Major League Baseball tie-breaking procedures

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Because inclusion in the Major League Baseball postseason is based upon the teams' regular-season records, procedures exist to break ties between teams.

The Major League Baseball postseason is an elimination tournament held after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. Since 2012, the playoffs for each league—American and National—consist of a one-game wild-card playoff between two wild card teams, four best-of-five Division Series (LDS) featuring the wild-card winner and the winner of each division, and finally the best-of-seven League Championship Series (LCS). The winners of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and the National League Championship Series (NLCS) play each other in the best-of-seven World Series. The current system allows for a maximum of 46 post season games and a minimum of 26 games.

In games and sports, a tiebreaker or tiebreak is used to determine a winner from among players or teams that are tied at the end of a contest, or a set of contests.

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Ties between two teams

Two-way tie for the division or wildcard

One-game tiebreakers are played between teams tied for a division championship or a league's second wildcard berth. These games are to be played the day after the season is scheduled to end. Home-field advantage is determined using the rules listed below ("Breaking Ties Without Playoff Games").

A wild card is a tournament or playoff berth awarded to an individual or team that fails to qualify in the normal way, for example by having a high ranking or winning a qualifying stage. In some events, wild cards are chosen freely by the organizers. Other events have fixed rules. Some North American professional sports leagues compare the records of teams which did not qualify directly by winning a division or conference.

From the implementation of the wildcard in 1994 to the end of the 2011 season, a different rule was in place. Two teams tied for a division did not play a tiebreaker if their records were better than all non-division winners in their league. Instead, such a tie was broken using the rules listed below ("Breaking Ties Without Playoff Games"). This scenario happened in the 2001 Major League Baseball season when the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals tied for first place in the National League Central. The Astros were awarded the division title by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Cardinals, while St. Louis received the wildcard berth.

The 2001 Major League Baseball season finished with the Arizona Diamondbacks defeating the New York Yankees in seven games for the World Series championship. The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. pushed the end of the regular-season from September 30 to October 7. Because of the attack, the World Series was not completed until November 4. The 2001 World Series was the first World Series to end in November.

The National League Central is one of Major League Baseball's six divisions. This division was created in 1994, by moving two teams from the National League West and three teams from the National League East.

With, however, the adoption of a second wildcard berth and a wildcard game beginning in the 2012 season, the non-division winner with the best record in the league faces possible elimination on the first day of the postseason. As a result, the tie-breaking rules were changed so that two teams tied for a division championship must play a tie- breaking game even if both teams have already qualified for the postseason. The team losing the tie-breaking game will now qualify for a wildcard berth only if its regular-season record is among the league's two best records for non-division-winners. If that team is tied for the second wild-card spot, a second tie-breaking game would then be played.

If, on the other hand, two teams are tied for the first wildcard slot, no tie-breaking game is played. Rather, the two teams simply play against each other in the wildcard game, with home-field advantage awarded using tie-breaking rules described in the next section.

Breaking ties without playoff games

  1. The team with the better head-to-head winning percentage during the regular season.
  2. The team with the best overall record in intradivision games.*
  3. The team with the best overall record in intraleague games.
  4. The team with the best record in the final 81 games of the season, ignoring interleague play.
  5. The team with the best record in the final 82 games of the season (provided the game added is not between the tied teams), extending backward until the tie is broken (Interleague games are skipped and ignored in this process.)

*all current references in mlb.com website indicate that this rule applies even for teams that are not in the same division.

Ties between two division winners

If two champions from separate divisions have the same record, the tiebreaking procedure listed above is used to determine postseason seeding. No additional games are played.

Ties among multiple teams

Playoff games for multiple-way ties

Tied teams are designated as A, B, C, and D. Choice for one of these designations is first given to the team winning the tie-breakers (listed below). While A is usually the "best" designation, there are some scenarios where C has a different path to the postseason. If a division title is up for grabs, then those divisional teams will select from the first designations (A, B,...).

On Day 1, A will host B and C will host D (if there is no fourth team, C will be considered to have won this game). Games on Day 2 may occur as follows:

  1. If the teams are all competing for 1 playoff spot, then the A/B winner will host the C/D winner for that spot.
  2. If 3 teams, not all tied for the same division lead, are competing for 2 playoff spots, C will host the A/B loser for the second spot.
  3. If 4 teams were competing for 3 playoff spots, and two teams are competing for the division championship, then the A/B loser will play the C/D loser for the final wild-card spot. Home field will be determined by the rules for two way tiebreakers.
  4. If 4 teams were competing for 3 playoff spots, and three teams are competing for the division championship, if D wins, then the A/B winner wins the division and Club D is a wild card, with the A/B loser then hosting C for the other wild card. [1] If D loses, then the A/B winner hosts team C for the division, and the loser is a wild card, and the A/B loser hosts team D for the other wild card.
  5. If 3 or 4 teams, tied for the same division's lead, both win on Day 1, then the A/B winner will host the C/D winner to determine the division title. The loser of this Day 2 game will earn a wild card spot. If four teams are competing for three spots, the A/B loser hosts the C/D loser for the a wild card.

Determining team designations

The order in which teams pick their designations (A, B, C, D) will be determined by the following 5-step tie-breaking system. If there is a tie for both wild card and division title spots, then the first designations will match teams competing for their division title.

  1. Winning/Losing season series against each of the other tied teams (only if a 3 way tie)
  2. Winning percentage among all tied teams
  3. Winning percentage in intradivision games
  4. Winning percentage in the last half of intraleague play
  5. If still tied, the next most recent intraleague game is added into this winning percentage (skipping games between tied teams) until not all teams are tied.

If at any given step some, but not all, teams remain tied, then those teams that are still tied revert to Step 1.

See also

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References

  1. https://registration.mlbpa.org/pdf/majorleaguerules.pdf