Ever wondered what would happen if five teams tied for a division title? Don't expect any answers: the scary thing is, no one knows.
With three days remaining in the regular season, there were still three divisions—AL East, AL Central, and AL East—where we could conceivably have seen a two-way tie for first place. With two days remaining, we're down to one potential two-way tie (AL East), not counting the NL wild card. A two-way tie would mean baseball this Thursday, the day after each team plays its 162nd game and the day before the wild-card playoffs. Baseball on Thursday is better than no baseball, and a two-way tie is better than no tie at all. But breaking a two-way tie is distressingly simple: all it takes is a one-game playoff. True fans of Team Entropy crave more chaos. We want more teams to tie.
Add another team or two to the mix, and the playoff picture becomes much more complex: it takes nearly 2000 words to summarize all the scenarios for three-team and four-team ties on MLB.com’s profoundly puzzling “How to determine playoff tiebreakers” page. There are A, B, C, and D designations, 36 uses of the word “tentatively,” and three sentences that contain the phrase, “highest winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between any of the tied Clubs.” You can’t read the whole page without ending up in the fetal position in front of your computer, feeling your hold on sanity slipping.
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Clay factors in the MLB tiebreaker rules to make the Postseason Odds Report more accurate.
Since the code doesn't handle it, I will. These numbers are through Friday's games, and are based on the regular Postseason Odds Report only.
In the American League Central, the model left the Tigers and Twins tied in 377,115 of the million runs. Since this is a tie for both the division title and for the wild card, league rules say that there will be no playoff game, but that whichever team won the most games in head-to-head play will be called the division champion. The Tigers won the season series, 11 games to eight, so they should be called the champions in all of those tied series, not half of them. Net result: the Tigers chances of winning the division increase from 59.90315 to 78.7589, and the Twins chances fall from 40.09685 to 21.2411.
Nate digs a little deeper into the running game, wondering if we've been understating the value of Yadier Molina.
Last season, only 39 runners tried to steal on him. In spite of their apparent selectivity, only 14 of those men succeeded. This was the fewest number of steals allowed by an everyday catcher since 1960 (minimum 100 games caught):
Jim Baker puts Boston's World Series in historical perspective, while making the first-ever comparison of Manny Ramirez to a Marx Brother.
The Red Sox' role as proxy for the world's Yankee haters has now been completed. What will follow next should prove interesting. Once the smoke clears and the 2005 season gets underway, the Red Sox will find they have lost their cuteness factor. The Darlings of the Long Drought will discover that they are now in the sights of the rest of baseball as the Junior Evil Empire--the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball. When they storm into secondary cities with their ever-increasing fan base in the van, the locals are going to have a hard time discerning the difference between them and the Yankees. This will become especially true if they can cook up a mini-dynasty, something they have the financial and intellectual resources to accomplish.
With three weeks left in the season, it's the most wide-open playoff race in years. Half of the franchises in Major League Baseball are within three games of a playoff spot, and fans in places as unlikely as Kansas City, Miami, and the north side of Chicago are starting sentences with "If the postseason started today." Of course, having so many teams in contention leads to lots of questions. What if the Yankees and Red Sox end up tied for the AL East lead? What if they have the same record as the Mariners? What if the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros end up tied for the NL Central lead? What if five teams tie for the Wild Card? Inquiring minds want to know. Many of these questions can be answered by reading through the playoff tie-breaker scenarios that Major League Baseball used to have on its Web site, but those rules have a couple of serious flaws: 1. Understanding them is about as easy as filling out a 1040 long form. 2. Major League Baseball has changed them, but hasn't told anyone yet. Using the most current information from MLB, here are the possibilities. Additional reporting was conducted to fill in some of the gaps MLB left out.
Of course, having so many teams in contention leads to lots of questions. What if the Yankees and Red Sox end up tied for the AL East lead? What if they have the same record as the Mariners? What if the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros end up tied for the NL Central lead? What if five teams tie for the Wild Card? Inquiring minds want to know.
Many of these questions can be answered by reading through the playoff tie-breaker scenarios that Major League Baseball used to have on its Web site, but those rules have a couple of serious flaws:
From 1946 though 1993, National League Most Valuable Player awards could be
safely predicted, with only a handful of exceptions, using just a few
indicators. Since that time, however, the system has already made three
major mistakes (the MVP was not selected as a candidate by the system) and
one minor mistake (the tie-breaker selected the wrong candidate). That's
four out of eight correct calls, a rate that on the face of it suggests that
the system may no longer work.
In this conclusion to the series, I'll look at reasons why National League
MVP voters may be changing how they go about their business, examine the
wrong predictions since 1994, and speculate about the future usefulness of
the MVP predictor.
In today's article, I'll look at those two cases and the other system misses
from during the period 1946-1993, beginning with the times when a
non-candidate won, and then examining the years in which the tiebreaker's
prediction was wrong. Next week, I'll examine the recent MVPs, and describe
trends that may--or may not--change the criteria by which MVPs are decided
in the future.
In the past, I had believed that the system would not extend to the period
before divisional play in 1969, for three reasons. First, pitchers appear
eligible before 1969, but not after; second, voters might have treated
pennant winners differently than division winners; third, I had believed
(following comments by Bill James) that there was a period in which
up-the-middle players were favored by the voters more than seemed to be the
case after 1969.
As we chronicled in Baseball Prospectus 2000, the current thinking
on how to build and run a major-league bullpen may be changing. For 20
years, teams have used their "closer"--a term originally used to
designate a team's best reliever--more and more exclusively in what we call
"save situations:" the ninth inning with a lead of one to three
runs. Implicit in this thinking is that the most important situations are
the ones that qualify a reliever for a save if he does his job.
Over time, the design of the save rule led teams to use their best reliever
to pitch exclusively in save situations, presuming that those situations
are the ones in which a top reliever will do his team the most good by
guaranteeing victory in a close game.