Even with the mathematical elimination of the Astros and Yankees on Thursday night, the wild-card races remain wild, with three- and four-way ties still possible. And now it appears that there's an added layer of chaos: Mother Nature. Rain postponed Thursday's matchup between the Indians and Tigers in Detroit, and MLB rules could require the contest to be made up on Monday, Oct. 4, as it may have implications not just for the wild-card race but also for seeding purposes. What's more, weather forecasts in the Bronx, Boston and Philadelphia could lead to postponements that would require rescheduling as well. Welcome to the latest, wettest edition of #TeamEntropy.
Before we tuck into this, you'll need to brush up on Rule 7.02 (b)(5), governing postponed games:
"Any postponed game … that has not been rescheduled and completed prior to the last scheduled game between the two teams during the championship season must be played … to a completed regulation game, if the League President determines that not playing such game might affect post-season play, including eligibility for the post-season and/or home-field advantage for any post-season game.”
That rule was clarified before this season to note that all 162 games need to be played if the outcome has an impact on seeding or home field advantage for the postseason. We'll discuss the implications of that where applicable. As always, you'll want to keep in mind the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds and MLB's official tiebreaking scenarios.
AL wild card
With the Orioles' 4–0 win over the Blue Jays, the two teams are now tied at 87–72, putting the Yankees and Astros (both 83–76) out of business for 2016. Elsewhere, the Mariners edged the A's, 3–2, pushing them to 85–74, two games behind Baltimore and Toronto and half a game behind Detroit (85–73). That leaves several potential tiebreaking scenarios in play.
• A four-way tie at 88 wins if both the Orioles (who play the Yankees in the Bronx) and Blue Jays (who face the Red Sox in Boston) go 1–2, the Tigers go 3–1 (first with a three-game series in Atlanta) and the Mariners go 3–0 (at home against the A's).
• A four-way tie at 87 wins if both the Orioles and Blue Jays go 0–3, the Tigers go 2–2 and the Mariners go 2–1.
• A three-way tie at 89 wins if both the Orioles and Blue Jays go 2–2 and the Tigers go 4–0.
• Three-way ties at 87 or 88 wins are possible for either one or two spots via permutations within the four-way scenarios.
In the event of a four-way tie, the teams would pick from an A/B/C/D scenario based on a pecking order determined by their winning percentages against other teams in the pool. Updating the numbers from Thursday to correct a typo and reflect the Orioles' win, which was the last of the contests among these teams: Mariners (.600, 12–8); Blue Jays (.531, 17–15); Orioles (.455, 15–18); Tigers (.421, 9–12).
The scenario would start with Club B @ Club A and Club D @ Club C, now presumably on Oct. 4, since the Tigers-Indians game would be played at 1:10 pm ET the day before. The winners of those two games would be the wild-card teams, with the game played in the A/B winner's park, presumably on Oct. 5 (originally an off day to place the spotlight on the NL wild-card game). Whether MLB would push the wild-card winner to play the Division Series on Oct. 6 as scheduled and turn Oct. 8 from a travel day into the date for Game 2 remains to be seen. If they don't, the Tigers could be faced with a five-games-in-five-days scenario: Atlanta on Sunday, Detroit on Monday, anywhere but Detroit for the tiebreaker on Tuesday and the actual wild-card game on Wednesday, and then in the AL top seed's city on Thursday. Brad Ausmus better hope he has enough frequent flyer miles.
Several three-way tie scenarios are in play. For example, the Blue Jays (or Orioles) could get to 89 or 90 wins with the other three teams at 87 or 88 as outlined above. There are a variety of pecking orders depending upon who's involved, again as determined by their winning percentages against the remaining teams; for purposes of space and (in)sanity, I'll leave you the head-to-head grid and a reminder that intradivisional and then intraleague winning percentages are the next-level tiebreakers if two teams have the same records in the pool (such as Baltimore and Detroit both going 6–8 in a three-team pool that also includes the Mariners). Winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games is after that, and then—in case you were wondering—"winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between the two tied clubs. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until the tie has been broken." Oh, right, the grid:
If three teams are tied for two spots, the festivities would start with Club B @ Club A on Oct. 3 (if the Tigers aren't involved) or 4 (if they are); that would yield one wild-card team. Club C would host the loser the next day, giving us the second wild-card team, with the wild-card game the day after that. If three teams are tied for one spot, the B @ A winner hosts C, with the winner the wild-card team. If two teams are tied for the second spot, the tiebreaker host would be determined via head-to-head, intradivisonal and then intraleague wining percentages, drilling deeper into the latter as necessary.
Detroit could avoid these scenarios, mostly via negative outcomes—going 0–3 or 1–2 would eliminate them, regardless of what the other teams do—but even then, the Tigers may still need to play on Monday for the sake of the Indians' seeding (see below). Going 3–0 would give them a wild-card spot outright only if the Blue Jays and Orioles combine to go 0–6 (leaving both teams at 87 wins) or 1–5 (leaving one team with 88 wins and the other with 87), and even then, the Mariners could still get to 88 as well. If the Tigers are tied, they could wind up needing to play the make-up game merely for the right to home field advantage in the wild-card game due to the aforementioned Rule 7.02.
Regardless of how they get there, the BP Odds put the Orioles (82.3%) and Blue Jays (76.7%) in the drivers seats’ with the Tigers (26.8%) and Mariners (14.2%) well below that.
AL seeding and weather
The Rangers (94–65) have a two-game lead over the Red Sox (92–67) and a 2 1/2-game lead over the Indians (91–67) for the top seed in the AL and thus not only home field advantage in the first round but also the draw against the wild-card winner. The Rangers finish up their season with three games at home against the Rays; they have a magic number of two to clinch the top seed and no real threat of rain postponing a game. Similarly, the weather in Kansas City, where the Indians play their next three games, doesn't appear to offer major threats.
If only that were the case in Boston, where the Blue Jays and Red Sox play. The forecast calls for an 80% chance of rain at 7 p.m. ET on Friday night and doesn't dip below 60% until 11 p.m. on Saturday night (that day's game is also scheduled for 7:10 pm), with a 30% chance of rain for 3 p.m. on Sunday as well.
The forecast in the Bronx, where the Orioles and Yankees play (pertinent only to the wild-card race), is no better: It carries a 40–50% chance of rain for Friday night between 7–10 p.m., a 20–35% chance of rain on Saturday between 4–7 p.m. and a 20% chance of rain for Sunday at 3 p.m.. How MLB will handle this, if doubleheaders need to be played to comply with Rule 7.02, probably involves rowboats, snorkels and an extension of the regular season into early next week.
Here it's also worth noting that Monday's Tigers-Indians contest could be played with something only at stake for the Indians. Via MLB.com's Jason Beck:
If Cleveland is a half-game behind Texas or Boston for seeding purposes after Sunday's game, there would be no point in playing a makeup game, because both Texas and Boston hold tiebreakers over Cleveland. However, if Cleveland is a half-game ahead of either of those teams after Sunday's games, then Cleveland would have to play at Detroit on Monday—and win the game in order to preserve home field in that scenario. That's a result of Cleveland being third for tiebreaking purposes behind Texas and Boston.
The Indians went 2–4 against the Red Sox and 2–5 against the Rangers, while the Red Sox and Rangers split their six games. In the event of a tie between the Rangers and Red Sox, Texas already has the second tiebreaker in hand via a .618 intradivisional winning percentage (47–29); Boston can do no better than .592 (45–31).
NL wild card
The Mets (85–74, 96.5% per BP) now have a one-game lead for the top spot and home field advantage in the wild-card game on Oct. 5, with the Giants (84–75, 73.0%) in the second spot, one game ahead of the Cardinals (83–76, 30.6%), who apparently got a gift from the umpires on Thursday night that helped them beat the Reds. The Mets finish up in Philadelphia, where there's a 15–25% chance of rain during the 7–10 p.m. ET window on Friday night, a 25–35% chance between 1–4 p.m. on Saturday and a 15% chance as of 3 p.m, on Sunday. The Giants end the season hosting the Dodgers (and Vin Scully); there's a 15% chance of rain there on 11 a.m. PT Sunday but very little concern before that. The Cardinals host the Pirates for their final three-game set; there's a 15% chance of rain from 7–10 p.m. CT on Friday night, a 10–15% chance between 1–4 p.m. CT on Saturday and 15% on Sunday.
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 go 2–1 and the Cardinals go 3–0, or they could reach 85 if the Mets go 0–3, the Giants go 1–2 and the Cardinals go 2–1. 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—.534 (39–34) 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 hosts Club B on Oct. 3 (yielding one wild-card team), with Club C hosting the loser on Oct. 4 (yielding the second wild-card team). The Mets would choose second, the Giants last.
With the Cubs having clinched the top spot with their 101 wins, the other seeding battle still at stake is that between the Dodgers (91–68) and Nationals (93–66), but Washington's magic number to clinch is one. For what it's worth, the Nats are in D.C. for the final three-game set, where the forecast calls for a 25–60% chance of rain tonight between 7–10 p.m. ET, 10–40% between 4 to 7 p.m. tomorrow, and 15% at 3 p.m. Sunday.