Team Entropy update: Breaking down AL, NL wild-card races in final week
- All six divisions have been clinched, but the wild-card races in the AL and NL are still up for grabs. How will things shake out with just one week left until the postseason?
Mark Teixeira's walk-off grand slam on Wednesday night against the Red Sox kept the Yankees' minuscule wild-card hopes alive, but the Blue Jays' loss to the Orioles—via Hyun-soo Kim's ninth-inning homer—gave Boston its first division title since 2013 nonetheless. With all six divisions now clinched and the season down to its final four days, the wild-card races are still rather wild, which means it's time for one more edition of the Team Entropy update.
For this edition, you'll want to keep in mind the FanGraphs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds were unpublished at press time, but the two are very similar) and MLB's official tiebreaking scenarios. For a refresher on just what Team Entropy is about, check out my introduction to this year's madness from earlier this month.
A week after the Mets, Giants and Cardinals came into the day tied at 80–72, we have some separation. Despite their myriad injuries and the additional bad news of losing Steven Matz for the season, the Mets (85–74) now have a 1 1/2-game lead for the top spot and are positioned to claim home field advantage in the wild-card game on Oct. 5. Their magic number to clinch is two, their odds at 98.6%. The Giants (83–75) occupy the second spot, one game ahead of the Cardinals (82–76), with a magic number of four; the two teams have odds of 67.6% and 33.7%, respectively.
Schedule-wise, the Mets finish out the season with three games in Philadelphia; the Giants have one more at home against the Rockies before hosting the Dodgers for three; and the Cardinals are at home the rest of the way as well, with one game against the Reds—who have taken two games out of three in the series thus far and nine of the 18 matchups this season—and three against the Pirates.
A three-way tie for the two spots is still possible via two scenarios. The three teams could all reach 86 wins if the Mets go 1–2, the Giants 3–1, and the Cardinals 4–0, or they could reach 85 if the Mets go 0–3, the Giants 2–2 and the Cardinals 3–1. If either of those happens, the Cardinals would be rewarded for their comeback with first pick in the A/B/C tiebreaker scenario on the basis of having a higher intradivision winning percentage than the Mets—.528 (38–34) for St. Louis, .521 (38–35) for New York—since the two teams are both 7–6 in the common pool among the three. In that scenario, Club A (likely the Cardinals) hosts Club B (likely the Mets, who have second pick) on Oct. 3 (yielding one wild-card team), with Club C (likely the Giants) hosting the loser on Oct. 4 (yielding the second wild-card team).
The Giants would be the road team if they wind up tied with one of other two clubs, as they went 3–4 against both this season. The Cardinals would host the Mets on the basis of the aforementioned intradivisional records, since the two teams split their six-game season series.
The Royals (81–77) have been mathematically eliminated, but the Yankees (82–76, 0.1%) remain poised on the brink, with an elimination number of one. There are still six teams alive, including New York: the Blue Jays (87–71, 89.9%), who are a game ahead of the Orioles (86–72, 66.6%) for the top spot; the Tigers (85–73, 35.4%), who are one game behind Baltimore; the Mariners (84–74, 8.0%), who are two back; and the Astros (83–76, less than 0.1%), who are 3 1/2 games back, with an elimination number of two.
The dream of a massive five-way pileup whose blueprint for tiebreaking remains unpublished is still in play with regards to the second spot. If the Orioles go 0–4, the Tigers 1–3, the Mariners 2–2, the Astros 3–0 and the Yankees 4–0, all five teams would finish with 86 wins. It's not exactly likely, but sabermetrician Rany Jazayerli provided a ballpark estimate of the odds.
Four-, three- and two-way ties at 86 wins are still possible via some combination of the above, and likewise for ties at the 87-win level via some combination of the Blue Jays going 0–4, the Orioles 1–3, the Tigers 2–2 and the Mariners 3–1; in those cases, both the Astros and Yankees would be out of luck.
In the event of three-, four- or five-way ties, the pecking order for drafting in an A/B/C, A/B/C/D or even A/B/C/D/E scenario would be determined by the highest winning percentage against the other teams who remain in the pool. Here's the head-to-head grid to date.
The Blue Jays and Orioles play one more game in Toronto, and the Yankees host the O's for their final three games; the rest of the season series are done.
If things went exactly according to plan to yield our five-way scenario at 86 wins, we'd disregard the records against the Blue Jays (who are already at 87), yielding the following order: Astros (.553, 21–17); Yankees (.543, 19–16); Mariners (.513, 20–19); Tigers (.500, 13–13); and Orioles (.375, 15–25). If we get to the four-way 87-win tie—which would require the Orioles to win Thursday night's game in Toronto—we'd disregard New York and Houston (who would be eliminated), leaving the following order: Mariners (.600, 12–8); Blue Jays (.515, 17–16); Orioles (.455, 15–18); Tigers (.421, 9–12). For now, I'll leave it to you to work out the various three-way winning percentages.
Once that pecking order is determined, teams draft their spots (A, B, C, D) to fit into the following scenarios (again we don't know what happens if there's an E, but the draft principle is almost certainly the same).
• If four teams are tied for two spots at 87 wins, the scenario would start with Club B @ Club A and Club D @ Club C on Oct. 3, with the winners declared the wild-card teams and the wild-card game played in the A/B winner's park as initially scheduled on Oct. 4.
• If four teams are tied for one spot at 86 wins (with the Blue Jays owning the other at 87), the A/B and C/D winners meet in the A/B winner's park on Oct. 4, with that winner the second wild-card team, and the wild-card game itself pushed to Oct. 5.
• If three teams are tied for two spots at 87 wins, that would again be Club B @ Club A on Oct. 3 (yielding one wild-card team), with Club C hosting the loser on Oct. 4 (yielding the second wild-card team) and the wild-card game again pushed to Oct. 5.
• If three teams are tied for one spot at 86 wins, then the B @ A winner hosts C, with the winner in.