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MLB playoffs: How are tiebreakers determined for division winners or wild card spots?

Despite the uproar surrounding the various changes to format, schedule and rules for the upcoming postseason, the alterations surrounding the tiebreaker actually make sense.

MLB playoffs: How are tiebreakers determined for division winners or wild card spots?
Troy TaorminaUSA TODAY Sports

A lot of fuss has been made about the varying changes to the format and rules of this year’s MLB postseason. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at how tiebreakers will be determined for wildcard spots and division winners.

How will tiebreakers work in the 2022 MLB Playoffs?

When reports confirmed, that the 2022 MLB postseason field would be expanded from 10 teams to 12 teams, they also made it clear that tiebreakers would no longer be used to resolve ties in the standings, when the season ends. With no more “Game 163,” we now have a scenario where ties are broken by good old-fashioned mathematics, along with specific results from the regular season. Between the two, standing/seeding will be determined.

Why was this change made? Frankly, to speed up the whole process. By going with this framework, the league can now facilitate a prompt start to the postseason, while simultaneously removing the possibility that division winners with a bye during the Wild Card Series, are sat idly for too long. Indeed, it would not be fair, or necessary to have them do so.

So how exactly will MLB determine a tiebreaker?

If by any chance you’re interested in a full breakdown of the changes that MLB has made to the playoff structure, then be sure to check here. If, however, you already know, but you’re not sure about this whole tiebreaker scene, then let’s get into it. For starters, whether it’s a tie at the top of the division, a tie for the last Wild Card spot, a tie between two division winners (with seeding at stake), or any form of tie that could potentially affect the playoff field, then the MLB has stated that the tiebreaker will be determined in the following order:

1. Head-to-Head Record

The first and simplest tiebreaker is the result of the season series between the tied teams. If Team X and Team Y tie for the top spot in the division and Team X went 10-8 against Team Y, then Team X is the division champion. If Teams X, Y and Z all finish tied at the top, then the team with the best combined winning percentage against the two other clubs would be the division champ.

2. Intradivision Record

If the head-to-head record is also a tie, then the involved clubs’ records within their division will break the tie. This applies even if the tie is for a Wild Card spot between two teams that do not reside in the same division. The team with the superior intradivision record would win the tiebreaker.

3. Interdivision Record

In the event of a head-to-head and intradivision record tie for the involved teams, then the tie would be settled based on how they fared against teams within their league but outside of their division. So, for an AL East team, it would be the record against teams from the AL Central and AL West.

4. Last Half of Intraleague Games

Should the interdivision record also be a tie, the next tiebreaker will be determined by the involved clubs’ last-half records against teams within their league (AL for AL teams, NL for NL teams). Note that these are the records from the last half of games mathematically, not just the games after the All-Star break (which typically comes after the mathematical midpoint).

5. Last Half of Intraleague Games Plus One

Should the records of the involved clubs in the second half of intraleague games also be a tie, then the outcome of the last game of the first half of intraleague games is used. Should that also be a tie, then the previous intraleague game on the schedule is used. This process is repeated until the tie is resolved.


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