June 21, 2024

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MLB’s tie-breakers are basically settled.  Where does your bubble team stand?

MLB’s tie-breakers are basically settled. Where does your bubble team stand?

You can’t call the final week of the Major League Baseball regular season a pennant race. That term no longer applies now that teams may have to field up to three opponents in the postseason, win up to nine games, and keep the pulse going for more than three additional weeks to clinch the pennant and represent their home rink in the World Series. The real pennant race has not yet begun

But pennant fever sounds a lot better than “seeing who gets the sixth-best record and makes the postseason the third wild card.” So, yeah, maybe we need to workshop a little bit about marketing. Regardless of how you feel about it, the introduction of the third wild card has the intended effect: keeping more teams alive and more fans engaged until the end of the season. As we’ve seen many times, once you’re inside, strange things can happen.

Strange things may be required just to get in the front door, especially now that the 163rd game is a thing of the past and ties are no longer cut on the field. There’s still potential for silliness between three and four teams as well.

Here’s the good news: All of the most plausible tiebreaker scenarios have been settled. And we’ve tabbed it so you don’t have to. (We can count Excedrin, right?)

Let’s start with a quick look at the wild card standings for Monday’s games:

National League

a team register Games are back

Velez

87-69

+5

Diamondbacks

82-74

Cubs

82-74

Marlins

81-75

-1

Reds

80-77

-2.5

American League

a team register Games are back

rays

95-62

+9

Blue jays

87-69

+1.5

Astros

86-71

Sailors

84-72

-1.5

Next, let’s make a few assumptions: 1) The Philadelphia Phillies will clinch first place in the NL; 2) The Texas Rangers would go on 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 first 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 handing out the winning Powerball numbers.

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Now let us remind you what the deciding factors actually are. The first and simplest is face-to-face registration. The second is the intra-divisional record, which only comes into play in two plausible cases (Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins vs. Cincinnati Reds). Also remember this: The same tie-breakers will also be used to determine seeding if two wildcard qualifying matches end with identical records.

Did you understand it? Yes. Let’s start by getting the easy stuff out of the way. First, the National League. If two teams in the National League are tied for the third wildcard, here’s where things stand:

• The Marlins are in a favorable position. They hold tiebreakers over the Cubs (4-2), Diamondbacks (4-2) and Reds (3-3, and have already clinched a superior record within the division).

• The Reds hold the tiebreaker over the Diamondbacks (4-3) and Cubs (7-6) and lose the tiebreaker to the Marlins (3-3, lower record within the division).

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

• The Cubs should clinch a wild-card spot outright. That’s because they lost the tiebreaker to the Diamondbacks (1-6), Reds (6-7) and Marlins (2-4).

What if there was a three-way tie for the first time in Major League history? Well, fortunately, all of those scenarios have been settled as well.

The methodology, if you’re interested in knowing it, is as follows: If Team A has a better record than Team B and Team C, Team A advances. If no team has a better record against the other two teams, the teams will be ranked by overall winning percentage against the other clubs combined. Or maybe you don’t care to know what’s under the hood. that’s ok. We’ll recap it for you.

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

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

• If the Marlins, Reds and Cubs are tied for the third wildcard, the Marlins will advance.

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

AHA! But it is also possible for three teams to tie both of them the second And The third wild card. Here’s how to break these links:

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

• If the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Marlins are tied for both the second and third wild card, the Marlins and Diamondbacks advance.

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

• If the Diamondbacks, Reds and Cubs are tied for both the second and third wild card, the Reds and Diamondbacks advance.

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

I checked with MLB officials to be sure. Here’s what happens: First, the four teams are ranked by cumulative winning percentage among tied teams. So the Marlins (.611) will move up as the No. 2 wild card over the Diamondbacks (.550), Reds (.538) and Cubs (.346). But the Diamondbacks will not advance as the No. 3 wild card. That’s because once the Marlins advance, the remaining teams will be subject to the three-team tiebreaker criteria. The Reds will qualify because they go into a head-to-head tie-break against the remaining clubs.

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The American League is somewhat less complicated, though the Rangers could muddy the waters if they fail to maintain an AL West lead that stood at 2 1/2 games heading into Tuesday night. Assuming that doesn’t happen, the final two wild-card spots will go to the Blue Jays, Mariners and Houston Astros.

The Mariners and Astros are still playing each other this week, and although those remaining two games will be crucial, they won’t impact the season series that has already been settled. The Mariners actually clinched it, along with the tiebreaker, beating the Astros in eight of 11 games. Here’s the takeaway: The Mariners may have a game and a half down right now, but at least they don’t have to pass the Astros in the final standings. They just need to get even with them.

Let’s run through where the AL team stands in the tiebreaker:

• The Mariners own the tiebreaker against the Astros (8-3+) and the Blue Jays (3-3, who have already clinched a superior record between the divisions).

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

• The Astros lose the tiebreaker to the Mariners (3-8+) and Blue Jays (3-4).

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

Wild card fever, catch it! But also, please continue to cough into your elbow and wash your hands.

(Photo of the Blue Jays-Mariners game earlier in the season: Nick Turchiaro/USA Today)