A lot can happen between now and Sunday, Oct. 1, when the 2023 MLB season comes to an end. If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have byes in the first round of the NL playoffs and the Orioles and Rangers would own the AL byes. The big questions that need to be answered are the wild card entrants in both leagues. It’s possible that the races in the AL and NL come down to tiebreakers.
Toronto (87-69), Houston (86-71), and Seattle (84-72) are currently vying for the two remaining AL wild card spots. It’s possible that all three or two of the three end the season with identical records. What happens then? That’s where the tiebreaker could come into effect.
How Tiebreakers Work in MLB
Since 2022, any ties for a division title or for a wild card spot in the postseason have been determined by math. Prior to the MLB playoffs expanding from 10 to 12 teams, any ties were broken by playing a tiebreaker game. Now, ties are broken through a series of tiebreaker rules.
The top three elements of breaking a tie are head-to-head record, intra-division record, and record against teams in the same league but in a different division. The head-to-head record comes first. If that doesn’t break the tie, then it’s team records against the other division opponents. Finally, teams would compare records against teams from their league but not in their division.
Examples of Tiebreakers in 2023
The most heated wild card race is in the AL where Toronto, Houston, and Seattle have their sights set on the final two playoff spots. Seattle has already clinched the season series against Houston. If they end up tied, the Mariners hold the advantage.
Interestingly, Seattle and Toronto each won three games against each other this season. That means the tiebreaker goes to the intra-division record. Seattle’s was 29-17. Toronto went 19-27. That gives the Mariners the advantage over the Blue Jays too.
The Orioles hold the advantage over Tampa Bay if the Rays were able to tie Baltimore for the top spot in the AL East. The O’s won the season series 8-5. The Rangers have a 2.5-game lead over Houston and a 4-game lead over Seattle in the AL West. Texas and Seattle play four games to end the season. If they end up tied, Texas holds the advantage due to head-to-head record.
The Cubs, unfortunately, are on the losing end of tiebreakers with all the other teams still vying for the NL wild cards. Arizona and Chicago have identical records right now, but the D-Backs hold the tiebreaker advantage. Miami is one game behind the Cubs. The Reds are 2.5 games back. Both teams hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Cubs.
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