Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The State of the Playoff Union - 1 Week to Go!

Yes!  The Braves have clinched!   But questions remain:  who do they get to play next week?  Who’s gonna be on the playoff roster?  Who starts?  All those answers in due time, but for today we’ll see how the playoffs are working out… and things are starting to get sorted.

National League


The Nationals are  on the brink:  even the split of their double-header left them with no margin… and there’s just no way that Pittsburgh or Cincinnati  will allow themselves to be swept this entire week, so it’s just a matter of time. toast… eliminated Monday.

The Dodgers are in, the Braves are in, and the Cardinals have clinched at least a wild card berth.  So all three will be playing next week.

Wild Cards and Tie-breakers:  The NL Central is still wide open.  Here’s why:

  • Cincy and Pittsburgh have split their 16 games so far.  It is very likely that the 162nd game of the year (at Great American Ballpark) will determine the location of the 163rd game - possibly also between those same two teams.
  • St. Louis, while leading by 2, doesn’t have a cakewalk remaining (Nationals, Cubs).  a 3-3 last week in entirely possible for them, which leaves the door ajar for one of the clubs chasing them – and Cincinnati is playing well (7-3 in their last ten).
  • A 3-way tie is still possible in the NL Central… but becomes a lot less likely if the Cards take 2-of-3 vs. Washington.  If the Pirates and Reds have any shot at catching St. Louis, they need to pound on the Cubs and Mets between now and Wednesday.  Scenarios for resolving the 3-way tie can’t be determined yet – so I’ll skip that!
  • Atlanta probably needs to win 3 or 4 to guarantee home field advantage.  They also own ALL tie-breakers.
  • St. Louis owns the head-to-head tie-breaker vs. Cincinnati.  Nobody else.
  • The Dodgers own the tie-breakers vs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh (though a wild card team will never have home field advantage after the play-in game).
  • Cincinnati owns the tie-breaker vs. the Dodgers.
  • Pittsburgh owns no tie-breakers… with the Cincinnati series still to be determined.

Biggest NL series’ remaining?  St. Louis vs. Washington (at Busch, Monday-Wednesday) and especially Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Friday-Sunday).

If the playoffs started today…

  • Atlanta would host the Wild Card game winner (Pittsburgh or Cincinnati; site unknown)
  • St. Louis would host the Dodgers.


American League



Technically, the Yankees and Orioles are still in this thing.  But there’s better odds in getting through an entire NFL season without having Pacman Jones arres… oh wait, that already happened.  So let’s stop thinking about Baltimore and New York.

Boston will probably win the home-field advantage.  They only have 5 games left; Oakland has six.  Not a lot of time to move – and the schedules don’t suggest that a major change is in the offing.  But if it happens to come down to a tie-breaker, Boston will own it if Colorado sweeps them this week… believe it or not.  That would give Boston a worse inter-league record, and therefore a better AL-only record.  Of course if they beat up on the Rockies (in Denver), then the likelihood of a tie diminishes greatly.

As expected, Cleveland has risen as others (Texas) have fallen.  The Indians have played well enough through the tough part of their schedule and are now reaping the benefits of their soft finishing slate.  I wrote last week, that I expect them to end up hosting the Wild Card game… and I still think that will happen.  They swept away the Astros and now face the other two worst teams in the league for six final games.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is playing well (7-3 in their last ten) and have pulled clear of rapidly-fading Texas (3-7, though they pulled out 2 in their series vs. the Rays).  The Indians and Rays should prevail.  All others are struggling and/or are too far back.  Texas still have a shot, but had better run the table – they could do that vs. Houston, but the Angels will play them hard – that’s a 4 game series.

Wild Cards and Tie-breakers:

  • Boston owns no head-to-head tie-breakers… but it won’t matter.  They will host vs. any Wild Card team, and there will almost certainly be no tie-breaker to be concerned with vs. Oakland.
  • Oakland owns the tie-breaker vs. Detroit.
  • Detroit owns the tie-breaker vs. Boston, but again, it won’t come into play as they are 3.5 games back with 6 to play… albeit vs. Minnesota and Miami.  If Boston wins just twice, Detroit would have to win 5 to catch them.  Yes, it’s doable – but not likely.

For the Wild Cards: 

  • Tampa Bay owns the Cleveland tie-breaker.  If they tie for both Wild Card positions, then the Wild Card game is held in St. Pete.
  • Cleveland owns the Texas tie-breaker.  If those teams finish the season with the same record for the last Wild Card berth, a 1 game playoff would happen in Cleveland.
  • Texas owns the tie-breaker with the Rays.  If those teams finish the season with the same record for the last Wild Card berth, a 1 game playoff would happen in Arlington.
  • The crazy scenario:  a three-way tie.  Since everybody holds one and gives one tie-breaker against the others, here’s what would happen:
    • Cleveland wins choice to be designated as Team A, Team B, or Team C (they would take ‘A’ or ‘C’, depending on their rotation’s status).  Tampa Bay gets next choice.  Texas is stuck with whatever remains (guaranteed to be ‘Team B’ – no home games).
    • On September 30th, Team A hosts Team B.  Winner gets one of the Wild Card spots.
    • The next day, the loser travels to play Team C at C’s park.  Loser goes home.  Winner takes the final Wild Card Spot.
    • The next day, the Wild Card game occurs… host to be determined by the two-team head-to-head records.

If the playoffs started today:

  • The Red Sox would host the winner of the Tampa Bay vs. Cleveland Wild Card game winner.
  • The Wild Card game would be in St. Petersburg (Cleveland at the Rays)
  • Detroit would travel to Oakland.  Bring a porta-john.


Tags: Playoff Races Playoffs

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