This is the fourth installment of this year’s Team Entropy series, my recurring look not only at the races for the remaining playoff spots but the potential for end-of-season chaos in the form of down-to-the-wire suspense and even tiebreakers. Ideally, we want more ties than the men’s department at Macy’s. If you’re new to this, please read the introduction here.
The final weekend of the 2019 season is upon us, and while five of the divisions and all of the super-complicated tiebreaker scenarios are off the table, with three games to play, each league has multiple scenarios that could result in at least one tiebreaker game. Seven hundred or so words is worth a picture, so first, behold this:
The Nationals (now 90-69) clinched one Wild Card spot on Tuesday (against Bryce Harper and the Phillies, no less), while the Mets and Cubs officially fell by the wayside on Wednesday as the Brewers clinched a postseason berth. By winning 18 of their past 20 games, including 12 out of 14 since Christian Yelich suffered a season-ending kneecap fracture, Milwaukee (now 89-70) has not only made the playoffs for the second straight season (something the franchise did before only in 1981-82), it has trimmed a 7 1/2-game NL Central deficit behind St. Louis at the close of September 5 to a single game. The Brew Crew finishes with three games in Colorado, while the Cardinals (90-69) host the Cubs, who appear to be heading into the final days of Joe Maddon’s five-year tenure with the team, and with a very banged-up roster to boot.
So here’s what can happen in the Senior Circuit:
- If the Brewers wind up tied with the Cardinals (28.0% chance according to our tiebreaker page), the two teams would play a tiebreaker in St. Louis, which won the season series 10-9.
- If the Cardinals, Brewers, and Nationals all finish with the same records, the two NL Central teams would play the aforementioned tiebreaker for the division crown. The loser would then host Washington in the Wild Card game, because both teams won their season series (the Brewers 4-2, the Cardinals 5-2).
As for the Junior Circuit, the A’s (96-63) currently have a one-game lead over the Rays (95-64), and a three-game lead over the Indians (93-66), meaning that at the very least, they’ve guaranteed themselves a Game 163. We still need a grid for this one:
The A’s finish with three more games against the Mariners in Seattle, a continuation of the four-game series that began with Félix’s Hernández’s farewell on Thursday night. The Indians are playing the Nationals — yes, with an odd number of teams in each league, some team has to play interleague games — in Washington, DC. The Rays are in Toronto for three.
Here’s how it can play out:
- If the A’s wind up tied with the Indians but behind the Rays, they host a play-in game.
- If the Rays and Indians wind up tied for the second spot, they host a play-in game.
- If the three teams wind up tied, they would draft positions for the following scenario: Club A hosts Club B, with the winner of that game becoming the host team for the Wild Card game, and the loser traveling to Club C for another matchup that would determine the road team for the Wild Card game. The pecking order for that draft would be based upon combined winning percentage against the other two teams, which goes A’s (.692, 9-4), Rays (.642, 9-5), and Indians (.154, 2-11) in that order.
There’s not a lot of margin for error to get bonus baseball in either league, but then there’s not a lot of season left to play, either. By the end of Friday night, the AL situation could be wrapped up; if the A’s win, they’re in, and if the Rays win and the Indians lose, then that’s that. The NL will take until at least Saturday’s games are done to resolve, as the Cardinals’ magic number is three, meaning that they need to either win once or twice while the Brewers, respectively, lose twice or once.
It’s reasonable to be skeptical about any of this paying off, but worth noting that last year at this very juncture, we hit on both a 24.2% chance that the NL Central would wind up tied (between the Cubs and Brewers), and a 30.7% chance that the NL West would as well (between the Dodgers and Rockies), resulting in an unprecedented multiplicity of tiebreaker games in a single season. In other words, stranger things have happened than what we need this weekend. Stay tuned!
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