MLB Playoff Tiebreakers: Important Rules For 2016 MLB Postseason Races

With the Boston Red Sox winning the American League East on Wednesday night, every division in Major League Baseball has been clinched.

But that doesn’t mean the postseason seeding is even close to being determined.

It’s still possible for the division winners in both the AL and the National League to wind up tied once the regular season ends Oct. 2. And in case that happens, MLB has some procedures in place to break the tie without any extra games.

If two teams finish with the same record, home-field advantage will go to the team with the better head-to-head winning percentage from their 2016 matchups. If the two teams split their season series, then the team with the better intradivision record gets home-field advantage. And if those two records happen to match, then the squad with the higher intraleague winning percentage will earn the higher seed.

It’s unlikely that all three of those winning percentages will match, but if they do, MLB then looks to the teams’ winning percentage in second-half intraleague games to determine home-field advantage. After that, the league goes back one game at a time — save for contests between the tied teams — until one team finally has a better record.

Here’s how the division winners that could end up in a tie stack up against each other after Friday’s action.

AL
Boston Red Sox (92-67): 3-3 vs. Rangers; 4-2 vs. Indians; 42-31 vs. AL East; 78-61 vs. AL (three division games left to play)
Cleveland Indians (91-67): 2-5 vs. Rangers; 2-4 vs. Red Sox; 46-26 vs. AL Central; 78-60 vs. AL (four division games left to play)
Texas Rangers (94-65): 3-3 vs. Red Sox; 5-2 vs. Indians; 47-29 vs. AL West; 81-58 vs. AL (three AL games left to play)

NL
Washington Nationals (93-66): 1-5 vs. Dodgers; 49-24 vs. NL East; 81-58 vs. NL (three division games left to play)
Los Angeles Dodgers (91-68): 5-1 vs. Nationals; 43-30 vs. NL West; 81-58 vs. NL (three division games left to play)

The division tiebreakers aren’t the only tight races worth monitoring in the final weekend. The wild-card races are just as tight. In fact, it’s possible that four AL teams could finish tied for the two wild-card spots, while three NL teams could end the season all square after 162 games.

If there’s a four-team tie for two spots, things get real weird, and the scheduling, as well as the travel, gets very intense.

The four teams still in the running for the AL wild card are Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit and Seattle. If two of those teams finish tied, then they’re obviously both in. If there’s a tie for the second wild card, the two teams play a one-game playoff on Monday at the home field of the team with the better head-to-head winning percentage.

That’s fairly simple. Where it gets complicated, is if there’s a three-way tie for one spot. If that happens, there’s a series of tiebreaker games played.

Per MLB.com:

“After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would then host Club C to determine the Wild Card Club.”

And if there’s a three-way tie for the two spots?

“After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would be declared one Wild Card winner. Club C would then host the loser of the game between Club A and Club B to determine the second Wild Card Club.”

Finally, here’s what happens if all four teams end up tied for the two wild-card spots.

“After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations, Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each of those games would be declared the Wild Card Clubs.”

Things will get even odder if Detroit has a good weekend. The Tigers’ game with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday was rained out, which means the two teams might have to play a makeup game Monday to determine whether Detroit can get into the playoffs or, at the very least, a tiebreaker game. So, technically, there’s a potential scenario where the Tigers play Sunday in Atlanta, Monday in Detroit and then wherever the tiebreaker game is Tuesday. Then, if the Tigers win the tiebreaker, they still could travel again for the Wednesday playoff game, and if they win that, they’d have to travel again for Game 1 of the ALDS.

We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, though.

Click for MLB’s full explanation of tiebreaker rules>>

Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images

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