In less than three weeks, Major League Baseball’s regular season will be over. Or, so Major League Baseball hopes. With the proximity of so many teams to the top of divisions and in contention for the first and second Wild Card spots, it’s very much possible that the regular season will extend one or two games in order to break ties around the league. Such possibilities force the image of the Batman villain Joker, sitting in Bud Selig’s stead, and in charge of the potential ceremonious mayhem.
The most likely host to a convoluted scenario is in the American League East where after respective wins against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles share first place, with the aforementioned Rays only three games back. If the standings remain the same, the Yankees and Orioles would have a 163rd game to decide the division champion, with the loser having to take a trip to Oakland the next day to face the Athletics, who after beating the Los Angeles Angels again last night, have a two game lead for the first Wild Card (yes, the A’s have a better record than the Yankees) and a likely insurmountable five game lead for the second Wild Card.
However, if the Rays somehow manage to catch the Yankees and Orioles, it would take two days to decide the AL East champion with whichever team of the three holding the best record against the other two receiving the right to decide whether they want to play two home games to break that tie or let the other two teams play and face the winner on the road. Whoever emerges as the victor from this round robin would be crowned the division champion. However, if the two teams that don’t win the AL East crown are tied for the second Wild Card spot, as they are now, they would have to play again to break that tie.
Making matters all the more fun is that the Orioles and Rays finish out the season against each other in Tampa Bay. So, as Jayson Stark points out for ESPN, it’s possible for the Orioles to go from Tampa Bay on Wednesday to New York on Thursday, then to Baltimore on Friday, then to Oakland on (presumably) Saturday and then, if they win in Oakland, back to Baltimore the next day for the Division Series.
The AL Central is a little less intense since the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox seem unlikely to be involved in the Wild Card mix. Instead, the White Sox, who lost last night to the Tigers, currently sit one game up on Detroit for the division lead. The Tigers have the better record against Chicago this season, so Detroit would host any tie-breaker game on October 4th if necessary.
The Tigers and White Sox conclude their series today with Detroit having the chance to begin the weekend in a tie for first place in the AL Central. However, they’ll have to get through Chris Sale, the best pitcher on Chicago’s staff to do so, but the White Sox are no better off, having to face Justin Verlander.
At this point, the Texas Rangers in the American League West have the most likely chance of not only making the playoffs, but enjoying home field advantage throughout. As previously mentioned, the Athletics are also the most likely team to host the play-in game between Wild Card winners, but the Los Angeles Angels sit 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card with the Rays between them and that spot.
In the National League, things are a little bit simpler, at least in terms of division winners. The Washington Nationals are 8.5 games up on the Atlanta Braves; the Cincinnati Reds are 11.5 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals; and the San Francisco Giants are 7 games up on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Things do, however, get rather messy when it comes to the Wild Card entries.
From the National League East, the Braves hold a 5.5 game lead over the second Wild Card spot, and a 6.5 game lead over the next team, meaning that they’re likely assured of joining their divisional rivals from Washington in the post season, if you consider the Wild Card play-in game to be a part of the playoffs.
However, the Cardinals hold on the second Wild Card slot is a little more tenuous with the Dodgers a single game back, the Pittsburgh Pirates 2.5 games back, and the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies somehow both three games back of the play-in game.
With the Dodgers only a game away despite all their struggles, it’s worth paying attention to the team’s upcoming four game set against the Cardinals, which begins today in Los Angeles. If these two teams end up tied after 162 games, this series will be vital in deciding where the all-important tie-breaker game is played. It’s possible for either team to play three straight days starting with the 163rd game of the year in Los Angeles or St. Louis, then onto Atlanta and then back home to either California or Missouri.
Earlier, I likened MLB’s playoff structure to something that the Joker might concoct, but given the essential coin flip that single game competitions in baseball can be, perhaps another Batman villain should’ve come to mind.
And The Rest
This. All day. This. [MLB.com]
Jay Jaffe takes a look at the second Wild Card in the National League. [Hit And Run]
Are Tampa Bay Rays fans accurate in their disdain for some of manager Joe Maddon’s strategies from last night? [DRays Bay]
The magic number for the Cincinnati Reds is down to a paltry eight, which not completely coincidentally rhymes with great. [The Red Reporter]
How St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina won Goat Of The Night last evening. [C70 At The Bat]
Stephen Strasburg, pinch hitter? [Washington Post]
Houston Astros reliever Mickey Storey took a line drive off the head last night. [Sports Illustrated]
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter left last night’s game with an ankle injury, and he’s now day-to-day with a bone bruise. [River Avenue Blues]
Ten notes on the 2013 schedule. [ESPN Sweet Spot Blog]
Your non-Mike Trout MVP arguments are invalid. [Monkey With A Halo]
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre left last night’s game with a sore shoulder, and should have an MRI today to see what’s the matter. [Lone Star Ball]
How to fail at managing. [Baseball Prospectus]
Has Adam Wainwright hit a wall? [Fangraphs]
Bill James will report directly to John Henry for his duties with the Boston Red Sox. [Sports On Earth]
Let’s get rid of pitching wins. [The Hardball Times]
Nate Silver on sports, stats and more. [CNN/SI]