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Major League Baseball tie-breaking procedures are used by Major League Baseball (MLB) to break ties between teams for qualification and seeding into the MLB postseason. The procedures in use since 2022, when a third wild card team and resulting Wild Card Series were added for both the American League and National League, are outlined below.

Ties between two teams

Two-way tie for the division or wild-card

One-game tiebreakers were played between teams tied for a division championship or a league's second wild-card berth. These games were played the day after the season was scheduled to end. Home-field advantage was determined using the rules listed below ("Breaking Ties Without Playoff Games").[1][2]

From the implementation of the wild-card 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, said tie was broken using the rules listed below ("Breaking Ties Without Playoff Games"). This happened in 2001 Major League Baseball season when the Houston Astros (9–7 against STL) and St. Louis Cardinals (7–9 against HOU) tied for first in the National League Central with records of 93–69.[3][4][5] In 2005, the New York Yankees (10–9 against BOS) and Boston Red Sox (9–10 against NYY) each finished 95–67 in the American League East.[6] In 2006, the Los Angeles Dodgers (5–13 against SD) and the San Diego Padres (13–5 against LAD)[7] were tied for the National League West and the National League Wild Card at 88–74. In this case, the rules below are used to determine the division winner.[citation needed] The team that had the better head-to-head record (the 2001 Astros, 2005 Yankees, and 2006 Padres) was the division champion, thus receiving a better seed in the postseason. The other team (the 2001 Cardinals, 2005 Red Sox, and 2006 Dodgers) was seeded as the wild card.

From 2012 to 2021, when the Wild Card Game was established as a second wild-card berth in each league, the non-division winner with the best record in the league faced possible elimination on the first day of the postseason. Consequently, the tie-breaking rules were changed so that two teams tied for a division championship had to play a tiebreaking game even if both teams had already qualified for the postseason.[8][9][10] The team losing the tie-breaking game qualified for a wild-card berth only if its regular-season record was among the league's two best records for non-division-winners. If that team were tied for the second wild-card spot, a second tie-breaking game would have been played.[11][12][13][14]

If, on the other hand, two teams had been tied for the first wild-card spot, no tie-breaking game would have been played. Rather, the two teams simply played against each other in the Wild Card game, with home-field advantage awarded using tie-breaking rules described in the next section.[11]

Beginning with the 2022 season, a third wild-card berth per league was adopted (with the Wild Card Game becoming a Wild Card Series). Thus, the tiebreaker game format was eliminated, to compensate for the expanded (12-team) postseason.[15][16]

Breaking ties without playoff games

Coin tosses or drawing of lots will be used if all criteria below fail.

  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 intraleague games of the season.
  5. The team with the best record in the final 82 intraleague games of the season (provided the game added is not between the tied teams), continue one game back 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,...).[13][17][18][19]

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.[20] 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 to 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.

Beginning in 2022, the rules are changed using 5 step tiebreaking procedure for multi-way ties without using team designation: If three teams DO NOT all have identical records against one another, and Team X has a better record against all other teams, then Team X is the qualifier. If two or more teams have identical records against one another and each has a better record against the third or fourth team(s), then these two teams follow the two-club tiebreaker rules to determine the qualifier. Otherwise, they are ranked by their overall winning percentage against one another, and the club with the highest overall winning percentage is the qualifier.[21][22] If two of the clubs have identical winning percentages in this scenario, then they would follow the two-club tiebreaker procedure.

If all teams DO have identical records against one another, then the team with the best intradivision record and intraconference (see below) is the qualifier.

Note: Division tiebreakers must be settled first in any scenario. Also, 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

References

  1. ^ Shpigel, Ben. "BASEBALL ROUNDUP; Postseason Games Will Go To Completion, Rule Says". New York Times. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  2. ^ Bagnato, Andrew (2009-01-15). "Baseball owners eliminate tiebreaker coin flips". San Diego Union-Tribune. The Associated Press. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  3. ^ "Astros Take NL Central". Wired. Associated Press. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  4. ^ Staff reports. "Division title wipes out bad finish for Astros". The Herald-Times. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  5. ^ "NATIONAL LEAGUE: ROUNDUP; Reynolds Wins 100th As Astros Win Central". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2001-10-08. p. D8. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  6. ^ "BASEBALL; Why the Yankees Clinched the East". The New York Times. 2005-10-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  7. ^ "BASEBALL: MAJOR LEAGUE ROUNDUP; Twins Take A.L. Central From Tigers". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2006-10-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  8. ^ "MLB announces 2012 Postseason schedule". MLB.com. 2012-08-09. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  9. ^ Drellich, Evan (2012-09-30). "Path to the Postseason: Oct. 1, 2012". MLB.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  10. ^ "MLB to expand playoffs by two teams to 10". ESPN.com. 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  11. ^ a b Castrovince, Anthony. "How to determine playoff tiebreakers". MLB.com. Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  12. ^ Axisa, Mike (2013-09-28). "Indians, Rays and Rangers: 2013 AL tiebreaker scenarios explained". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  13. ^ a b A, Nate (2013-09-25). "MLB tiebreaker rules changed". SBNation.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  14. ^ Walkerap, Ben (2013-09-30). "Rays, Rangers force AL wild-card tiebreaker". AP News. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  15. ^ Lacques, Gabe. "RIP Game 163: MLB's new postseason system ends storied one-game tiebreaker. A 'bummer' for baseball?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  16. ^ "2022 MLB playoffs: New postseason format explained, and why there are no more Game 163 tiebreakers". CBSSports.com. 5 October 2022. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  17. ^ Castrovince, Anthony (2015-10-04). "Explaining possible tiebreakers for postseason". MLB.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  18. ^ Castrovince, Anthony. "Explaining postseason tiebreaker scenarios". MLB.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  19. ^ Castrovince, Anthony. "Here are the '21 playoff tiebreaker scenarios". MLB.com. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  20. ^ https://registration.mlbpa.org/pdf/majorleaguerules.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  21. ^ Axisa, Mike (2023-10-01). "MLB playoff picture: What happens to the Rangers, Astros, Mariners and Blue Jays in three- and four-team ties?". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  22. ^ Baggarly, Andrew. "MLB's wild-card tiebreakers are essentially settled. Where does your bubble team stand?". The Athletic. Retrieved 2023-10-01.