We’re getting close the end.
The regular season finale is set for Sunday, September 29th, barring any necessary regular-season tiebreaker games. That’s just 20 days away, in case you don’t feel like doing the simple math on this Monday morning.
We are closing in on the postseason fast, so it’s time we began the gearing up process for this year’s playoffs.
Five teams from each of the two leagues will qualify for the postseason: the three division winners and two Wild Card teams. This is the second year of the expanded Wild Card format, where the two Wild Card teams from each league will square off in a single Wild Card Game with the winner advancing to the Divisional Series.
Major League Baseball announced the 2013 postseason schedule last week. Here’s a breakdown of key dates:
October 1 – NL Wild Card Game
October 2 – AL Wild Card Game
October 3 – Game 1 of Both NL Divisional Series (2-2-1 format)
October 4 – Game 1 of Both AL Divisional Series (2-2-1 format)
October 9 – Two possible Game 5s of Divisional Series (TBD)
October 10 – Two possible Game 5s of Divisional Series (TBD)
October 11 – Game 1 of NL Championship Series (2-3-2 format)
October 12 – Game 1 of AL Championship Series (2-3-2 format)
October 19 – Possible Game 7 of NL Championship Series
October 20 – Possible Game 7 of AL Championship Series
October 23 – Game 1 of World Series (2-3-2 format)
October 31 – Possible Game 7 of World Series
Because the American League won this year’s All-Star Game, Game 1 of the World Series will be played at the home ballpark of the American League Championship, and the American League will maintain home-field advantage.
With around 20-some odd games left to play, several of the postseason races have all but been decided already. The Atlanta Braves (12.0 games) and Los Angeles Dodgers (11.0 games) each hold insurmountable leads in their respective divisions, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds jockey for position in the NL Central. The two teams that fail to win that division will almost certainly earn the two NL Wild Card berths, as the Reds currently hold an 8.0 game lead in that race.
The Boston Red Sox currently possess baseball’s best record and a comfortable 7.5-game lead in the AL East. The Detroit Tigers are a healthy 5.5 games up on second-place Cleveland in the AL Central, but still within striking distance. Just 1.5 games separate Oakland and Texas in the AL West (Oakland leads). The Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays are the current leaders in the AL Wild Card standings, but four teams are within 3.5 games of that final spot: Baltimore (2.0), Cleveland (2.0), the New York Yankees (2.5) and Kansas City (3.5).
It’s possible that some of these final American League playoff spots may not be decided until the final day of the season, or may require an extra tiebreaker game. With that possibility in mind, Major League Baseball has also announced its tiebreaker scenarios in the event that two or more teams are deadlocked after the final out of the final game on September 29th is made.
If two teams are tied, and only one game is needed to break the tie, that game will be played on September 30th. This one-game tiebreaker would apply in the event that two teams are tied for the final Wild Card berth, or if two teams are tied for the division championship and the game is needed to determine who wins the division and who plays in the Wild Card Game.
Home field advantage for that tiebreaker game would be determined first by head-to-head records, then by the higher winning percentage among games within the division, then by the best winning percentage in the second half of intraleague games.
If there are three or four teams tied with the same winning percentage at the end of the year, the MLB will continue to employ a system of tiebreak games and tiebreaker statistics to determine home field advantage for those games. Complete details of all the tiebreak scenarios can be found at MLB.com.
The baseball season is a marathon. So much so that even through the first 100 games, fans can brush off their teams’ position, or lack thereof, in the standings with three words: “It’s still early.”
Not anymore. With 20 days left to play, the National League playoff picture has almost completely crystallized, and the only question left is who will win the NL Central?
The races that remain in the American League have pretty much been narrowed to two: who will win the AL West, and who among the remaining five contending teams will nab those two AL Wild Card berths?
It’s very possible that the answers to all of these questions will not be decided by the last day of the season. If that’s the case, the MLB’s sudden-death, one-game tiebreak scenarios will give us playoff baseball before the official playoffs begin.
I’m sure I’m not the only fan with fingers crossed for some ties.