MLB Playoff Tiebreaker Scenarios: What Would A Five-Team (Or More) Tiebreak Look Like?

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Monday September 11th, 2017

Major League Baseball released its postseason schedule on Aug. 28, which very carefully lays out what will happen starting on Oct. 3, when the playoffs are to begin with the American League wild-card game. The NL wild card game is the next day, and the two AL Division Series will start the day after that.

Unless, of course, they don’t.

With three weeks to go in the regular season, there is still the remote possibility that Major League Baseball will have to confront a scenario that is so unlikely it doesn’t have a formalized plan in place yet to deal with it. In other words: What if there is a tie involving five or more teams for a playoff spot?

Never before has baseball had to handle multiple tiebreaker games in the same season, and although MLB’s current tiebreaker rules have several contingencies for up to four teams finishing the year with the same record, there is nothing on the books for a tie involving more than four teams.

That gives us the perfect opportunity to imagine what shaking out all of this craziness might look like. As with any multi-team tiebreaker, the first step would be figuring out how to order the teams. All of the teams would be sorted according to the various tiebreakers, after which each team would get to pick, in order, whether it wants to be designated as Team A, Team B, Team C, etc. The tiebreakers are as follows:

1. Head-to-head winning percentage for each team against all the other tied teams during the regular season.

The team with the highest such mark gets to choose its designation first, second-highest gets the second choice and so on. If any two teams are tied here, they go to the following tiebreakers, in order:

2. Higher winning percentage in intradivision games.

3. Higher winning percentage in intraleague games

4. Higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games

5. Higher winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such an 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.

It gets even more complicated if there are three-team ties within any of those categories. 

Then there are some important questions to consider: a) Will MLB re-seed after each round of a tiebreak? That seems unlikely because the tiebreakers for four-team wild-card ties already spell out that that would not be the case; b) Will teams get a bye? It could be useful in an odd-numbered scenario, but it also seems unlikely, as MLB would surely prefer that the games on the field decide the outcome; c) Will the higher-designated team get placed in a pod of two teams or three teams?

Will those variables unknown, here's what could be necessary to decide the various races still up for grabs. We'll start with the American League wild-card race, where the Yankees own the first spot, the Twins are in position for the second and the Angels, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, Rays and Orioles are still lurking. For the sake of simplicity, we'll consider that the team designations in our examples reflect that order:

American League Wild-Card: Five Teams Tied For One Spot

Let's presume the Yankees hold on to the first spot and the next five teams have to sort out the second spot for the right to play in the Bronx in the wild-card game.

Team A: Twins
Team B: Angels
Team C: Royals
Team D: Rangers
Team E: Mariners

We don't know how MLB will choose to split these teams up. Let's consider a few different scenarios:

Scenario 1: Two-Team/Three-Team Split

First Round, Two-Team Pod:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins); winner advances

First Round, Three-Team Pod:

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Rangers) at Team C (Royals); loser is eliminated

Game 3, Oct. 2: Team E (Mariners) at Game 2 winner (C or D); winner advances

Second Round:

Game 4, Oct. 3: Three-Team Pod winner (C or D or E) at Two-Team Pod winner (A or B); winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home. 

Team B has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first at home, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team D has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both on the road.

Scenario 2: Three-Team/Two-Team Split

If MLB wants Team A to be the team that has "won" the tiebreakers that are used for designations, then this scenario probably won't be used at all.

First Round, Three-Team Pod:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins)

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C (Royals) at Game 1 winner (A or B)

First Round, Two-Team Pod:

Game 3, Oct. 2: Team E (Mariners) at Team D (Rangers)

Second Round:

Game 4, Oct. 4: Two-Team Pod winner (D or E) at Three-Team Pod winner (A or B or C); winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win three games, all at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first on the road and the second and third at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team D has to win two games, one at home and one on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both on the road.

Scenario 3: The Bye Option

Giving a team a bye and a home game doesn't seem especially fair, so let's look at two possibilities, one in which Team A gets to play at home and the other in which it has to play on the road after getting a bye.

First Round

Team A (Yankees) gets a bye

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team C (Angels) at Team B (Twins); loser eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team E (Rangers) at Team D (Royals); loser is eliminated

Second Round (Team A at home)

Game 3, Oct. 3: Game 1 winner (B or C) at Team A; loser is eliminated

Game 4, Oct. 4: Game 2 winner (D or E) at Game 3 winner (A or B or C); winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach the Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first and second on the road and the third at home.

Team D has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both on the road.

Second Round (Team A on the road):

Game 3, Oct. 3: Team A at Game 1 winner (B or C); loser is eliminated

Game 4, Oct. 4: Game 2 winner (D or E) at Game 3 winner (A or B or C); winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach the Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team B has to win three games, all at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first on the road and the second and third at home.

Team D has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both on the road.

American League Wild-Card: Five Teams Tied For Two Spots

In this scenario, no team is in yet. We'll assume the following five teams are still alive and are designated as follows:

Team A: Yankees
Team B: Twins
Team C: Angels
Team D: Royals
Team E: Rangers

There are multiple ways MLB could split these teams up. They could organize them by two- and three-team pods or, though it's unlikely, use a bye for Team A and then have a three-team tiebreaker. Let's examine each scenario:

Scenario 1: Two-Team/Three-Team Split

Two-Team Pod:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Twins) at Team A (Yankees): loser is eliminated; winner gets wild-card berth No. 1

Three-Team Pod:

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Royals) at Team C (Angels): loser is eliminated

Game 3, Oct. 2: Team E (Rangers) at Game 2 winner (C or D); winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win one game at home.

Team B has to win one game on the road.

Team C has to win two games, both at home.

Team D has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team E has to win one game on the road.

Scenario 2: Three-Team/Two-Team Split

This scenario is doubtful to be implemented if MLB's hope is that Team A is supposed to be the best option for a team to choose. 

Three-Team Pod:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins); loser is eliminated, winner advances

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C (Royals) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner gets wild-card berth No. 1

Two-Team Pod:

Game 3: Team E (Rangers) at Team D (Royals): winner gets wild-card berth No. 2

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team C has to win one game on the road.

Team D has to win one game at home.

Team E has to win one game on the road.

Scenario 3: The Bye Option

This option is unlikely because Team A would not only get a bye, it would only have to win once—and a home game at that—to get in. The most likely solution to that would be to have Team A get a bye but have to play a road game in the second round against the Game 1 winner.

First Round:

Team A (Yankees) gets a bye

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team C (Angels) at Team B (Twins); loser is eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team E (Rangers) at Team D (Royals); loser is eliminated

Second Round (Team A at home):

Game 3, Oct. 3: Game 1 winner (B or C) at Team A (Yankees); winner gets first wild-card

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 3 loser (B or C) at Game 2 winner (D or E); winner gets second wild-card

Second Round (Team A on the road):

Game 3, Oct. 3: Team A (Yankees) at Game 1 winner (B or C); winner gets first wild-card

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 3 loser (B or C) at Game 2 winner (D or E); winner gets second wild-card

To Reach Wild-Card Game (Team A at home):

Team A has to win one game at home

Team B has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team C has to win two games, both on the road.

Team D has to win two games, both at home.

Team E has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

To Reach Wild-Card Game (Team A on the road):

Team A has to win one game on the road.

Team B has to win two games, both at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team D has to win two games, both at home.

Team E has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

American League Wild-Card: Six Teams Tied For One Spot

In this scenario, we're again assuming that the Yankees are in and a half-dozen teams are left to battle for the last spot and that teams will not be re-designated after the first round.

Team A: Twins
Team B: Angels
Team C: Royals
Team D: Rangers
Team E: Mariners
Team F: Rays

First Round:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins); loser is eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Rangers) at Team C (Royals); loser is eliminated

Game 3, Oct. 2: Team F (Mariners) at Team E (Mariners); loser is eliminated

Second Round (no re-designating):

There are now three teams left for one spot, so MLB's tiebreaker system for this can now be used.

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 2 winner (C or D) at Game 1 winner (A or B)

Game 5, Oct. 4: Game 3 winner (E or F) at Game 4 winner (A or B or C or D); winner gets last wild-card spot

To Reach The Wild-Card Game (no re-designating):

Team A has to win three games, all at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team D has to win three games, the first on the road, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team E has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team F has to win two games, both on the road.

Second Round (with re-designating):

Game 4, Oct. 3: New Team B at New Team A; loser is eliminated

Game 5, Oct. 4: New Team C at Game 4 winner; winner gets last wild-card spot

American League Wild-Card: Six Teams Tied For Two Spots

In this scenario, no wild-card spots have yet been claimed after 162 games.

Team A: Yankees
Team B: Twins
Team C: Angels
Team D: Royals
Team E: Rangers
Team F: Mariners

First Round:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Twins) at Team A (Yankees); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Royals) at Team C (Angels); loser is eliminated
Game 3, Oct. 2: Team F (Mariners) at Team E (Rangers); loser is eliminated

A reminder: Based on the existing rule about not re-designating that is applied to a four-teams-for-one-spot tiebreaker, it seems unlikely that MLB would add that additional layer of complication. If that is the case we would have three teams remaining and MLB's tiebreaker scenario for this situation (three teams for two spots) is now in play.

Second Round:

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 2 winner (C or D) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner gets first wild-card
Game 5, Oct. 4: Game 4 loser (A or B or C or D) at Game 3 winner (E or F): winner gets second wild-card

To Reach The Wild-Card Game (no re-designating):

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team D has to win two games, both on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both at home.

Team F has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

(If MLB does re-designate, it would look like this: Game 4: New Team B at New Team A, winner gets first wild-card; Game 5: Game 4 loser at New Team C, winner gets second wild-card)

American League Wild-Card: Seven Teams Tied For One Spot

Another scenario in which the Yankees are already in. That leaves everybody else fighting for the last berth.

Team A: Twins
Team B: Angels
Team C: Royals
Team D: Rangers
Team E: Mariners
Team F: Rays
Team G: Orioles

Scenario 1: Three-team/Four-team Split

First Round, Three-Team Pod
Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team C (Royals) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner advances to next round

First Round, Four-Team Pod
Game 3, Oct. 2: Team E (Mariners) at Team D (Rangers); loser is eliminated
Game 4, Oct. 2: Team G (Orioles) at Team F (Rays); loser is eliminated
Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 4 winner (F or G) at Game 3 winner (D or E); winner advances to next round

Second Round:

Game 6, Oct. 4: Four-team Pod winner (D or E or F or G) at Three-team Pod winner (A or B or C)

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win three games, all at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team D has to win three games, the first at home, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team E has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team F has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third on the road.

Team G has to win three games, all on the road.

Scenario 2: Four-Team/Three-Team Split

First Round, Four-Team Pod:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Angels) at Team A (Twins); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Rangers) at Team C (Royals); loser is eliminated
Game 3, Oct. 3: Game 2 winner (C or D) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner advances to next found

First Round, Three-Team Pod:

Game 4, Oct. 2: Team F (Rays) at Team E (Mariners); loser is eliminated
Game 5, Oct. 3: Team G (Orioles) at Game 4 winner (E or F); winner advances to next round

Second Round:

Game 6, Oct. 4: Three-Team Pod winner (E or F or G) at Four-Team Pod winner (A or B or C or D); winner advances to wild-card game

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win three games, all at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first on the road and the second and third at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team D has to win three games, the first on the road, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team E has to win three games, the first at home, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team F has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team G has to win two games, both on the road.

Scenario 3: The Bye Option

This seems like the least likely because MLB would surely prefer there are no byes at this point. Let's see both scenarios, one in which the team getting the bye (Team A) starts at home and one in which it starts on the road.

First Round:

Team A (Twins) gets a bye

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team C (Royals) at Team B (Angels); loser eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team E (Mariners) at Team D (Rangers); loser eliminated
Game 3, Oct. 2: Team G (Orioles) at Team F (Rays); loser eliminated

Second Round (Team A at home):

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 1 winner (B or C) at Team A (Twins); loser eliminated
Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 3 winner (F or G) at Game 2 winner (D or E); loser eliminated

Third Round:

Game 6, Oct. 4: Game 5 winner (D or E or F or G) at Game 4 winner (A or B or C); winner gets second wild-card berth

To Reach The Wild-Card Game (Team A at home):

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first on the road, the second on the road and the third at home.

Team D has to win three games, the first at home, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team E has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team F has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third on the road.

Team G has to win three games, all on the road.

Second Round (Team A on road):

Game 4, Oct. 3: Team A (Twins) at Game 1 winner (B or C); loser eliminated
Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 3 winner (F or G) at Game 2 winner (D or E); loser eliminated 

Third Round:

Game 6, Oct. 4: Game 5 winner (D or E or F or G) at Game 4 winner (A or B or C); winner gets second wild-card berth

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team B has to win three games, all at home.

Team C has to win three games, the first on the road and the second and third at home.

Team D has to win three games, the first two at home and the third on the road.

Team E has to win three games, the first on the road, the second at home and the third on the road.

Team F has to win three games, the first at home, the second on the road and the third on the road.

Team G has to win three games, all on the road.

American League Wild-Card: Seven Teams Tied For Two Spots

In this scenario, both wild-card spots are up for grabs. It's almost too complicated to even begin trying to predict, and once again there are several ways this could be approached. Let's start with the imaginary designations:

Team A: Yankees
Team B: Twins
Team C: Angels
Team D: Royals
Team E: Rangers
Team F: Mariners
Team G: Rays

Scenario 1: Three-team/Four-team Split

Three-Team Pod:
Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Twins) at Team A (Yankees); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C (Angels) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner gets first wild-card

Four-Team Pod, First Round:
Game 3, Oct. 2: Team E (Rangers) at Team D (Royals); loser is eliminated
Game 4, Oct. 2: Team G (Rays) at Team F (Mariners); loser is eliminated

Four-Team Pod, Second Round:

Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 4 winner (F or G) at Game 3 winner (D or E); winner gets second wild-card

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has two win two games, one at home and one on the road.

Team C has to win one game on the road.

Team D has to win two games, both at home.

Team E has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team F has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team G has to win two games, both on the road.

Scenario 2: Four-Team/Three-Team Split

Four-Team Pod, First Round:
Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Twins) at Team A (Yankees): loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Royals) at Team C (Angels): loser is eliminated

Four-Team Pod, Second Round

Game 5, Oct. 4: Game 2 winner (C or D) at Game 1 winner (A or B): winner gets first wild-card

Three-Team Pod:
Game 3, Oct. 2: Team F (Mariners) at Team E (Rangers): loser is eliminated
Game 4, Oct. 3: Team G (Rays) at Game 3 winner: winner gets second wild-card

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team D has to win two games, both on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both at home.

Team F has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team G has to win one game on the road.

Scenario 3: The Bye Option

Again, it's hard to see MLB going with this possibility. But if that's the decision, here's what it would look like, with the two scenarios for whether Team A opens at home or on the road:

First Round:

Team A (Yankees) gets a bye

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team C (Angels) at Team B (Twins); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team E (Rangers) at Team D (Royals); loser is eliminated
Game 3: Oct. 2: Team G (Rays) at Team F (Mariners); loser is eliminated

Second Round (Team A at home):

Game 4, Oct. 3: Game 1 winner (B or C) at Team A (Yankees); winner gets the first wild-card spot

Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 3 winner (F or G) at Game 2 winner (D or E); winner gets the second wild-card spot

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A would have to win one game at home.

Team B would have to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team C would have to win two games, both on the road.

Team D would have to win two games, both at home.

Team E would have to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team F would have to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team G would have to win two games, both on the road.

Second Round (Team A on the road):

Game 4, Oct. 3: Team A (Yankees) at Game 1 winner (B or C); winner gets the first wild-card spot

Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 3 winner (F or G) at Game 2 winner (D or E); winner gets the second wild-card spot

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win one game on the road.

Team B has to win two games, both at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team D has to win two games, both at home.

Team E has to win two games, both on the road.

Team F has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team G has to win two games, both on the road.

American League Wild-Card: Eight Teams Tied For Two Spots

Finally, a straightforward scenario. As mentioned before, MLB has a plan for a four-teams-for-two-wild-card-spots tiebreaker that does not call for re-designating the teams. Because of that we can break this down more easily than all of the other possible outcomes.

Team A: Yankees
Team B: Twins
Team C: Angels
Team D: Royals
Team E: Rangers
Team F: Mariners
Team G: Rays
Team H: Orioles

First Round:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Twins) at Team A (Yankees); loser is eliminated
Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Royals) at Team C (Angels); loser is eliminated
Game 3: Oct. 2: Team F (Mariners) at Team E (Rangers); loser is eliminated
Game 4: Oct. 2: Team H (Orioles) at Team G (Rays); loser is eliminated

Second Round (no re-seeding):

Game 5, Oct. 3: Game 2 winner (C or D) at Game 1 winner (A or B); winner gets first wild-card berth
Game 6, Oct. 3: Game 4 winner (G or H) at Game 3 winner (E or F); winner gets second wild-card berth

To Reach The Wild-Card Game:

Team A has to win two games, both at home.

Team B has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team C has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team D has to win two games, both on the road.

Team E has to win two games, both at home.

Team F has to win two games, the first on the road and the second at home.

Team G has to win two games, the first at home and the second on the road.

Team H has to win two games, both on the road.

If the teams are re-designated, it will look like this:

Game 5, Oct. 3: New Team D at New Team C
Game 6, Oct. 3: New Team B at New Team A

National League Central: Two Or Three Teams Tied For One Spot

This seems like it should be fairly simple, but just like in the AL East, because the wild-card could come into play as well it gets more complicated. Let's start with the easy stuff. Three teams remain in contention for the NL Central title: the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. We'll assume the designations are as follows:

Team A: Cubs
Team B: Brewers
Team C: Cardinals

Here's how things would shake out given the 11 different possibilities:

1. Two-Team Tie (no wild-card): Cubs and Brewers

Milwaukee leads the head-to-head matchup here, 8-7, but the teams still have to play four more times, at Miller Park from Sept. 21-24. Whoever wins the season series would get home field advantage in a tiebreaker game on Oct. 2.

2. Two-Team Tie (no wild-card): Cubs and Cardinals

Chicago has an 8-4 edge here but still has to play St. Louis seven more times, starting this weekend at Wrigley Field.

3. Three-Team Tie (no wild-card):

Game 1: Team B (Brewers) at Team A (Cubs); loser eliminated

Game 2: Team C (Cardinals) at Game 1 winner; winner gets division title

4. Two-Team Tie For Division And Wild-Card:

Tiebreaker game determines division champion. Loser becomes the wild-card.

5. Two-Team Tie For Division And Tied With Non-NL Central Team For Wild-Card:

Tiebreaker game is held for division title; loser plays at the non-NL Central team the next day to determine the wild-card

6. Two-Team Tie For Division And Tied With Two Non-NL Central Teams For One Wild-Card:

Let's assume the Cubs and Brewers tie for first place in the NL Central and finish with the same record as the Diamondbacks and the Rockies for the wild-card. Arizona has won the season series with Colorado and would be the home team in a Game 163. The breakdown would be as follows:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Cubs vs. Brewers; winner gets division title and loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 2, Oct. 2: Rockies at Diamondbacks; loser is eliminated 

Game 3, Oct. 3: Loser of Cubs-Brewers at Winner of Rockies-Diamondbacks; winner gets wild-card spot

7. Two-Team Tie For Division And Tied With Two Non-NL Central Teams For Two Wild Cards:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Cubs vs. Brewers; winner gets division title and loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 2, Oct. 2: Rockies at Diamondbacks: winner gets first wild-card; loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 3, Oct. 3: Loser of Cubs-Brewers vs. Loser of Rockies-Diamondbacks. Normal rules determine who would have home field advantage.

8. Three-Team Tie For Division And One Wild-Card:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Brewers) at Team A (Cubs); loser is eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C (Cardinals) at Game 1 winner; winner gets division title, loser is the wild-card

9. Three-Team Tie For Division And Two Wild-Cards

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Brewers) at Team A (Cubs); loser gets wild-card spot

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C (Cardinals) at Game 1 winner; winner gets division title, loser gets wild-card spot

10. Three-Team Tie For Division And Tied With One Non-NL Central Team For One Wild-Card Spot:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Brewers) at Team A (Cubs); 

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Non-NL Central team) at Team C (Cardinals)

If Team D (we'll call them the Rockies) wins, that team gets the wild-card spot and Game 1 becomes a game for the division title. Why? Imagine that all four teams are 90-72 entering the tiebreaker games. Because tiebreaker games are technically regular season games, that means that the winners of these two games would finish the complete regular season at 91-72 while the losers would be 90-73. In this scenario two of the losers would be NL Central teams, so it's easy to see why the last NL Central team standing would be the division champion and the non-NL Central team would get the wild-card.

But what if Team C wins?

In that case, the tiebreaks would continue:

Game 3, Oct. 3: Team C at Game 1 winner; winner gets division title, loser gets wild-card

11. Three-Team Tie For Division And Tied With One Non-NL Central Team For Two Wild-Card Spots:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B (Brewers) at Team A (Cubs)

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D (Non-NL Central team) at Team C (Cardinals)

If Team D wins, it gets one wild-card berth. Then the winner of Game 1 would be the division champion and there would be another game to settle the last wild-card spot:

Game 3, Oct. 3: Team C at Game 1 Loser; winner gets second wild-card spot

But what if Team C beats Team D? In that case, we'd have the following:

Game 3, Oct. 3: Team C at Game 1 Winner (A or B); winner gets division title and loser gets one wild-card

Game 4, Oct. 3: Team D at Game 1 Loser; winner gets second wild-card, loser is eliminated

 

 

 

National League Wild-Card: Four Teams For One Or Two Spots

This doesn't have nearly as many permutations as the AL wild-card race, mostly because at least one of the five teams that could wind up in this game—the Cubs, Brewers or Cardinals—will be the NL Central champion. Knowing that, it's really a question of how to work things out among the four remaining teams.

Given the current standings, we'll assume that the Cubs hold on to their lead and win the division. There may not be much drama here, as the Diamondbacks have a comfortable edge on the Brewers and Cardinals for at least one wild-card berth. But let's see what the five combinations look like: 

1. Two Teams Tied For One Wild-Card Spot

The tiebreaker game would be held at the home of the team that won the head-to-head series.

2. Three Teams Tie For One Wild-Card Spot

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B at Team A; loser is eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team C at Game 1 winner; winner gets wild-card spot

3. Three Teams Tied For Two Wild-Card Spots

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B at Team A; winner gets first wild-card spot

Game 2, Oct. 3: Game 1 loser at Team C; winner gets second wild-card spot

4. Four Teams Tied For One Wild-Card Spot

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B at Team A; loser is eliminated

Game 2, Oct. 2: Team D at Team C; loser is eliminated

Game 3, Oct. 3: Game 2 winner at Game 1 winner; winner gets wild-card spot

5. Four Teams Tied For Two Wild-Card Spots

Game 1, Oct. 2: Team B at Team A; winner gets first wild-card spot

Game 2, Oct. 3: Team D at Team C; winner gets second wild-card spot

 

American League East: Two Teams Tied

Should the first-place Red Sox and the second-place Yankees wind up tied for first, the tiebreaker process will first depend on whether or not the loser of a tiebreaker game would still be in position to claim a wild-card. Entering play on Sept. 13, New York had a three-game lead in that race. It's very unlikely that another AL East team could join them in a tie, given that the next-closest club is more than 10 games out.

It gets complicated—much more complicated—if those teams tie for the division and a wild-card team (or teams) also finishes with the same record. Here's what could happen:

1. Two-Teams Tied (no wild-card): Red Sox at Yankees

New York won the season series and would host a tiebreaker game. It would be played on Oct. 2, 39 years to the day after the Yankees beat the Red Sox in an AL East tiebreaker thanks to a three-run home run by a light-hitting shortstop named Bucky Dent.

2. Two-Teams Tied For Division And One Wild-Card:

Tiebreaker game determines division champion. Loser becomes the wild-card.

3. Two-Teams Tied For Division And Tied With One Non-AL East Team For One Wild-Card:

Tiebreaker game is held for division title; loser plays at the non-AL Est team the next day to determine the wild-card

4. Two-Teams Tied For Division And Tied With Two Non-AL East Teams For One Wild-Card:

Let's assume the Twins and Angels (Los Angeles has home field advantage) are the two other teams in play here.

Game 1, Oct. 2: Red Sox at Yankees; winner gets division title and loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 2, Oct. 2: Angels at Twins; loser is eliminated 

Game 3, Oct. 3: Loser of Red Sox-Yankees at Winner of Angels-Twins; winner gets wild-card spot

5. Two-Teams Tied For Division And Tied With Two Non-AL East Teams For Two Wild Cards:

Game 1, Oct. 2: Red Sox at Yankees; winner gets division title and loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 2, Oct. 2: Angels at Twins; winner gets first wild-card; loser moves to wild-card bracket

Game 3, Oct. 3: Loser of Red Sox-Yankees vs. Loser of Angels-Twins. Normal rules determine who would have home field advantage.

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