MLB Wild Card Tiebreakers
by Matt Severance - 7/31/2009
With the calendar about to turn to August, it’s definitely time to focus on the wild-card standings in Major League Baseball.
In the American League, it’s probably going to be a three-team race this season for the wild card: the two AL East teams among the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays that don’t win the division along with the Texas Rangers, who are second in the AL West. Most expect the Angels to win the West although that could change if the Rangers make a big move before the July 31 trade deadline and the Halos don’t.
In the National League, things are a lot more grouped in the wild-card race. Certainly the Phillies and Dodgers seem locks to win their divisions. But the NL Central is so wide open that four teams are in the mix for both the division and the wild card. Here are the main wild-card contenders overall: the Giants, Rockies, Marlins, Braves and then the three teams that don’t win the Central among the Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers and Astros.
So here is how the wild-card tiebreakers work:
Obviously if one team has the best record among all the teams then that team wins the wild card regardless of what division that teams plays in. However, the wild-card entrant can’t play a team from its division in the Divisional Series to maintain the integrity of a division race.
If two teams from the same division are tied at the end of the season but both are assured of playoff spots, then the first tiebreaker to determine which club is the division champion and which is the wild card would be their 2008 season-series record. The second tiebreaker is divisional record.
If two clubs from different divisions or the same division without the division title on the line are tied for the wild card, there is a one-game playoff. This happened in 2007 when the Colorado Rockies won their last two games, while the San Diego Padres lost their last two, giving both clubs 89-73 records. Colorado then beat San Diego in the one-game playoff with that memorable Matt Holliday slide at home in the bottom of the 13th inning, capping a three-run rally. By the way, any “one-game” playoffs count as regular-season games when it comes to stats.
Through the 2008 season, home-field advantage for one-game playoffs was determined by a coin flip but effective this season it will be based on on-field performance, with the first tiebreaker being head-to-head record. This came about because the Twins complained last year that they had to play in Chicago for a one-game playoff for the AL Central title despite winning the season series against the White Sox, who had won the coin flip.
If three teams finish with the same record, it depends on the head-to-head of the three teams against each other to determine which team plays which on the Monday after the season. If one team has the upper hand against both, it would await the winner of that one-game playoff between the other two. By the way, this three-way (or more) scenario has come close to happening a few times but never has.
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