended effect: keeping more teams alive until the end of the season and keeping more fans engaged. As we’ve seen many times, once you’re in, strange things can happen.

However, getting in the front door may require strange things – especially now that Game 163 is a thing of the past and ties on the field are no longer broken. There is still potential for some three- and four-team weaknesses.

Here’s the good news: All of the most plausible tiebreaker scenarios have been dealt with. And we tabulated them so you don’t have to. (We can afford Excedrin, right?)

Let’s start by taking a look at the wild-card standings through Monday’s games:

National League

Team record game back

Phillies

87-69

+5

diamondbacks

82-74

,

cub

82-74

,

merlins

81-75

-1

Reds

80-77

-2.5

American League

Team record game back

rays

95-62

+9

blue Jays

87-69

+1.5

Astros

86-71

,

mariners

84-72

-1.5

Next, let’s establish a few assumptions: 1) The Philadelphia Phillies will clinch the NL’s top wild-card spot; 2) The Texas Rangers will look to win the AL West; 3) It doesn’t matter whether the Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays win the AL East because the second-place finisher has clinched the top AL wild-card spot; 4) Neither the San Diego Padres nor the San Francisco Giants, both of whom are technically alive, found a crumpled $100 bill on the street on their way to turning in the winning Powerball numbers.

Let us now remind you what tiebreakers actually are. The first and simplest is the one-to-one record. The second is intradivisional record, which only comes into play in two admirable examples (Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins vs. Cincinnati Reds). Also remember: The same tiebreakers will also be used to determine seeding in the event that two wild-card qualifiers finish with identical records.

got it? Ok. Let’s start by getting the easy stuff out of the way. First, the National League. In the event of a two-team tie in the NL for the third wild card, things would go like this:

• The Marlins are in a favorable position. They have tiebreakers over the Cubs (4–2), Diamondbacks (4–2) and Reds (3–3, already have a better intradivisional record).

• The Reds own the tiebreaker over the Diamondbacks (4-3) and Cubs (7-6) and lost the tiebreaker to the Marlins (3-3, inferior intradivisional record).

• The Diamondbacks own the tiebreaker over the Cubs (6-1) and lost tiebreakers to the Marlins (2-4) and Reds (3-4).

• The Cubs must clinch a wild-card spot right away. That’s because they lose to the Diamondbacks (1-6), Reds (6-7) and Marlins (2-4) in tiebreakers.

You ask, what if there is a three-way tie for the first time in major league history? Well, thankfully all those scenarios have been resolved too.

If you want to know, the methodology is this: If Team A has a better record than both Team B and Team C, then Team A advances. If no team has a better record than the other two teams, the teams will be ranked based on overall winning percentage compared to other clubs combined. Or maybe you don’t care to know what’s under the hood. Ok. We will finalize it for you.

• If the Diamondbacks, Reds and Marlins tie for the third wild card, the Marlins advance.

• If the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Marlins tie for the third wild card, the Marlins advance.

• If the Marlins, Reds and Cubs tie for the third wild card, the Marlins advance.

• If the Diamondbacks, Reds and Cubs tie for the third wild card, the Reds advance.

Aha! But it is also possible that three teams could be tied Both Second And Third wild card. Here’s how those ties will be broken:

• If the Diamondbacks, Reds and Marlins are tied for the second and third wild cards, the Marlins and Reds advance.

• If the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Marlins tie for the second and third wild cards, the Marlins and Diamondbacks advance.

• If the Marlins, Reds and Cubs tie for both the second and third wild cards, the Marlins and Reds advance.

• If the Diamondbacks, Reds and Cubs tie for the second and third wild cards, the Reds and Diamondbacks advance.

Then there’s the banana-crazy-city-dogs-and-cats-living-together scenario. What if the Diamondbacks, Reds, Marlins and Cubs finish in a four-way tie for the second and third wild cards?

I checked with MLB officials to be sure. Here’s what will happen: First, the four teams are ranked based on cumulative winning percentage among tied teams. So the Marlins (.611) will advance as the No. 2 wild card over the Diamondbacks (.550), Reds (.538) and Cubs (.346). But the Diamondbacks won’t advance as the No. 3 wild card. This is because once the Marlins advance, the remaining teams will be subject to the three-team tiebreaker criteria. And the Reds will advance as they have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the remaining clubs.

The American League is a little less complicated, though matters could get messy if the Rangers fail to hold on to the AL West lead, which they hold at 2 1/2 games entering Tuesday night. Assuming that doesn’t happen, the final two wild-card spots will fall to the Blue Jays, Mariners and Houston Astros.

The Mariners and Astros are still playing each other this week, and while those two remaining games will be important, they will not impact the season series that has already been decided. The Mariners had already won it, along with the tiebreaker, by defeating the Astros in eight of 11 games. The key takeaway here: The Mariners may be 1 1/2 games behind at this point, but at least they don’t have to overtake the Astros in the final standings. They just need to draw with them too.

Let’s run down where the two-team AL tiebreaker stands:

• The Mariners have tiebreakers against the Astros (8-3+) and Blue Jays (3-3, already have a better intradivisional record).

• The Blue Jays have a tiebreaker against the Astros (4-3) and lost the tiebreaker to the Mariners (3-3, inferior intradivisional record).

• The Astros lost to the Mariners (3-8+) and Blue Jays (3-4) in tiebreakers.

Finally, in the event of a three-team tie between the Mariners, Blue Jays, and Astros for the 2–3 wild-card spot, the Mariners advance as the No. 2 wild card and the Blue Jays advance as the no. 3 wild cards.

Catch wild card fever! But also, please continue to cough into your elbow and wash your hands.

(Photo of the early-season Blue Jays-Mariners game: Nick Turchiero/USA TODAY)


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