MLB tiebreaker could come into play this season

Who is this man, and why is his picture in this story? - Jim McIsaac

The division races in the American League are all but decided, but there are six teams within three games of each other vying for two wild card play in spots. Here are some handy charts that sort out the tiebreakers.

With just over a week left in the major league baseball season, it appears that the three division races in the American League have been all but settled. The Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, and Oakland A’s have nearly insurmountable leads on their competition.

In fact, you can pretty much bet that the Tigers and the A’s will be playing each other in the League Division series (LDS) in the first round of the playoffs. Which team has home field advantage in that series is still up for grabs. If the two teams finish with the same record, Oakland would have the home field advantage by virtue wining four of the seven games between the teams during the season. The Red Sox will likely host the winner of the one game wild card play- in.

The wild card situation is where the picture gets muddy. Six teams are vying for two wild card spots, and they’re all within 3-1/2 games of each other in the standings. That leaves a significant chance that two or more of these teams will be tied for the wild card spots. The two non division winners with the best season record will play each other, with the winner advancing to play the division winner with the best record in the league division series.

In the event of a tie between two teams for the two wild card berths, there will be no playoff to determine which team gets the home field advantage. A playoff will be held to determine the winner of a division, or to determine which team qualifies for the playoffs, but not for home field advantage.

To determine home field advantage, the tie breaking formula is used. The formula is actually pretty simple for two teams. Whichever team won the most games between the two teams during the season will get to host the play off game. This will break the tie in most scenarios. The full tie breaking formula is here.

If three or four teams are tied for the last two wild card spots, there will have to be a two round playoff to determine which team advances to the league division series. In the case of a three way tie, that means two teams play each other, and the third hosts the winner. Those seeds are determined by the tie breaking formula.

If three or more teams are tied for only the second wild card spot, there will be a playoff to select one team to move forward to the wild card game. Use the tiebreakers in the charts below to determine where the games are played.

The most important thing to know about tie breaking procedures is this: No team will be eliminated from the playoffs or given a division title by a tie breaking procedure. Tiebreakers are only used to determine home field advantage.

I won't run through the entire tie breaking formula, for fear that I’d have about two readers left by the end of this article. I’ll just give you the chart that covers each scenario, cut to the chase and tell you who wins.

A.L. TWO TEAM TIEBREAKERS

Team 1 Team 2 Tiebreaker winner
Yankees Orioles Yankees
Yankees Indians Yankees
Yankees Rangers Rangers
Yankees Rays Rays lead 9- 7, 3 games at NY
Yankees Royals Yankees
Indians Orioles Indians
Indians Rangers Indians
Indians Royals Indians
Indians Rays Rays
Orioles Rangers Orioles
Orioles Royals Royals
Orioles Rays Rays
Rays Royals Royals
Rangers Rays Rangers
Rangers Royals Royals win tiebreaker

These scenarios are simplified by the fact that each season series between the six teams has a clear winner. Only the Rangers and Royals might split their season series, if the Royals take two out of three when Texas visits.

If three teams are tied, and one team has the series edge over the other two, that team gets home field advantage and will wait while the other two play each other. There are 20 three way tie scenarios. Each of the six teams potentially involved is in ten possible threesomes. Here are the three team tie breaker scenarios:

A. L. THREE TEAM TIEBREAKERS

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Schedule Comments
Yankees Orioles Rays

Orioles at Yankees

Winner at Rays

Yankees get home field if they sweep Rays
Yankees Orioles Rangers

Texas at New York

Winner at Baltimore

Net win pct gives Baltimore home field.
Yankees Orioles Royals

Orioles at KC

Winner at New York

Yankees took both season series.
Yankees Orioles Indians

Orioles at Cleveland

Winner at New York

Yankees won both season series.
Yankees Rays Rangers

New York at Tampa

Winner at Texas

Rangers won both series
Yankees Rays Royals

Likely Rays at New York

Winner at Kansas City

But if Yankees sweep TB, Rays at KC, winner at NY
Yankees Rays Indians

Cleveland at New York

Winner at Tampa

If Yankees sweep TB, Cleveland at TB, winner at NY
Yankees Rangers Royals

Texas at KC

Winner at New York

Any of these three would be just glad to get in
Yankees Rangers Indians

Rangers at Cleveland

Winner at New York

Rock, paper scissors again
Yankees Royals Indians

KC at Cleveland

Winner at New York

Yanks beat both Central clubs
Orioles Rays Rangers

Rangers at Baltimore

Winner at Tampa

Rays win on cumulative record vs Rangers and Rays
Orioles Rays Royals

Orioles at Rays

Winner at KC

Royals beat both clubs
Orioles Rays Indians

Orioles at Cleveland

Winner at Tampa

Net wins between three teams
Orioles Rangers Royals

Texas at KC

Winner at Baltimore

Rangers and Royals split, Orioles win tiebreaker
Orioles Rangers Indians

Rangers at Baltimore

Winner at Cleveland

Indians won series vs both teams
Orioles Royals Indians

Baltimore at KC

Winner at Cleveland

Tribe won both series
Rays Rangers Royals

Rays at Texas

Winner at KC

Rays lost both series
Rays Rangers Indians

Texas at Tampa

Winner at Cleveland

Total win pct among 3 teams
Rays Royals Indians

Rays at Cleveland

Winner at KC

Central teams host two games
Rangers Royals Indians

Rangers vs KC

Winner at Cleveland

Tribe beat both teams

There are three series remaining which could change the tie breaking picture. The Rays play three games at New York and host Baltimore four games while the Rangers play three at Kansas City. The Rays will still win those season series if they don't get swept. We can fill in the boxes on the chart as the picture becomes clearer.

Four team ties:

The odds of a four, five, or six team tie are more remote, but possible. There could be a tie for both wild card spots, in which case there would be a two round playoff series. Or one team could have a better record than the rest, other contenders could wind up with the same record, in which case there would be a multi layered playoff with do or die elimination games, and one team remaining to play at the first qualifying wild card team's venue.

If four teams are tied for the two wild card spots, there will be two games with the winner of each advancing to the one game play in game. If four teams tie for one wild card spot, the four will play off for the right to play in the one game play in game while the other wild card team awaits the winner of the playoff.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

In the National league, the Dodgers have clinched their division, the Braves will win theirs, while the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds will all make the playoffs, but the division is still up for grabs. If two teams tie for the division lead, there will be a one game playoff, with the loser hosting the second team in the wild card play in game. If two teams tie for the wild card spots, a tiebreaking formula will be used to determine where the play in game will be played.

The Cardinals won't be playing any more games against the Reds or the Pirates. St Louis won the season series against Cincinnati but lost to Pittsburgh. The Reds and Pirates have six games remaining against each other, with the Pirates holding an edge in the season series 7 games to 6 thus far. If the two teams split or the Pirates win more than three of the six games, Pittsburgh would host any division playoff or wild card games.

Here are the two team tiebreaker scenarios in the National League. The tiebreaker would only be used to determine home field for any playoff or wild card games.

N. L. TWO TEAM TIEBREAKER

Team A Team B Host
Cardinals Pirates Pittsburgh
Cardinals Reds St. Louis
Pirates Reds PIT leads, 7- 6 with 6 games to play

If two of the three NL Central clubs tie for first place, they would play off with the loser then hosting the third place team.

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